Mysterious, romantic, lonely, perhaps a bit eerie, and always fascinating, these beautiful beacons of light stood as guardians of the sea for centuries. In the United States, National Lighthouse Day is celebrated annually on August 7. It was established by Congress to support and acknowledge the importance of lighthouses, beacons, buoys, and public piers.
The USA leads the world as the country with the greatest number of lighthouses nationwide, and Michigan tops the list of states with the most lighthouses. But Massachusetts takes the honor of having the first lighthouse in America, built in Boston in 1716 on Little Brewster Island. That lighthouse, Boston Light, was burned down by the British during the American Revolutionary War, then reconstructed in 1784. Little Brewster Island and its lighthouse are said to be haunted by the ghosts of the first two lighthouse keepers, who died within months of taking on their jobs. Currently, Boston Light is the only official lighthouse with a keeper.
Although many lighthouses remain in operation, advanced navigation technology has been the preferred means of maritime navigation and safety.
From 1886 to 1901 the Statue of Liberty operated as a lighthouse after President Grover Cleveland announced it would do so under the Lighthouse Board. The Statue of Liberty was released from the Lighthouse Board's jurisdiction and deactivated after President Theodore Roosevelt ordered its transfer to the US War Department .
The Pharos of Alexandria, Egypt (a/k/a the Lighthouse of Alexandria) was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World - and the first known lighthouse. Alexandria was a great metropolis on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Its low, flat topography made it dangerous for ships coming into port if visibility was poor. To help ships enter safely, the King of Egypt, Ptolemy I, and his son Ptolemy II, were responsible for the construction of the massive lighthouse, designed by Greek architect Sostratus of Cnidus and completed some time around 280 B.C.
Torre de Hércules (Tower of Hercules) is the oldest existing lighthouse in the world. Located on a peninsula at the entrance of the La Coruña harbor in Spain, it was built in the 2nd century and renovated in 1791. Its Roman structure is based on the Lighthouse of Alexandria. The Tower of Hercules, which is still in use today, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009.
Visit a lighthouse! If you are able, visit a lighthouse in person (note: check restrictions during this time). If that's not possible, take a virtual tour (this one features the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest lightest in the US). Also take look at our other NC Lighthouses. Do a search for virtual tours of lighthouses in your location.
Read up on lighthouse facts from the United States Lighthouse Society. Learn about America's lighthouses and keepers (one of the first government jobs available to women in the 19th century).
Also check out Lighthouse Facts for Kids.
Watch a film that features a lighthouse or lighthouse keeper. Check out this IMDb list of Lighthouse films
Like a good scare? Check out this documentary about a haunted lighthouse.
Cook up a batch of yummy Lighthouse Keeper's Seagull Soup from Elinor DeWire's Author Blog.
Join us as we celebrate the beauty of lighthouses!
- Barbara 🙃
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