Observed annually on August 7th, National Lighthouse Day honors the beacon of light that for hundreds of years symbolized safety and security for ships and boats at sea. At one time, the beacon of light could be found across almost all of America’s shorelines.
A lighthouse is described as a tower, building or any other type of structure that is designed to emit light from a system of lamps and lenses and used as an aid to navigation for maritime pilots at sea or on inland waterways.
- Their style may differ depending on the location and purpose but they have standard components.
- The lantern room is a glassed-in housing at the top of a lighthouse tower
- Development accelerated in the 17th century with Britain’s Trinity House constructing its first in 1609.
- In North America, St. Augustine, Florida built the first lighthouse. Printed on a 1791 map, it had been built by Menendez after his landing in 1586.
- Boston Light built on little Brewster Island next in 1716.
- The oldest existing lighthouse in the United States is the Sandy Hook Lighthouse in New Jersey. Built in 1764, this lighthouse is still in operation.
- At the end of the 19th century, the United States had the most lighthouses of any nation.
- The 9th Act of the first Congress created the US Bureau of Lighthouses in 1789, which placed lighthouses under federal control.
- The United States Coast Guard took over on July 7, 1939.
- Hobbyists enjoy visiting and photographing lighthouses. They also collect ceramic replicas.
- THE FIRST KNOWN LIGHTHOUSE was the Pharos of Alexandria, Egypt. Ptolemy I and his son Ptolemy II constructed it between 300 and 280 B.C. It stood about 450 feet high. This lighthouse was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was destroyed in stages by invaders and earthquakes, being destroyed in the 1300s.
- THE OLDEST EXISTING LIGHTHOUSE IN THE WORLD is considered to be La Coruna in Spain that dates from ca. 20 B.C.
- The first Great Lakes lighthouse were Buffalo (Main) and Erie, PA (1818)
- THE MOST EXPENSIVE LIGHTHOUSE BUILT IN AMERICA is St. George Reef, off Crescent City, CA. It took ten years to construct (1882 – 1892) and cost $715,000.00. The Coast Guard abandoned it in 1972.
- THE FIRST FOG SIGNAL IN THIS COUNTRY was at the Boston Lighthouse, and it was a cannon. Other fog signals have been whistles, sirens, reed trumpets, bells, diaphone (BEEEEooooh) horns and diaphragm (brrrrrrrrr) horns.
- There were never more than about 850 lighthouses in operation at once, although about 1,500 were constructed in this country over the years — the hey-day being about 1910. There were 267 constructed on the U. S. shores of the Great Lakes. Michigan had the most with about 140, followed by Maine with about 80.
- Lighthouse keeping was one of the first U.S. government jobs available to women in the 19th century.
- All lighthouses in the United States are automated, but because Boston Light is the oldest station in the United States, Congress has declared that this lighthouse always be a staffed station. Boston Light is the only official lighthouse with a keeper.
- In 1821 the French Physicist, Augustine Fresnel, developed a new lens that would capture and focus up to 85% of the light emitted from the illuminant.
- THE FIRST AMERICAN LIGHTHOUSE TO USE ELECTRICITY was the Statue of Liberty in 1886.