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Title: Historically Famous Lighthouses - CG-232
Author: Guard, United States Coast
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                          HISTORICALLY FAMOUS

                           TABLE OF CONTENTS

  _Foreword_                                                            v
      Cape Sarichef Lighthouse, Unimak Island                           1
      Cape Spencer Lighthouse                                           2
      Scotch Cap Lighthouse, Unimak Island                              3
      Farallon Lighthouse                                               4
      Mile Rocks Lighthouse                                             5
      Pigeon Point Lighthouse                                           6
      St. George Reef Lighthouse                                        7
      Trinidad Head Lighthouse                                          8
      New London Harbor Lighthouse                                  9, 10
      Cape Henlopen Lighthouse                                         11
      Fenwick Island Lighthouse                                        13
      American Shoal Lighthouse                                        15
      Cape Florida Lighthouse                                          16
      Cape San Blas Lighthouse                                         18
      Tybee Lighthouse, Tybee Island, Savannah River                   21
      Kilauea Point Lighthouse                                         24
      Makapuu Point Lighthouse                                         25
      Timbalier Lighthouse                                             26
      Boon Island Lighthouse                                           27
      Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse                                        28
      Dice Head Lighthouse                                             30
      Portland Head Lighthouse                                         31
      Saddleback Ledge Lighthouse                                      32
      Boston Lighthouse, Little Brewster Island                        33
      Brant Point Lighthouse                                           35
      Buzzards Bay Lighthouse                                          38
      Cape Ann Lighthouse, Thatcher’s Island                           40
      Dumpling Rock Lighthouse, New Bedford Harbor                     41
      Eastern Point Lighthouse                                         43
      Minots Ledge Lighthouse                                          43
      Nantucket (Great Point) Lighthouse                               47
      Newburyport Harbor Lighthouse, Plum Island                       49
      Plymouth (Gurnet) Lighthouse                                     50
      Little Sable Lighthouse                                          53
      Spectacle Reef Lighthouse                                        54
      Standard Rock Lighthouse, Lake Superior                          56
      Split Rock Lighthouse                                            57
      Isle of Shoals Lighthouse                                        59
      Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse                                     61
      Navesink Lighthouse                                              62
      Sandy Hook Lighthouse                                            63
      Crown Point Memorial, Lake Champlain                             64
      Portland Harbor (Barcelona) Lighthouse, Lake Erie                65
      Race Rock Lighthouse                                             67
      Cape Fear Lighthouse “Bald Head Light”                           69
      Cape Hatteras Lighthouse                                         71
      Cape Lookout Lighthouse                                          73
      Ocracoke Lighthouse                                              75
      Tillamook Rock Lighthouse                                        77
      Beavertail Lighthouse                                            78
      Prudence Island Lighthouse                                       78
      Charleston Lighthouse, Morris Island                             80
      Point Isabel Lighthouse                                          82
      Cape Charles Lighthouse                                          83
      Cape Henry Lighthouse                                            85
      Cape Flattery Lighthouse                                         87


Under the supervision of the United States Coast Guard, there are today
some 158 manned lighthouses in the nation. Another 60 are cared for by
other Coast Guard units in the general area. There are hundreds of other
lights of varied description that are operated automatically. And, as
technology improves, more and more lighthouses are being operated
without a full time crew. Indeed, many of the isolated lighthouses
described in this booklet are scheduled for automation.

In the course of our history as a nation, and before that as British
colonies, we have built hundreds of lighthouses, some of which still
stand though now inactive, having been sold for private residential or
other use. Many have been rebuilt and not a few have succumbed to the
ravages of time. The history of our lighthouses thus parallels the
history of our nation.

Since 1716, when the Province of Massachusetts built Boston Light,
scarcely a year has passed that has not seen a new light structure
erected somewhere along our sea coasts, on our navigable rivers, or
along our lake shores. To tell the story of these lighthouses would be a
major undertaking. These stories of some of them, however, have been
selected chiefly for their historical interest. Others have been
included because their unique locations or types of construction are of
more than usual interest.

The lighthouse typifies maritime safety. As part of our early coastal
defense system, they played a major role in important Coast Guard duties
related to military readiness. Additionally, the light’s strategic
locations along our coasts aided another early Coast Guard function, law
enforcement, by making it possible for cutters to judge their distances
from the coast and so prevent smuggling operations within the three-mile

The stories of 56 lighthouses have been told here. The stories of
hundreds of others, of equal interest, could have been included had
space permitted.

The oldest lighthouse described is the Boston Light built in 1716. The
newest in this booklet is Buzzards Bay Light which is located some five
miles off the Massachusetts coast, replacing a lightship that had been
there for many years.

The distance these lights are visible has been given in the geographical
range. The theoretical visibility of a light in clear weather depends
upon two factors, the height of the light above water, and its
intensity. The height controls what is known as the geographic range,
while the intensity controls what is known as the luminous range. As a
rule, for the principal lights the luminous range is greater than the
geographic, and the distance from which such lights are visible is
limited by the earth’s curvature only. Under some atmospheric conditions
the glare or loom of these lights, and occasionally the light itself,
may be visible far beyond the computed geographic range. On the other
hand, and unfortunately more frequently, these distances may be lessened
by fog, rain, snow, haze, or smoke.

Some of the terms in this booklet may be new to readers. A short
glossary of terms follows:

_Candlepower_—The luminous intensity of a light expressed in candles.

_Lantern_—The glassed-in enclosure on the top of an attended lighthouse
which surrounds and protects the lens. Sometimes the entire piece of
illuminating apparatus is referred to as the lantern.

_Prism_—A device for refracting light.

_Radiobeacon_—Electronic apparatus which transmits a radio signal for
use in locating a mariner’s position.

_Reflector_—An optic which by reflection changes the direction of a beam
of light.

_Classification of lenses_—Lenses are classified as to size by “order”,
the first order being the largest and the sixth order the smallest. The
actual size of a lens is expressed by its inside diameter. The following
is a list of the standard lenses:

  Size        Inside diameter      MM   Height
              Approx. inches            Approx.
  1st         72-7/16″           1840   7′10″
  2nd         55⅛″               1400   6′1″
  3rd         39⅜″               1000   4′8″
  3½          29½″                750   3′8″
  4th         19-11/16″           500   2′4″
  5th         14¾″                375   1′8″
  6th         11¾″                300   1′5″

The numbers in parentheses in the text refer to source of information as
indicated in the bibliography on page 88.

Lighthouses are arranged alphabetically by states and by the name of the
light within the state.


The United States Coast Guard is a unique service. It is one of the five
branches of the armed forces of the U. S. During time of peace it
operates under the Department of Transportation. During time of war, or
at the direction of the President, it operates under the Secretary of
the Navy. The Coast Guard is responsible for a number of missions,
including search and rescue, oceanographic research, maintenance of aids
to navigation, icebreaking, merchant marine safety, port safety, law
enforcement and military readiness.



Two primary lighthouses mark Unimak Pass, the principal passage through
the Aleutian Islands into the Bering Sea. One of these, Cape Sarichef,
originally built in 1904, is the only manned lighthouse on the shores of
the Bering Sea. It is located on the west end of Unimak Island and with
Scotch Cap Light Station, 17 miles away, is conceded to be one of the
most isolated light stations in the Service. The only neighbor to the
keepers, for many years was a trapper, 10 miles away.

The original light was on a wood tower on an octagonal wood building 45
feet high. The light was 126 feet above the sea. Although quarters were
originally provided for them, families were not permitted to live at
this and Scotch Cap Light, because of their isolation. The civilian
keepers were granted 1 year’s leave each 4 years. Coast Guard personnel
now serving at the light serve a year at a time at this isolated
location. At the end of his year’s tour each man is transferred to a new
duty station.

The reservation on which Cape Sarichef Light is built is 1,845 acres of
primeval wilderness. The first lighthouse cost $80,000 to build. The
tower has now been rebuilt and incorporated with a loran station.

The 700,000 candlepower, 375-millimeter electric white light is lit for
25 seconds and eclipsed for 5 seconds. There is also a fog horn and a
radiobeacon. (1) (2)

                        CAPE SPENCER LIGHTHOUSE

At the entrance to Cross Sound.


Cape Spencer Lighthouse, Alaska, is a primary light, fog signal, and
radiobeacon station, marking the northerly entrance from the Pacific
Ocean into the inside passages of southeastern Alaska. It is on a route
much frequented by vessels seeking to avoid the often stormy outside
passage. Cape Spencer is one of the most isolated of Alaskan
lighthouses, where the keepers must go 20 miles for their mail, and
where the nearest town of any size is 150 miles away. The station was
commissioned in 1925, and is fitted with the most modern types of
signalling equipment. From the top of the tower is shown a light of
500,000 candlepower, and in time of fog a diaphone fog signal is sounded
at regular intervals. The radiobeacon, established in 1926, and the
first radiobeacon in Alaska, is of high power, with a range of 200 miles
and more at sea. The station buildings are of reinforced concrete
construction. (1) (2)


Scotch Cap Light was built in 1903. It consisted of a wood tower on an
octagonal wood building 45 feet high and was 90 feet above the sea. It
was located on the southwest end of Unimak Island and on the east side
of the Unimak Pass into the Bering Sea. It was the first station
established on the outside coast of Alaska. Prior to the introduction of
the helicopter, access to the stations was so difficult that it was
impractical to arrange for leave of absence in the ordinary way. Instead
each keeper got one full year off in each 4 years of service. Coast
Guard enlisted personnel now man this isolated unit on a rotating one
year tour of duty.

During an earthquake and tidal wave of April 1, 1946, Scotch Cap
Lighthouse slid into the sea and all five persons on the station were


A temporary unwatched light was established in 1946, consisting of a
small white house exhibiting a light of 300 candlepower maintaining the
former station characteristic of flashing white every 15 seconds, flash
3 seconds, eclipse 12 seconds. A radiobeacon was temporarily
reestablished at the radio direction finder station.

The new permanent structure was completed in the early part of 1950 and
the temporary light and radiobeacon discontinued. The new station
consists of a 800,000 candlepower light exhibited from a white
rectangular building with flat roof, a diaphone fog signal, and a
radiobeacon. (1) (2)

                          FARALLON LIGHTHOUSE

Offshore, 25 miles off the Golden Gate.

This lighthouse, on the highest peak of the southeast Farallon, was
built in 1855 in the busy days which followed the gold rush, when
clipper ships and other sailing vessels were sailing in to San Francisco
in large numbers. That there was need for a light on these dangerous
rocks is evident when clippers like the _Golden City_ which sailed from
New York in 1852 reported that she was detained 5 days off the Farallons
in fog. Stone for the construction of the lighthouse was quarried on the
island and inside this masonry was a lining of brick. The extremely
sharp slopes of the island and the jagged nature of the rock were
serious obstacles to construction work. The bricks used in the tower
were carried up the rock in bundles of four and five on the backs of
men. After the completion of the tower a mule was kept on the island for
years to carry supplies between the various parts of the station. At one
time this mule was the oldest inhabitant. A number of years ago the
gathering of birds’ eggs, which were sold on the San Francisco market,
was carried on here extensively and seals were also hunted commercially.
These practices were finally terminated by the Federal Government.


The Farallon Light Station is now equipped with a radiobeacon as well as
with a powerful light and fog signal. (1) (2)

                         MILE ROCKS LIGHTHOUSE

One-half mile off Landsend, in the Golden Gate.


This lighthouse was completed in 1906, after considerable difficulty
caused by the heavy seas and strong currents occurring at this point.
The rock upon which the lighthouse is built measured only 40 by 30 feet
at high water. The base of the tower is a large block of concrete
protected by steel plating. Steel and concrete in the foundation alone
weighed 1,500 tons. The superstructure is of steel, and houses the fog
signal apparatus and the quarters for the keepers, with the lantern
above. It was on this rock that the _Rio Janeiro_ was wrecked shortly
before the building of the lighthouse. One hundred and twenty-eight
persons out of a total of 209, lost their lives when the _Rio Janeiro_
went down on February 2, 1901. The wreck has never been found. In 1966,
the tower was removed, and the light automated. (1) (2)

                        PIGEON POINT LIGHTHOUSE

On Coastal Highway, 5 miles south of Pescadero.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse is one of the most picturesque lighthouses on
the Pacific coast, the 115-foot white masonry tower standing on a rocky
promontory long a landmark for ships approaching San Francisco Bay from
the southward.


This lighthouse was built in 1872, and is equipped with a lens of the
first order producing a light of 500,000 candlepower. The station also
has an electrically operated fog signal. This headland, and hence the
lighthouse, took its name from the ship _Carrier Pigeon_ wrecked here
many years ago. (1) (2)

                       ST. GEORGE REEF LIGHTHOUSE

Off shore, 6 miles off Point St. George, near Crescent City.


This lighthouse, built on a small rock only 300 feet in diameter, is one
of the most exposed lighthouses on the Pacific coast. Extreme
difficulties were encountered in constructing this tower, and 10 years
were required before the work was completed. The total cost was $702,000
making it one of the most costly lighthouses ever constructed. The light
was first displayed in 1892. The base of the tower is a solid block of
concrete and granite, and the tower above is also built of granite
blocks. The stone was quarried from granite boulders found on Mad River
near Humboldt Bay. Probably the most violent storm experienced at this
lighthouse was that of 1923, when huge seas from a northwesterly
direction broke on the platform of the tower, 70 feet above water, with
such violence as to tear the donkey-engine house from its foundation.
Several men have been injured, and several men killed in transferring to
this light by small boat. (1) (2)

                        TRINIDAD HEAD LIGHTHOUSE

On headland near town of Trinidad.


This low, square, brick tower, painted white, was built in 1871. The
light is only 20 feet above ground, but the headland on which it stands
gives it an elevation of 196 feet above the sea. The location is one of
the most picturesque on the California coast. Despite the great height
of the tower above the sea, heavy seas have been known to reach it. In
1913, the keeper made the following report: “At 4:40 p. m. I observed a
sea of unusual height. When it struck the bluff the jar was very heavy.
The lens immediately stopped revolving. The sea shot up the face of the
bluff and over it, until the solid sea seemed to me to be on a level
with where I stood in the lantern. The sea itself fell over onto the top
of the bluff and struck the tower about on a level with the balcony. The
whole point between the tower and the bluff was buried in water.” (1)

                      NEW LONDON HARBOR LIGHTHOUSE

The original New London Harbor Lighthouse was built on the west side of
the entrance to New London Harbor in 1760. The original lighthouse was
probably of masonry. It apparently was completely removed when the stone
tower which stands today was built in 1801. Following the act of August
7, 1789, the lighthouse, built in 1760, was ceded to the United States,
according to the following “Memoranda of Cessions” by Connecticut:

“1790, May. Lighthouse at New London and certain rocks and ledges off
against the harbor of New London, called Race Rock, Black Ledge, and
Goshen Reef, together with buoys.”

On May 7, 1800, Congress appropriated $15,700 “for rebuilding, altering,
and improving the lighthouse at New London, Conn.,” of which $15,547.90
was spent for the purpose in 1801, the balance being carried to the
surplus fund.


On November 22, 1838, Lt. George M. Bache, U. S. N., made a report on
the light which he described as a stationary light, situated on a rocky
point to the westward of the entrance to the River Thames, and 2 miles
from the town of New London. “It is of great importance as a leading
light for vessels going in and out of the harbor of New London, which,
on account of its position and security, is much resorted to during the
heavy gales of winter.”

“The light is shown from an elevation of 111 feet, which, in clear
weather, should render it visible 16½ miles. * * * The tower is a
substantial building of freestone, smooth hammered, and laid in courses;
it is 80 feet in height, and is ascended by an interior stairway of
wood, having landings at convenient distances. * * *”

“The lighting apparatus consists of 11 lamps, with parabolic reflectors,
disposed around 2 horizontal tables so as to throw the lights from WSW
south about to N by E. The reflectors are 13 inches in diameter. This
apparatus was furnished in 1834.”

In 1855 a fourth-order lens to illuminate 315° was recommended. In 1863
new dwellings for keepers were provided. In 1868 a road was opened by
the city of New London across the lighthouse grounds, the road being
fenced on both sides.

In 1874 a second-class fog signal with two 18-inch engines and a Daboll
trumpet was installed. It was in operation 553 hours during 1875. In
1883 a first-class fog trumpet was substituted. On December 21, 1896, an
improved fog signal consisting of two 3½-horsepower Hornsby-Akroyd oil
engines, air compressors etc., was installed operating the first-class
Daboll trumpet.

A fog-signal house was built in 1903 and 13-horsepower oil engines, with
trumpet, siren etc., were installed in the following year. The fog
signal was discontinued on September 5, 1911. On July 20, 1912, the
light was changed to acetylene, unattended.

The lighthouse is a white, octagonal pyramidal tower, 90 feet above
ground and 89 feet above water, the light being visible for 15 miles,
and located on the west side of the entrance to New London Harbor. The
light is a 6,000-candlepower fourth-order electric light flashing white
every 4 seconds, with a red 1,300-candlepower sector from 0° to 41°,
covering Sarah Ledge and the shoals to the westward. (1) (2)

                        CAPE HENLOPEN LIGHTHOUSE

Cape Henlopen Lighthouse was completed in 1767, part of the funds to
erect it being raised by a £3,000 lottery. Even though the structure was
within the limits of Delaware, the 200 acres on which it was erected was
granted by the “late proprietors of Pennsylvania to the Board of Wardens
for the purpose of erecting a lighthouse on Cape Henlopen.” The
estimated cost of the original lighthouse was £7,674/3/2.

In 1777 the lighthouse was practically completely burned down by the
British. On the return of peace in 1783, the wardens proceeded to repair
the damage and it was relighted in 1784.

On September 28, 1789, the lighthouse together with all beacons, buoys,
and public piers, lands, tenements and jurisdiction was ceded to the
Federal Government by the State of Delaware in accordance with the act
of Congress of August 7, 1789.


As early as 1788 evidence of wind erosion in the sandy area in which the
tower was constructed, had been noted and steps taken, by planting
“under-wood and weeds of every kind,” to prevent the sand from blowing
away. There seemed to be no encroachment from the sea at that time.

Abraham Hargis was the keeper from 1797 to 1813 and his successor John
Ware served until 1827. Following him Kendall Baston served until 1838,
with a Mr. McCracken serving for a short period, until December 1839,
when Asa Clifton, of Lewes, Del., took charge. William Elligood took
over as keeper in 1849.

In 1851 sand was reported advancing toward the tower and the keeper’s
house. A first-order lens was installed in 1856 due to the “numerous
accidents that have occurred in consequence of the inferiority of the
lighting apparatus from confounding a light which, from position, should
be one of the principal seacoast lights, for the lightship off Five
Fathom bank * * *”

In 1863 a new keeper’s dwelling was built, “the old one being threatened
with destruction by the speedy progress in that direction of a
remarkable sand hill, which has been moving inflexibly in a certain
course at a constant rate of speed for many years, presenting in its
existence and movement a most singular natural phenomenon.”

In 1868 “the big sand hill” situated at the north of the tower, formed
of drifting sand, was found to have moved southward at the rate of 11
feet a year. The application of brushwood to exposed places was thought
to have stopped the movement by 1872.

In 1883, the sea, in a storm, encroached upon the ocean side of the
station, until the high water line came under the lighthouse and the
question of the protection of the structure was taken under
consideration. In that year the bark _Minnie Hunter_ came ashore 550
feet north of the lighthouse and acted as a jetty so that the level of
the sand under the lighthouse structure was raised some 20 inches.
Erosion continued, however, and by 1885 the beacon, which had become
unsafe from undermining, had to be removed to Delaware Breakwater.

In 1897 the sand dune surrounding the tower was reported to be steadily
blowing away and by 1905 “several tons of brush were placed about the
tower and oil house to prevent the foundations and brick walls from
being undermined by the drifting away of the sand.”

All measures to protect the tower failed, however, and on April 13,
1926, a northeast storm undermined the tower and caused it to fall
seaward. Its value to shipping, however, had already been superseded by
the light and fog signal station on the Delaware Breakwater and by the
lightships and lighted buoys marking the entrance to Delaware Bay. (1)
(2) (7)

                       FENWICK ISLAND LIGHTHOUSE

Congress authorized the erection of a lighthouse on Fenwick Island,
Del., in 1856. The site for the light adjoined the south boundary of
Delaware on the Delaware-Maryland boundary line in the vicinity of
Fishing Harbor. Immediately behind the storehouse of the light station
is a stone monument or marker, apparently of granite, having the arms of
William Penn carved on the north side and the arms of Lord Baltimore on
the south side. This stone is the first stone erected in connection with
the Mason and Dixon’s line survey. It is the only and original first
stone set up in 1751.


When King Charles of England granted Penn his 29,000,000 acres in 1681
which now form the State of Pennsylvania, a controversy immediately
began with Lord Baltimore, who owned the Maryland territory, as to the
boundary line. As Penn acquired, also, what is now Delaware, it affected
the line of that territory as well. This controversy raged through three
or four generations and was not finally settled until 1768. By 1750,
however, the only line the disputants were not quarreling over was the
lower east-west line, so they appointed two surveyors to go the spot,
determine the compass variation, and start the survey of the line, which
was and is the present lower line of Delaware State. The surveyors
arrived at Fenwick Island in December 1750. They drove a stake at a
point 139 perches west of the “Main Ocean” at a group of four mulberry
trees where the lighthouse now stands. Then they measured east to the
“Verge of the Ocean” and began the line there. They could put no
permanent mark at the water’s edge, but they measured some 6 miles west
and then quit for the weather was bad, their cabin had burned up, and
the exposure was great.

In April 1751, all hands again met at Fenwick Island. The commissioners
were shown the work of the previous December and approved it and on
April 26, 1751, a stone was set where the stake had been, having the
arms of Lord Baltimore on the south side and of Penn on the north. This
is the stone that stands there today.

Other stones were erected at 5-mile intervals and the west line of the
State of Delaware was set up. Soon after this Lord Baltimore died and
his death delayed things. Nothing was done for about 10 years, when
under a new agreement in 1760, between the then generations of Penns and
Baltimores, surveys were started again on this north line, the object
being to lay it out so as to hit the 12-mile circle, 81 miles above,
determined upon as the northern boundary of Delaware, with New Castle as
its center. The surveyors made such a poor job of it, despite several
efforts, after 3 years, that Penn and Baltimore in England hired Mason
and Dixon, two engineers of note, to go over to America, take charge and
do the job. They arrived in 1763, accepted the lower or east and west
line across the peninsula as correct, reran the north line and ran the
line from the northeast corner of Maryland west, for about 223 miles.
This is the generally understood Mason and Dixon’s line. They also ran
the north and south line which is the western boundary of Delaware. Five
years were occupied in this and not until 1768 was the last stone set,
which ended the controversy of nearly a century.

By 1857 the site for the lighthouse had been selected and marked and the
tower was completed early in 1859, being first lit on August 1, 1859.
The total cost was $23,748.96.

In 1932 a strip of land 60 feet wide, extending east and west across the
site, was deeded to the State of Delaware for roadway purposes and in
1940 about three-fourths of the site was sold including the entire
northern wooded half and 2.71 acres of the southern half.

The white lighthouse tower now stands 0.3 mile inshore on the coast, the
tower being 83 feet above water and the top of the lantern 87 feet above
ground. A 25,000-candlepower light flashes white every 3 seconds and is
visible 15 miles at sea. (1) (2)

                       AMERICAN SHOAL LIGHTHOUSE

Off shore, visible from Overseas Highway at Saddlebunch Keys.


As early as 1851 plans were made for the erection of a series of great
offshore lighthouses to mark the dangerous Florida Reefs. These towers,
all of skeleton iron construction, to resist hurricanes, were eventually
built one at a time over a period of years, that on American Shoal
completed in 1880, being the most recently constructed. The ironwork for
this light was fabricated in the North, and along with other necessary
supplies and materials, was shipped to Key West, which was made the base
of operations. The site of the lighthouse was 15 miles to the eastward,
on the outermost reefs, and was covered with 4 feet of water.
Construction continued for about 2 years, and the tower when completed
cost about $94,000. The lighthouse was first lighted on the night of
July 15, 1880, and has since helped to bring about a substantial
reduction in the number of shipwrecks occurring along this dangerous
coast. The light is 109 feet above the water, and is visible on a clear
night for 16 miles. American Shoal Lighthouse is almost exactly like the
Fowey Rocks Lighthouse situated near Miami. (1) (2)

                        CAPE FLORIDA LIGHTHOUSE

The Cape Florida Lighthouse was completed in 1825. It was 65 feet high,
of solid brick, 5 feet thick at the base. For years it guided the
mariner as he passed the dangerous Florida Reef and led him into Cape
Florida Channel to a safe anchorage from violent gales in the lee of Key


During the Seminole War, on July 23, 1836, John W. B. Thompson was the
assistant keeper. It was on that day that the lighthouse was attacked by
Indians. “About 4 p. m.” Thompson writes “as I was going from the
kitchen to the dwelling house, I discovered a large body of Indians
within 20 yards of me, back of the kitchen. I ran for the lighthouse,
and called out to the old Negro man that was with me to run, for the
Indians were near. At that moment they discharged a volley of rifle
balls, which cut my clothes and hat and perforated the door in many
places. We got in, and as I was turning the key the savages had hold of
the door.” Thompson stationed the Negro at the door and then began
firing his three muskets loaded with ball and buckshot, at them from a
window. They answered with war cries and musket balls.

Thompson fired at them from some of the other windows and from the top
of the lighthouse. “I kept them from the house until dark,” he related.
“They then poured in a heavy fire at all the windows and lantern; that
was the time they set fire to the door and to the window even with the
ground. The window was boarded up with planks and filled with stone
inside; but the flames spread fast, being fed with yellow pine wood.
Their balls had perforated the tin tanks of oil, consisting of 225
gallons. My bedding, clothing, and in fact everything I had was soaked
in oil.”

Thompson took one musket with powder keg and balls to the top of the
lighthouse, then went below and began to cut away the stairs about half
way up from the bottom. “I had difficulty in getting the old Negro up
the space I had already cut, but the flames now drove me from my labor,
and I retreated to the top of the house.”

The keeper covered over the scuttle that led to the lantern, which kept
the fire from him for some time. “At last the awful moment arrived,” he
went on, “the crackling flames burst around me. The savages at the same
time began their hellish yells. My poor Negro looked at me with tears in
his eyes, but he could not speak. We went out of the lantern and down on
the edge of the platform, 2 feet wide. The lantern was now full of
flame, the lamps and glasses bursting and flying in all directions, my
clothes on fire, and to move from the place where I was, would be
instant death from their rifles. My flesh was roasting, and to put an
end to my horrible suffering I got up and threw the keg of gunpowder
down the scuttle. Instantly it exploded and shook the tower from top to

“It had not the desired effect of blowing me into eternity, but it threw
down the stairs and all the woodenwork near the top of the house; it
damped the fire for a moment, but it soon blazed as fierce as ever.”

The Negro man called out, “I’m wounded.” Then spoke no more. Those were
his last words. By this time, Thompson had also received many wounds and
was literally roasting alive. He decided to jump off the tower.

“I got up, went inside the iron railing, recommending my soul to God,
and was on the point of going head foremost on the rock below when
something dictated to me to return and lie down again. I did so, and in
2 minutes the fire fell to the bottom of the house.”

A few minutes later a stiff breeze sprung up from the southward which
was a great relief to the heat-tortured keeper. The Indians, thinking
him dead, left the lighthouse and set fire to the dwelling and began
carrying their plunder to the beach, where they made off with it in the
keeper’s sloop about 2 a. m.

“I was now almost as bad off as before,” the keeper continued, “a
burning fever on me, my feet shot to pieces, no clothes to cover me,
nothing to eat or drink, a hot sun overhead, a dead man by my side, no
friend near or any to expect, and placed between 70 and 80 feet from the
earth with no chance of getting down.”

The old Negro’s body had literally been roasted but there was a piece of
his trousers that had escaped the flames by being wet with his blood.
With this Thompson made a signal. Some time in the afternoon he saw two
boats, with his sloop in tow, coming to the landing. They were the boats
of the U. S. schooner _Motto_, Captain Armstrong, with a detachment of
seamen and marines, under the command of Lieutenant Lloyd, of the
sloop-of-war _Concord_. They had retaken Thompson’s sloop, after the
Indians had stripped her of sails and rigging. They had heard the
explosion, 12 miles off, and had come to his assistance, scarcely
expecting to find him alive.

The problem now arose of how to get the keeper down. During the night
they made a kite thinking to fly a line to him but to no effect. Then
they fired twine from their muskets, made fast to a ramrod, which the
keeper received and with it hauled up a tail block, making it fast
around an iron stanchion, enabling two men to be hoisted up from below.
The keeper was then lowered and was soon on terra firma. He was taken to
the military hospital.

Rebuilding of the Cape Florida Light, authorized in 1837, was not
completed until 1846 because hostile Indians remained nearby in the
Everglades. In 1855 the tower was raised to 95 feet.

The lighting apparatus was destroyed in 1861, during the Civil War, and
was not restored until 1867.

Cape Florida Light was discontinued in 1878 when Fowey Rock Light was
established, and the tower and property sold to Mr. James Deering of
Chicago, Ill. (8)

                        CAPE SAN BLAS LIGHTHOUSE

The Cape San Blas Lighthouse was completed in 1849 with an appropriation
of $8,000 made 2 years earlier. The shoals running out from the cape
extended 4 or 5 miles and made it dangerous for all vessels nearing the
coast. If the light had been high enough it could have been seen for 20
miles and afforded protection to vessels going to and from Tortugas to
New Orleans, but the light from the 85- or 90-foot tower was visible
only half that distance. The site was “deemed to be entirely secure from
overflow or inundation” by the collector of customs at Apalachicola,
Fla., who selected it, with the assistance of “two of our most
experienced pilots.”

The lighthouse erected in 1849 “fell down during a gale in the autumn of
1851” and on August 31, 1852, Congress appropriated $12,000 for
rebuilding it. The new structure was completed in 1856.

It had been completed only a few months when during the severe storm of
August 30, 1856, it too was totally destroyed. “The sea rose so high,”
the Lighthouse Board reported, “that the waves struck the floor of the
keeper’s dwelling, elevated 8 feet above the ground, and about 14 feet
above the ordinary tides. A lagoon now occupies the site of the

On March 3, 1857, Congress, for the third time, appropriated money for a
lighthouse at Cape San Blas. This appropriation was for $20,000 and the
new lighthouse was first lighted with a third-order lens on May 1, 1858.

The light station sustained serious damage at the hands of Southern
troops during the Civil War. The keeper’s dwelling was completely
destroyed and the door frames and sashes of the tower were torn or burnt
out. Repairs were made, a new illuminating apparatus was provided, and
the light was reexhibited on July 23, 1865.

In 1869 the beach in front of the lighthouse was reported to be washing
away and would need protection against encroachments of the sea during
heavy storms. In 1877 Congress appropriated $2,000 for protecting the
site after the Lighthouse Board had reported 2 years earlier “The base
of the tower is very nearly at the same level as the sea, which is but
little more than 150 feet distant, the shore being of shifting sand. In
a violent hurricane, it is feared, the tower may be undermined.” The
Board had asked for $5,000 to protect the site and reported in 1879
that, as it was found “impracticable to build a jetty for $2,000 that
can protect the site from the encroachment of the sea, no further action
has been taken in the matter.”


Finally in 1881 the Board reported “The sea has been encroaching on this
tower until its base is in the water. Brush mattresses were made, pinned
down to the sand with small iron screw piles, covered with sand and
occasionally blocks of concrete, to further check such encroachment, but
the almost constant surf, beating against the mattresses, tore them to
pieces. * * * An appropriation for a new tower, further inland is badly
needed. It is recommended that a skeleton iron tower be erected; then if
the sea again encroaches, it could be taken down and reerected. The new
tower will cost $25,000.” The following year the Board noted “No
appropriation was made; the site remained unprotected and on July 3,
1882, the tower was overthrown and completely destroyed.” The Board
strongly recommended that the tower be replaced on a safe site at an
early date, there being no intervening light between San Blas and
Pensacola, 120 miles distant.

An appropriation for a fourth tower was made available in 1883. The
remains of the third tower were then 400 feet distant from the shore,
and the sea continued to erode the beach. By 1885 a fourth tower, a
skeleton tower of iron, and two dwellings for keepers had been erected
and the light was first displayed on June 30, 1885. The light had a
third-order lens, showing alternate red and white flashes with 30
seconds intervals. The focal plane, 98 feet above sea level, lit the
entire horizon.

In 1887 the sea was reported again gradually cutting away the shore and
during the year had washed away about one-third the distance to where
the new tower had been built (300 feet). Two years later only 200 feet
of beach remained and the Board reported “It is more than probable that
this will be mostly washed away in the next 4 months.” It was,
therefore, recommended “that the tower and dwellings be taken down and
removed to a point on the inside of the peninsula a little less than 1½
miles, about northwest from its present position where there is a good
site and 8½ feet of water, in St. Joseph’s Bay, within 400 or 500 yards
of it. This location is such that the bearing of the San Blas Shoals
will be the same as now, and the increase of 1½ miles in the distance
from the shore will be of little importance so far as its value as a
coast light is concerned. It is estimated that to make the change will
cost $20,000. The present site cannot be saved except at great cost.”

Nothing had been done, however, by Congress and by early 1890 the tower
was only 144 feet from the sea at high water mark. Later that year,
however, an appropriation of $20,000 was made to remove the tower and
dwellings to the point inside the peninsula. Condemnation proceedings to
obtain title to the new site, however, dragged on until 1894 when on
October 8 and 9 a gale badly damaged the lighthouse extinguishing the
light and wrecking the keeper’s dwelling. So much of the cape was washed
away that the tower now stood in the water.

Before the tower could be removed to the new site, it was decided in
1895 to remove the station to Black’s Island, in St. Joseph’s Bay, which
the President ordered reserved for lighthouse purposes. The work of
dismantling the skeleton iron tower was begun in February 1896 and
carried on until April 30 of that year when it was stopped because the
appropriation was exhausted. The two keeper’s houses had been relocated
on Black’s Island, the foundation for the tower was in place and
three-fourths of the concrete work had been done, when it was estimated
that $4,500 more would be required to finish the work. This was
appropriated in June 1897.

Four months later, however, the light had been reestablished in the old
tower, now in the water at the south point of Cape San Blas. In 1899 the
Board reported “after careful consideration of all the conditions
affecting the choice of a proper site, the Board has concluded that the
light should be reconstructed on the shell ridge about 1⅜ miles N. by W.
from its present location. It is estimated that this can be done at a
cost not exceeding $15,000.” This sum was appropriated on June 6, 1900,
at which time the Board reported: “that the property and material stored
at Black’s Island was being cared for by a watchman appointed for the

By 1901 nothing had been done about moving the tower and the Board
reported “the advisability of removing the station to a new site is
being considered, or of building a permanent keeper’s dwelling in place
of the present temporary buildings, repairing the present light tower
and permitting it to remain in the old location. The point of land on
which the tower stands has made out until the beach at the nearest point
is 100 or more feet distant from the tower. As this movement is
increasing, it may become necessary to move the structure of the station
to a new site.” In 1903 the Board sought and obtained authority from
Congress to use $7,000 of the $15,000 appropriated for moving the tower,
to erect two keeper’s dwellings at the old site. These were completed in

The light remained in the old tower until 1919. In 1916 it was reported
“The sea is again making inroads on the station and a project for its
removal has been tentatively approved.” The new site was one-fourth mile
north of the old tower on the peninsula and on land heretofore reserved
for military purposes, which the President forthwith reserved for
lighthouse purposes. The tower was moved to this site in 1919.

In 1923 the Black’s Island reservation was sold. There were no buildings
on the island at the time.

The light is now in a white, square skeleton tower, enclosing a stair
cylinder, with the lantern 96 feet above ground and 101 feet above
water. The 800,000 candlepower 3½-order electric light flashes white
every 20 seconds and is visible 16 miles. A radiobeacon was established
at the station in 1939. (1) (2)


Tybee Light was under construction by the State of Georgia when that
State became part of the Federal Union in 1788.

The lighthouse was believed to have been ceded to the Federal Government
in December 1791, although no records to substantiate this are

In 1791 it appears that the tower was in commission under a keeper named
Higgins and that spermaceti candles were being used in the lantern.

In 1838 the lighthouse was described as being “a fixed light, 15 lamps,
15-inch reflectors. Height of lantern above the sea, 100 feet. Height of
tower from base to lantern, 95 feet.” The light was refitted with
16-inch reflectors in 1841.

In 1857 the light was renovated and fitted with a second-order lens. In
1862, during the Civil War, the interior of the tower and the lantern
were destroyed by fire and the lens was removed. By 1865, the beacon had
been relighted but not the main light.

In 1866, $20,000 and, in 1867, $34,443 more, was appropriated for
rebuilding the tower and keeper’s dwelling. “The work was progressing
satisfactorily” the Lighthouse Board reports “until the 18th of July
1866, when all labor was interrupted by panic among the workmen, caused
by the arrival of a detachment of U. S. troops on the island, with
cholera prevailing among them. The foreman in charge of the work, and
four of the mechanics died of the epidemic and the work was suspended.
The troops, while on the island, did much damage to the lighthouse
establishment; an additional appropriation for this work is therefore


Tybee Light had formerly been a second-class station but in
reestablishing it, it was made into a first-order light, having a focal
plane 150 feet above the sea. “When the rebels extinguished the light”
the Lighthouse Board reported in 1867, “they attempted to destroy the
old tower by fire, but without complete success, and it was found that a
considerable part of it could be used. It was consequently torn down to
the proper point, and the new masonry carried up from there to the
requisite height.” The new light was first exhibited October 1, 1867.
The old tower had been finished in wood. The new one consisted of
masonry and metal only and was completely fireproof.

In 1869 Tybee beacon was moved back 165 feet as the site was threatened
“by washings of every gale.”

In 1871 gales, which had caused great damage along the southern coast,
had so greatly damaged the lighthouse tower as to render it unsafe “and
require the speedy erection of a new tower.” The tower was reported
cracked and liable to fall at any time. “Its great age (78 years), the
frequent necessary repairs to it during the time it has been standing,
and its total neglect during the war of the rebellion, render it
impossible to properly repair the present tower.”

The encroachment of the sea upon the southerly point of Tybee Island
made it necessary to remove the front beacon, a skeleton frame
structure, and set it back 400 feet on a new foundation in 1873. It had
to be moved still farther back in 1879.

Between 1871 and 1879 the recommendations for a new structure were
repeated annually by the Lighthouse Board. In 1879 the Board reported
“During the September 1878 gale, the tower vibrated to an alarming
extent and the cracks, which had been pointed up, opened and extended.”

Nothing, however, was ever done to replace the structure and it stands
today as it was rebuilt in 1867.

In 1884 the illuminating apparatus was changed to burn mineral instead
of lard oil.

The earthquake of August 1886 extended the cracks in the tower but not
to any dangerous extent. The quake displaced the lens and broke the
attachments to its upper ring.

The octagonal brick tower now rises 145 feet above ground and 144 feet
above water, exhibiting a fixed white electric light of 70,000
candlepower from a first-order lens visible for 18 miles. (1) (2) (7)

                        KILAUEA POINT LIGHTHOUSE

On the northernmost point of Kauai Island.

This important landfall light, providing a leading mark for ships bound
to Honolulu from the Orient, was built in 1913. The tower is of
reinforced concrete, and is but 52 feet high, but it stands on a cliff
which elevates the light to 216 feet above the water. The moving parts
of the lens weigh 4 tons, and this mass turns on a mercury float, making
a complete revolution every 20 seconds and giving each 10 seconds a
double flash of 1,000,000 candlepower. The lens was built in France and
cost about $12,000. Kilauea Lighthouse is also a radio-beacon station
providing radio signals for the guidance of ships.


This light was the first landfall made in the first flight by aeroplane
from the Pacific coast of the United States to the Hawaiian Islands, in
1927, it being picked up from the air at a distance of 90 miles. (1) (2)

                        MAKAPUU POINT LIGHTHOUSE

On the eastern extremity of Oahu Island.


All the commerce from the west coast of North America bound to Honolulu
passes Makapuu Lighthouse. The largest lens in a lighthouse of the
United States known as a hyper-radiant lens, is in use at this
lighthouse. The inside diameter is 8½ feet, sufficient for several men
to stand within. Although the tower is only 46 feet high the light is
420 feet above the sea. The 115,000 candlepower light can be seen for 28
miles. The effectiveness of this lighthouse has been greatly increased
in recent years through the establishment of a radiobeacon at the
station. The radio signals may be heard two hundred and more miles at
sea. (1) (2)

                          TIMBALIER LIGHTHOUSE

On August 3, 1854, Congress appropriated $15,000 “for a light station to
mark the entrance to Timbalier Bay and for coast purposes.” The
lighthouse was reported completed in 1857.


During the Civil War the light was discontinued. Upon the occupation of
the southern portion of Texas by Union forces in 1864, application was
made by the military authorities for the reestablishment of the
Timbalier light. Measures were promptly inaugurated to ascertain the
condition and necessities of the station and suitable illuminating
apparatus was sent to be put in position when requisite repairs had been

The tower was described in 1867 as built upon a low sand beach near the
point of Timbalier Island which, by that year, had been encroached upon
by the sea until it was entirely surrounded by water. By February 1867
the tower was in danger of falling and workmen were sent to take down
the lens and establish a beacon on top of the dwelling. On the 29th and
30th of March 1867, during a hurricane, the dwelling, together with the
tower, and everything about the station was leveled to the ground and
covered with 3 to 6 feet of water. The keepers barely escaped with their
lives and lived for some days in an iron can buoy.

Congress appropriated $50,000 for a new lighthouse on March 3, 1869,
followed by two similar amounts in 1871 and 1873. A final appropriation
of $15,000 was made in 1874. With $120,000 of these appropriations a new
iron screw-pile lighthouse, with focal plane 125 feet above sea level,
was completed by January 1875. The new lighthouse was placed in the
water inside the island, which acted as an effective breakwater. The
design was a skeleton frame work with a spiral stairway, enclosed by
sheet iron, giving access to the lantern and provided with a keeper’s
dwelling in the lower part of the tower. The lens was a second-order,
showing a fixed white light varied by red flashes.

In 1894 the light tower was undermined by the scouring of the channel
and on the morning of January 23, 1894, it canted over. The illuminating
apparatus was saved but was in damaged condition. An attempt was made to
take the dismantled tower to pieces and save it, but owing to the
inability of the lighthouse tender to approach near enough to the wreck,
the work was discontinued and the lighthouse was abandoned. The
lighthouse Board decided that requirements of navigation were not such
as to justify the rebuilding of the tower, but decided to use instead a
lens-lantern light.

The present structure was rebuilt in 1917. It is a white square tower on
a wooden dwelling built on piles and stands in 6 feet of water off the
north side of the east end of the island. The light was changed to
unwatched operation in 1939 and consisted of an 850-candlepower light
which was 56 feet above the water and could be seen 13 miles, flashing
white every 4 seconds. The building is now used as a daybeacon. (1) (2)

                         BOON ISLAND LIGHTHOUSE

President James Madison authorized the building of Boon Island
Lighthouse during the War of 1812. A new lighthouse tower was erected
near the old tower in 1855, consisting of a gray granite conical tower,
133 feet above the water, 6½ miles off the coast of Maine.

As Boon Island is a very flat piece of land, well surrounded by ledges,
the tower appears at times to be springing up from the sea from a
submerged ledge, especially when low clouds are flying. One of the most
isolated stations off the Maine coast, it is also one of the most

One story is told of how the keepers were once marooned on the island
for several weeks because of storms and rough weather. Their food
supplies were low and starvation seemed to be staring them in the face.
Just at the point of desperation a boat appeared and they signaled for
help. The keeper’s message in a bottle was picked up by the passing
schooner which hove to and anchored until the sea went down. Then the
crew packed some food in a mackerel barrel and set it afloat. It drifted
right into a little cove on the island and then the sea caught it and
bounced it well up on the bank, out of the way of the surf. The hunger
of the keepers was appeased until they were able to go ashore and get
supplies at the village of York.


Today the fixed white electric light on Boon Island shows its 120,000
candlepower from a second-order lens for a distance of 18 miles. (6)

                       CAPE ELIZABETH LIGHTHOUSE

Two rubblestone towers were first erected on Cape Elizabeth in 1828 at a
cost of $4,250. President John Quincy Adams appointed Elisha Jordan as
the first keeper in October 1828 at a salary of $450 per year. In 1855
Fresnel lenses were installed and in 1869 a giant steam whistle was set
up for use in foggy weather. In 1873 the rubble towers were taken down
and two cast-iron edifices erected, 300 yards apart. One was a fixed and
one a flashing light. A fog siren replaced the locomotive whistle.


One of the most thrilling episodes in the history of the lighthouse
occurred on January 28, 1885, when Keeper Marcus A. Hanna saved two crew
members of the schooner _Australia_ which had grounded on the ledge near
the fog signal station. The two men had taken to the rigging and were
coated with ice, unable to move. The captain was drowned as a huge
comber washed the deck. Keeper Hanna, securing a heavy iron weight to
the end of a stout line, attempted time and again to reach the men with
it. Suddenly a towering wave struck the schooner and smashed her against
the rocks, putting her on her beam ends. Keeper Hanna again threw his
line and watched it land on the schooner. One of the seamen managed to
reach it and bent it around his waist. Then he jumped into the sea and
the keeper, with great effort, pulled him up over the rocky ledge. The
keeper now heaved the line a second time and finally it reached the
second seaman who wound it around his icy body. Then he too jumped into
the ocean. Just as the keeper’s strength was exhausted in trying to haul
ashore the second man, help came in the shape of the keeper’s assistant
and two neighbors, who helped haul the man to safety.

In the 1920’s the west tower of Cape Elizabeth Light was dismantled.

The light, at the south entrance to Portland Harbor, is equipped with a
1,800,000 candlepower light visible for 17 miles. The white conical
tower is 67 feet above ground and 129 feet above water. (5)

                          DICE HEAD LIGHTHOUSE

On the tip end of the peninsula that forms the mouth of the Penobscot
River stands the now unwatched Dice Head Lighthouse. Built in 1829 and
remodeled in 1858, the lighthouse is now just one more monument to the
historic “Pentagoet” region. Here the first white settlers of 1614,
French traders under La Tour, gave way to the British from the Plymouth
colony led by Isaac Allerton in 1629. The French retook Castine in 1635
only to be again driven out by the British in 1654. Sixteen years later
Hubert d’Andigny once more occupied this strategic key town to the
Penobscot River for the French. In 1674, a Flemish corsair captured the
garrison. Two years later the wealthy and adventurous Baron de St.
Castine took over the town, which still bears his name. Married to the
daughter of the Indian Chief, Madoca-wando, he became a powerful
influence among the Indians and the town became a thriving shipping


Six years after the original light was built in 1829 Capt. Henry D.
Hunter of the United States revenue cutter _Jackson_ inspected it. “This
light,” he reported, “should be located on the northern head of Holbrook
Island, at the eastern entrance to Castine Harbor. It would then answer
as a guide up the Penobscot River and a harbor light.” The lighthouse
was rebuilt in 1937 and is now a white skeleton tower on the north side
of the entrance to Castine Harbor, 27 feet above water. Its
8,000-candlepower acetelyne light flashes white every 4 seconds and is
visible for 10 miles. (6)

                        PORTLAND HEAD LIGHTHOUSE

George Washington engaged two masons from the town of Portland in 1787,
while Maine was still part of the colony of Massachusetts, and
instructed them to take charge of the construction of a lighthouse on
Portland Head. They were Jonathan Bryant and John Nichols. George
Washington reminded them that the colonial Government was poor and that
the materials used to build the lighthouse should be taken from the
fields and shores. They could be handled nicely when hauled by oxen on a
drag, he said.

The old tower, built of rubblestone, still stands as one of the four
colonial lighthouses that have never been rebuilt. Washington gave the
masons 4 years to build the tower. While it was under construction the
Federal Government was formed in 1789 and it looked for a while, as
though the lighthouse would not be finished. But the first Congress made
an appropriation and authorized Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the
Treasury, to inform the mechanics that they could go on with the
completion of the tower. The tower was completed during the year 1790
and first lighted January 10, 1791.

During the Civil War, raids on shipping in and out of Portland Harbor
became commonplace, and because of the necessity for ships at sea to
sight Portland Head Light as soon as possible, the tower was raised 8

Today Portland Head Light stands 80 feet above ground and 101 feet above
water, its white conical tower being connected with a dwelling. The
200,000 candlepower, second-order electric light, is visible 16 miles.
An air-chime diaphragm horn blasts every 20 seconds, for 4 seconds
during fog. (6)




Built in 1839, Saddleback Ledge Lighthouse is one of the most lonely
outposts on the Maine coast. I. W. P. Lewis, who inspected the
lighthouse in the early fifties characterized it as “the only
establishment on the coast of Maine that possesses any claim whatever to
superiority. * * * The sea breaks quite over the lantern in a southwest
gale * * * it is the most economical and durable structure that came
under my observation * * * the only one ever erected in New England by
an architect and engineer.”

“The weirdest experience I have had since being in the service,”
reported Keeper W. W. Wells in 1935 “was the bombardment we got on a
February night way back in 1927, when to my surprise I picked up 124 sea
birds around the tower. They were ducks and drakes. Some were alive but
the most were dead. * * * Darkness had come on and with it came all the
evidence that we were going to get a sou’easter. As the storm struck so
did the cannonading * * * Crash ... and a bird came sailing through a
pane of glass, dropping at my feet. He began fluttering around the floor
with one wing broken and his bill telescoped almost through his head. He
did not live long. In came another and away went another windowpane. The
phenomenon was repeated again and again until the birds began to pile up
like a mound.”

“Just when I thought the cannonading had ceased, one big sea drake
struck the plate glass in the tower lantern and came through without
asking for a transfer. When he struck he broke up the works. Before he
stopped he put out the light and broke prisms out of the lens. The bird
weighed 10 pounds.”

After he had made repairs and got the light burning again, a strange
sight greeted the keeper. At the base of the tower was a tremendous heap
of sea birds, some dead others alive. “Those that were just dazed” he
recounted “and needed to recuperate, we placed in the boathouse and next
day they went on their way.”

The conical gray tower, with a white base stands 42 feet above ground
and 54 feet above water. The 2,000 candlepower, fourth-order
incandescent oil vapor fixed white light is visible for 13 miles. (6)


The first lighthouse established in America was on Little Brewster
Island in Boston Harbor and was first lit September 14, 1716. A tonnage
tax of 1 penny per ton on all vessels, except coasters, moving in or out
of Boston Harbor, paid for maintaining the light.

The first keeper, George Worthylake, with a salary of £50 a year, also
acted as pilot for vessels entering the harbor. In 1718 he and his wife
and daughter, with two men, were drowned when the lighthouse boat
capsized as they were returning to the island from Boston. Young
Benjamin Franklin, then a printer in Boston, wrote a ballad about the
incident entitled “Lighthouse Tragedy” and sold it on the streets of

The pay of Keeper John Hayes was raised to £70 in 1718 so that he would
not be obliged to entertain mariners on the island for extra money which
he found “prejudicial to himself as well as to the town of Boston.” In
1719 he asked “That a great Gun may be placed on Said Island to answer
Ships in a Fogg” and one was supplied that year on which the date 1700
was engraved. The gun is shown on a mezzo-tint engraving of Boston Light
made by Burgess in 1729.

Hayes’ successor in 1734 was Robert Ball who petitioned the general
court for preference in piloting vessels into the harbor. The court
designated him as “established pilot” of the harbor for the next 3
years. In 1751 the lighthouse was badly damaged by fire so that only the
walls remained.

In 1774 the British took over the island and in 1775 the harbor was
blocked and the lighthouse became useless. On July 20, 1775, a small
detachment of American troops under Major Voss visited the island and
burned the wooden parts of the lighthouse. The British began to repair
it under a marine guard, when General Washington dispatched Major Tupper
with 300 men in whale-boats on July 31, 1775, who defeated the guard and
destroyed the repair work done. They were intercepted on leaving by
British small boats and attacked. A direct hit on one of the English
boats by an American field piece on Nantasket Head, caused the British
to retire to their boats with comparatively heavy losses. Only one
American was killed. Major Tupper and his men were commended by General

When the British left Boston, March 17, 1776, a number of their ships
remained in the harbor. On June 13, 1776, American soldiers landed on
Long Island, Boston Harbor, and at Nantasket Hill and opened fire on
this fleet who were soon at their mercy. Before sailing away, the
British sent a boat ashore at Boston Light and left a time charge which
blew up the lighthouse. The top of the old lighthouse was used to supply
ladles for American cannon.

In 1783 the Massachusetts Legislature supplied £1,450 to erect a new
lighthouse on the site of the old. This new lighthouse, which still
stands, was 75 feet high with walls 7½ feet thick at the base, tapering
to 2 feet 6 inches at the top. The octagonal lantern was 15 feet high
and 8 feet in diameter. Thomas Knox was appointed keeper.


On June 10, 1790, the Boston Light was ceded to the new Federal
Government. In 1811, Jonathan Bruce became keeper. He and his wife
witnessed the thrilling encounter between the American ship _Chesapeake_
and the British ship _Shannon_ on June 1, 1813, when Captain Lawrence,
of the _Chesapeake_ muttered the immortal words “Don’t give up the
ship,” as he was being lowered, mortally wounded, through the
companionway. Nine minutes later, however, his crew was forced to

While Captain Tobias Cook of Cohasset was keeper in 1844 a “Spanish”
cigar factory was set up on the island, with young girls brought from
Boston to work in it, in an effort to deceive Boston smokers that the
cigars manufactured there were imported. This business was soon broken
up, however, as a fraud.

In 1856, the height of the tower was raised to 98 feet and it was listed
as a second-order station. On November 2, 1861, the square rigger
_Maritana_, 991 tons, which had sailed from Liverpool 38 days earlier,
with Captain Williams, ran into heavy seas in Massachusetts Bay and
approached Boston in a blinding snow, driven by a howling southeaster.
At 1 o’clock in the morning of November 3, she sighted Boston Light and
headed for it, but crashed on Shag Rocks soon after, with passengers and
crew ordered into the weather chains after the crew had cut the masts
away. The ship broke in two and Captain Williams was crushed to death,
but seven persons floated to Shag Rocks atop the pilot house, while five
others swam to the ledge, as fragments of the wreckage started coming
ashore on both sides of Little Brewster Island. A dory from the pilot
boat rescued the survivors from the rocks.

When the _Fanny Pike_ went ashore on Shag Rocks in 1882, Keeper Thomas
Bates rowed out and took the crew safely off the ledge.

In 1893 the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sent 20 or 30 students
to live on the island, while experiments were made with various types of
foghorns in an endeavor to find one that would penetrate the area known
as the “Ghost Walk” 6 or 7 miles to the east.

On Christmas Day 1909 the five-masted schooner _Davis Palmer_, heavily
loaded with coal, hit Finn’s ledge and went down with all hands.

When the U. S. S. _Alacrity_ was wrecked on the ice-covered ledges off
the island on February 3, 1918, Keeper Jennings and his assistants made
four attempts to shoot a rope to the doomed ship but each time the rope
parted. Jennings brought the lighthouse dory to the shore, and, assisted
by two naval reservists, pushed it over the ice and into the surf.
Twenty-four men were clinging to the wreck in perilous positions when he
reached it after a dangerous trip. Flinging a line aboard, they began
the rescue of the half-frozen sailors, four times running the gantlet of
ice, rocks, and surf until all 24 men were saved. For this Jennings
received a letter of commendation from Secretary Redfield.

During World War II the light was extinguished as a security measure,
but was again placed in operation July 2, 1945. The station is equipped
with a 1,800,000 candlepower light visible for 16 miles. (5)

                         BRANT POINT LIGHTHOUSE

According to all available records, the lighthouse at Brant Point,
located on the south side of Nantucket Harbor, Mass., has been rebuilt
seven times in addition to three beacons, since it was originally
established in 1746. At a town meeting at Nantucket on January 24, 1746,
the sea captains of the island spoke out for a lighthouse and 200
English pounds were voted for the purpose “in supposition that the
owners of, or others concerned in, shipping will maintain a light
therein.” However, the expenses of maintaining the light were actually
defrayed by the town. This earliest lighthouse was destroyed by fire in

At another town meeting held shortly afterward, the rebuilding of the
light was agreed to and another light was built in 1759. This stood
until 1774. In the March 12, 1774, issue of The Massachusetts Gazette
and the Boston Post-Boy and Advertiser appears this item: “We hear from
Nantucket that on Wednesday the 9th of March Instant (1774) at about 8
o’clock in the Morning, they had a most violent Gust of Wind that
perhaps was ever known there, but it lasted only about a Minute. It
seemed to come in a narrow Vein, and in its progress blew down and
totally destroyed the Light-House on that Island, besides several Shops,
Barns, etc. Had the Gust continued fifteen Minutes it is thought it
would not have left more than half the Buildings standing, in the Course
that it passed. But we don’t hear of any Persons receiving much hurt,
nor much Damage done, except the loss of the Light-House which in every
respect is considerable.”


Two weeks later the citizens met and agreed to rebuild the lighthouse
for the third time “as High as the former one that blew down lately * *
* at the Town’s Expense.” As many of the captains from other ports
objected to the system of lighthouse dues, the townsmen petitioned the
General Court of Massachusetts for permission to levy tonnage dues, and,
beginning August 1, 1774, that court ordered that any vessel over 15
tons was subject to a charge of 6 shillings the first time each year it
entered or left Nantucket Harbor. In 1783, the lighthouse was burned to
the ground in a third disaster.

The first three lighthouses had been cheaply constructed, but the fourth
light, for economy’s sake, was practically nothing but a beacon built
even more cheaply. A wooden lantern, with glass windows was hoisted, in
1783, between two spars, with grooves to protect and steady the lantern.
This lamp gave a very dim light often compared by mariners to a
lightning bug; hence it received the name “bug light.” This “bug light”
did not prove satisfactory.

A fifth beaconlike light was substituted for this in 1786. It was merely
a frame, fitted at the top for lamps. This outfit was wrecked in a heavy
storm in 1788.

In August 1789 Congress passed the act transferring the colonial lights
to the Federal Government. Some time between 1788 and 1795 another
lighthouse was erected on Brant Point. According to a “Memoranda of
Cessions by Massachusetts,” dated 1795, “The lighthouse on Brant Point
with the tenements and land thereto belonging, owned by the State, was
ceded to the United States in 1795.”

This building, the sixth to be erected on this site, grew old with the
years and was condemned in 1825.

A small tower framework, the seventh light, was built on top of the
keeper’s dwelling in 1825. This had eight lamps arranged in a double
row, six in the lower series and two in the upper tier. Behind each of
these lamps were 12½-inch reflectors.

On November 9, 1853, C. A. Ogden, Major, Topographical Engineers,
recommended to the Lighthouse Board the erection, as the eighth light, a
sixth tower for a second-class lens light at Brant Point, Nantucket, at
a cost of $15,000. “The frame of the light tower at Brant Point is so
completely rotted as to require reconstruction with the least possible
delay,” the letter continued, “and believing it to be the wise policy of
the Board to make all its future construction permanent, I have asked
the above amount for the tower. The dwelling house is much decayed, but
has a nearly new roof and weather boarding on it, and may last for some
years yet.” A similar recommendation to the Board dated October 22,
1853, from Even W. Allen, collector and superintendent, district of
Nantucket, reads in part “The whole establishment at Brant Point is very
much out of repair, and from the age, material, and construction of the
building, I should not consider it good economy to repair it; the
interests of the Government and all concerned, seem to demand a more
permanent and commodious structure.” Accordingly, on August 3, 1854,
Congress appropriated $15,000 “for rebuilding the lighthouse at Brandt’s
Point, Nantucket, State of Massachusetts.” This appropriation was spent,
$6,383.85 in 1856 and $8,616.15 in 1857, for the erection of the new
tower. The following is a description of this tower. “The foundation of
the tower is of concrete cement 2 feet thick, and 18 feet in diameter.
The base is of hammered granite, laid in courses 2 feet thick to the
height of 12 feet. The interior of the base forms a cistern, where water
may be caught for household purposes. The column forming the tower is of
brick laid in cement, with an airspace within the walls for ventilation.
The lamp is of cast iron, with 12 lights of plate glass. A circular iron
stairway winds its spiral way up to a floor of iron, where rests the
lantern, 58 feet above the foundation and 47 feet above the ground.”

The lamp was a catadioptric apparatus of the fourth order, commonly
called the Fresnel light. The light was first exhibited December 10,

In 1900 a fixed red lens-lantern beacon light was installed at the
extremity of Brant Point, 600 feet from the tower, it having been found
necessary to move the light outward, owing to changes in the channel
leading into the harbor of Nantucket. This was the ninth light to be
located on the Brant Point site.

In 1901 a new tower, the tenth light and seventh tower, was built at the
extremity of the point, and the light exhibited there for the first time
on January 31, 1901. This is still in use as a white cylindrical
(wooden) tower, with foot bridge to shore on which is a 1300
candlepower, fourth-order electric light, fixed red, 26 feet above the
water, visible 10 miles. This is the lowest lighthouse in New England.
It is located on the west side of the entrance to Nantucket Harbor. A
fog bell completes the equipment at this station.

A long-standing dispute begun in 1887, over the boundaries of the land
constituting the lighthouse site, which belonged to the United States,
was finally settled in 1901 when five lots, embracing 5.9 acres, on
which three summer dwellings and part of a hotel were located, were
sold, as no longer needed for lighthouse purposes and the proceeds paid
into the Treasury. (5)

                        BUZZARDS BAY LIGHTHOUSE

In 1960 the Coast Guard announced that it was replacing certain
lightships with fixed offshore structures. The structures they noted,
would provide more efficient optics and would provide greater luminous
range than was possible with lightships.

The first lightship to be replaced was the Buzzards Bay Lightship
located in Buzzards Bay approximately five miles south of Gooseberry
Neck, Mass., in 61 feet of water. The station was commissioned on
November 1, 1961.

The underwater portion of the structure is a framework consisting of
four 33 inch steel pipe members cross braced with 16 inch and 18 inch
diameter steel pipe horizontally and diagonally. Through each of the 33
inch main pipe members, 30 inch cylindrical steel piles were driven and
seated to bed rock at a depth of 268 feet below mean low water. A
portion of the piles is filled with concrete.

The platform above water rises 66 feet above mean low water. The
platform is two decks high, the lower deck housing fuel and water tanks
and the upper deck consisting of quarters for the five Coast Guardsmen
who man the station. The structure is equipped with a helicopter landing

The light at the station is 101 feet above water. A light of 5,000,000
candlepower is shown during periods of low visibility while a 400,000
candlepower light is normally in operation. The light can be seen for 16
miles. The station is also equipped with a radiobeacon and a fog horn.
The piles are floodlighted from sunset to sunrise.

Since this first offshore structure, the Coast Guard has placed five
more lights of this type in operation.




Thatcher’s Island was named for the Rev. Anthony Thatcher who, on the
night of August 14, 1635, was shipwrecked there. Of the 21 persons on
board, including his 4 children, only the minister and his wife were

On April 22, 1771, the Province of Massachusetts Bay Council authorized
the erection of twin lighthouses on Thatcher’s Island. Captain Kirkwood
was appointed keeper on December 21, 1771, but, being a Tory, was
removed from the island by the Minute Men during the early days of the
Revolution. The lights remained dark all during that war.

The lighthouses were among those turned over to the Federal Government
under the act of August 7, 1789. From 1792 to 1814 Capt. Joseph Sayward
was keeper and he was succeeded by Aaron Wheeler, who served 20 years.
One of Wheeler’s tasks was to clear the 300 yards between the towers of
large boulders and surface down the smaller ones. A bonus of $100 was
paid him for this work. Charles Wheeler, who succeeded him served until
1845. A fog bell was installed in 1853.

In 1859 Congress authorized the rebuilding of the two lighthouse towers
and two new towers, of cut granite, were built in 1860-61. Each was 124
feet high and fitted with a Fresnel lens of the first order.

A Civil War veteran named Bray was appointed keeper in 1865 and on the
day before Christmas, that year, took his assistant, who was running a
fever, ashore. While he was away a heavy snow storm came up and he could
not return. His wife, with two babies, alone on the island, fought her
way between snow drifts, to keep the lights in the two towers burning.
When her husband returned Christmas morning, it was only because she
had, by almost superhuman effort, kept the lights burning that he was
able to find his way and not miss the island altogether in the blinding

In 1891, Mr. John Farley, assistant keeper, was killed while landing at
the station in a heavy sea. In 1919, when President Wilson was returning
to the United States on the S. S. _America_, the great vessel narrowly
escaped the rocks on the island in a fog. Only the fog horn, heard at
the last minute, enabled the captain to change his course in time.

In 1932 the light on the northern tower was discontinued and that in the
southeast tower was electrified by means of a 6,000-foot submarine cable
to the mainland.

A gray stone tower, 124 feet above land and 166 feet above water, now
houses the 70,000-candlepower first-order electric light, which is
visible 19 miles. An air-diaphone fog signal is also located at the
station. (5) (7)


The appropriation act of May 23, 1828, provided “That the Secretary of
the Treasury be empowered to provide by contract, for building a
lighthouse on Dumpling Rock, south of the mouth of Aponegansett River,
in the State of Massachusetts—$4,000.” Of this amount $3,832.47 was
spent in 1829 in the construction of a light on a keeper’s dwelling 43
feet above sea level. Ten years after it was built, Lt. Edward W.
Carpender, USN, reported: “It is a useful light in guiding vessels into
Dartmouth Harbor.” “The keeper and his family,” the report says, “were
in danger of being drowned out, until the Government built a wall around
the dwelling. Since then they have lived in safety. Located, as this
light is, on a small barren rock, with fewer advantages to the keeper
than perhaps any other light in the district, it would seem proper that
I should notice the fact of the salary being smaller by $50 than that of
many others.”

During the early days of the light the keeper had arranged a signal to
his friends whenever a homeward-bound vessel was sighted approaching New
Bedford Harbor. An arm on a post near the lighthouse tower was raised
and lowered so that the merchants could send their representatives out
to the incoming boat to sell their wares.

In 1890 the old stone dwelling, built in 1828, was torn down and
replaced upon the same foundation by a frame dwelling surmounted by a
wooden tower with a modern fourth-order lens. For its protection against
the sea, a bulkhead 90 feet long was built of hard pine timber heavily
bolted to the rock and reinforced by dry masonry from the stones of the
old dwelling. A Daboll trumpet, operated by an oil steam engine, was
established on October 12, 1897. The following year a telephone line was
run through a cable from the mainland at Nonquitt, Mass. In 1905 a short
breakwater was built to protect the landings. Keeper Fred Bohm
participated in many thrilling rescues during his term as keeper.


The New England hurricane of 1938 damaged the lighthouse seriously. In
1940 the frame house was replaced with a skeleton tower and the light
changed to unwatched. The 400 candlepower light can be seen for 8 miles.
The light is located on a rock off Round Hill Point. (5)

                        EASTERN POINT LIGHTHOUSE


On east side of entrance to Gloucester Harbor.

For over 100 years the fishermen of Gloucester have been guided back to
their home port by a lighthouse on Eastern Point. The present brick
tower, painted a gleaming white, and standing on the long rocky point
forming the eastern side of the harbor, was built in 1890, replacing, on
the same foundation the original tower built in 1832. Before 1832 a
still older lighthouse, on Ten-Pound Island well inside of the harbor,
had served as an entrance light, but this light was never visible until
ships had actually found the entrance, hence the building of a
lighthouse on the Eastern Point where it could be seen from far

Eastern Point Lighthouse is equipped with a power light and a fog
signal. Coast Guardsmen also control the radiobeacon, located on the end
of the breakwater. (1) (2)

                        MINOTS LEDGE LIGHTHOUSE

Minots Ledge is one of the “Cohasset Rocks” which had been the scene of
countless wrecks since earliest times. Between 1832 and 1841 there were
40 wrecks on this and neighboring reefs. Between 1817 and 1847, it was
estimated that 40 lives and $364,000 in property had been lost in
shipwrecks in the vicinity of Minots Ledge, off Cohasset, Mass.

In 1843, Inspector I. W. P. Lewis, of the Lighthouse Service, emphasized
the great need for a lighthouse on Minots Ledge and his judgment was
sustained by Capt. William H. Swift, of the United States Topographical
Bureau, who recommended an iron-pile lighthouse as offering less
resistance to the waves than a stone tower.

The ledge was barely 20 feet wide and was exposed at low tide, being dry
only 2 or 3 hours a day. On this narrow rock construction was begun in
the spring of 1847 of a 75-foot open-work iron light structure. The men
could only work on very calm days when the tide was at its ebb. The work
was conducted from a schooner which remained near the ledge, unless the
sea was rough, with the workmen sleeping on board. If a storm
threatened, the schooner put into Cohasset Harbor until it was over.

Nine holes were drilled into the solid rock, each 12 inches wide and 5
feet deep. Eight were placed in a circle, 25 feet in diameter, with the
ninth in the center. Iron piling, 10 inches in diameter were then
cemented into each hole. Four men worked in 20-minute shifts at the
drilling from a triangle, set on heavy spars, which supported a platform
high above the ledge, on which the drilling machinery was installed.

All the apparatus was swept from the rock by two different storms in the
summer of 1847. Workmen were swept into the sea several times, but none
was drowned. Work had to be stopped for the winter in October 1847 and
begun again in the spring of 1848, but by September of that year the
nine holes had been drilled and the nine iron piles placed. The outer
piles started toward the center to a 14-foot circumference, 38 feet
above the uneven surface of the ledge. These were braced horizontally by
iron rods at 19-foot intervals. Braces planned to strengthen the lower
part of the tower were omitted on the theory that they would lessen
rather than increase the over-all security of the edifice. However, it
was where these braces were planned to go, that the structure actually
broke off later.

A cast-iron spider, or capping, weighing 5 tons was secured to the top
of this piling. The keeper’s quarters were erected on top of this.
Finally a 16-sided lantern room at the very top, housed a Fresnel
lantern, with 15 reflectors. The light, a fixed beacon with an arc of
210°, was first lighted January 1, 1850.

The first keeper, Isaac Dunham, was confident the light structure was
not safe and wrote Washington requesting that it be strengthened. When
no action resulted he resigned on October 7, 1850.

Capt. John W. Bennett, who succeeded him openly scoffed at his
predecessor’s fears. He hired new assistants including an Englishman
named Joseph Wilson and a Portuguese named Joseph Antoine. Two keepers
remained at the light at all times.

The braces of the structure were soon showing signs of strain, however,
and were constantly having to be removed, taken to the mainland and
strengthened and straightened. A terrific northeast storm a few weeks
after he took charge, changed Bennett’s mind and he officially reported
the tower as in danger. A committee, delegated to investigate, arrived
during a perfectly calm sea and returned to Boston, deciding nothing
should be done.

On March 16, 1851, during another terrible storm, the keepers deciding
the lantern room was unsafe, retreated down into the store room, where
they cowered for 4 days and nights, only occasionally climbing to the
lantern to repair some damage done by the storm. The violent pitching
and swaying of the tower almost knocked them off the rungs of the
ladder, when they did. A relatively calm spell followed during which the
braces were tightened.


Then easterly winds began blowing around April 8, 1851. Bennett departed
for the mainland 3 days later and this was the last time he saw his two
assistants alive. When he sought to return next day, too heavy a sea was
running at Minots Ledge to permit the attempt. The storm increased in
fury and, by the 16th, was causing considerable damage ashore. At Minots
Ledge, the two assistant keepers kept the bell ringing and the lamps
burning, but just before midnight on the 16th they cast a bottle adrift
containing a message for the outside world in case they failed to
survive. The high tide at midnight sent wave after wave through the
upper framework of the weakened structure. What actually happened then
will never be known. Probably about 11 p.m. the central support snapped
off completely, leaving the topheavy 30-ton lantern tower held only by
the outside piling. Then just before 1 a.m. on April 17, 1851, the great
Minots Ledge Lighthouse finally slid over toward the sea. One by one the
eight iron pilings broke until only three remained. The keepers,
probably realizing that the end was near, began pounding furiously on
the lighthouse bell. This was heard by residents of the Glades. With the
tower bent over, the remaining supports now gave way and the great tower
plunged into the ocean.

The body of Joseph Antoine was washed ashore later at Nantasket. Joseph
Wilson managed to reach Gull Rock, probably mistaking it for the
mainland. Here he apparently died of exhaustion and exposure.

Between 1851 and 1860 Minots Ledge was guarded by a lightship. Plans for
a new stone edifice were meanwhile drawn up for the Lighthouse Board by
Gen. Joseph B. Totten; model makers built the proposed new structure in
miniature; the same location was decided upon; and Barton S. Alexander,
of the United States Engineers, started to work on its construction in
April 1855.

The ledge had to be cut down to receive the foundation stones and space
was not available for a regular cofferdam. In June the old stumps of the
first tower were removed. Meanwhile cutting and assembling of the
granite was done on Government Island, near Cohasset. Seven granite
blocks were to form the foundation. Permanent iron shafts, 20 feet high,
were set in eight of the holes in which the old lighthouse piling had
been, while the ninth or central hole was left open, to form a cavity
for the base circle. Later a well for drinking water was built up from
this cavity through the middle of the new tower.

The framework structure disappeared during a severe storm on January 19,
1857, when the barque _New Empire_, which later went ashore at White
Head, struck the temporary tower and demolished the iron scaffolding. So
in the spring of 1857 the work had to be started all over again.

The first stone was finally laid July 9, 1857. Temporary cofferdams were
constructed from sand bags, so that the foundation blocks, laid more
than 2 feet under the surface of the lowest tide, could be cemented to
the rock face of the ledge. Strap iron between the courses kept the
2-ton stones apart while the cement was hardening.

The total appropriation of $330,000 was all spent, except a small
surplus, in the construction. By the end of 1859, the thirty-second
course, 62 feet above low water had been reached, and 377 actual crew
working hours had been consumed. The final stone was laid June 29, 1860,
the whole granite structure having thus taken 5 years to complete,
lacking 1 day. The new lighthouse was finished by mid-August 1860 and
the light first exhibited August 22, 1860. The light was not regularly
shone, however, until November 15, 1860, when Joshua Wheeler, the new
keeper, and two assistants entered upon their duties.

The new stone tower has withstood every subsequent gale. The strongest
waves cause nothing but a strong vibration. On some occasions the seas
have actually swept over the top of the 97 foot structure with no more
damage than that caused by a few leaky windows or a cracked lamp or two.

On May 1, 1894, a new flashing lantern was installed, with the
characteristic of a one-four-three flash, which lovers on shore soon
found contained the same numerical count as the words “I love you.”
Minots Ledge has thus become known up and down the coast as the “Lover’s

The light was made automatic in 1947. Today its 45,000 candlepower
light, 85 feet above water, can be seen for 15 miles. (5)


In 1770 the town fathers of Nantucket chose a committee to ask the
General Court to erect “a lighthouse on the end of Sandy Point of
Nantucket.” Later the committee idea was abandoned, however, and the
local Nantucket representative in the General Court was instructed to
“use his influence in the General Court to get a Light House on our
Point according to his own discretion.” This method proved effective,
for on February 5, 1784, the General Court of the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts passed a resolution providing for the erection of the
Great Point Light at Nantucket as soon as possible. On November 11,
1784, Richard Devens, the commissary general, was granted 1,089 pounds,
15 shillings, and 5 pence in addition to 300 already paid out “for the
erecting a lighthouse and small house at Nantucket” (Massachusetts
Resolves, 1784, No. 81, Laws of Massachusetts). The lighthouse was
erected that same year. On June 10, 1790, the “lighthouse, land, etc.,
on Sandy Point, county of Nantucket,” was ceded to the United States in
accordance with the act of August 7, 1789.

The keeper in 1812 was Jonathan Coffin. There was no keeper’s dwelling
on the point and in order to reach the light each evening the keeper had
to make a long journey. Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury,
accordingly raised his salary to $166.67 per year and preparations were
begun to build him a dwelling near the tower.

In November 1816, however, the lighthouse was entirely destroyed by
fire. Some said the fire was purposely set, but no positive proof was
ever forthcoming. On March 3, 1817, Congress appropriated $7,500 “for
rebuilding the lighthouse at Nantucket, recently destroyed by fire” and
$7,385.12 of this was expended in 1818 in erecting the handsome stone
tower which still stands today.

A petition signed by many citizens and shipowners of Nantucket in 1829
called for the removal of Captain Bunker, who was then keeper, because
of his intemperate habits, but Stephen Pleasonton, Fifth Auditor of the
Treasury, wisely refrained, after an investigation, from taking any
action in the matter. The petition had suggested George Swain as a
replacement for Bunker and such petitions, circulated by ambitious
candidates for a keeper’s job, or by disgruntled and disappointed
applicants, were far too numerous to be acted upon without careful
consideration of the source and the motive.

In his report of November 1, 1838, Lt. Edward W. Carpender, USN, noted
that the light was in a stone tower 60 feet high and 70 feet above sea
level. It consisted of 14 lamps, 3 with 15-, and 11 with 16-inch
reflectors, arranged in two circles parallel to each other and to the
horizon. The lantern was 8½ feet high and 9 feet in diameter. The tower
and dwelling were connected by a short covered way “which, among these
sand hills, where the snow must drift in winter, is a security that the
light will be well attended.”

In 1857 Fresnel lenses were installed at Great Point and in 1882 mineral
oil was substituted for lard oil. In 1889 a red sector was inserted in
the light to cover Cross Rip Shoal and the shoals south of it.


Between 1863 and 1890 there were 43 shipwrecks within the jurisdiction
of Great Point Light. A number of vessels mistook Great Point Light for
the Cross Rip Light Ship. The schooner _William Jones_ was wrecked for
this reason on the clear moonlit night of April 17, 1864, when together
with two other vessels she went ashore on Great Point Rip. All three
eventually got off, however, at high tide. Another schooner hit the bar
in a heavy gale on October 12, 1865, but the captain was able to get his
wife and three children, together with the crew into the vessel’s long
boat and row to Great Point Beach, where the keeper had a carriage
waiting for him. Arriving at the lighthouse the survivors watched their
ship go to pieces shortly afterward. The schooner _Leesburg_ struck
Great Point Rip in September 1866, and the crew were rescued by the
island steamer. The following month, on October 4, 1866, the brig _Storm
Castle_ mistook Great Point Light for Handkerchief Light Ship. The brig
was towed into Nantucket Harbor 3 weeks later, after her cargo of lumber
had been jettisoned. A sugar and molasses brig struck Great Point Rip
the day after Christmas 1866 and was a total loss, though the crew
reached shore safely. The same thing happened to another schooner in May
1867, and to one in December 1867. Still nothing was done about the
confusion in the lights. Wrecks continued. There were two in 1869, one
in 1877, and two in 1878. In 1880 the _West Wind_ hit the east end of
Nantucket Bar, 4½ miles from the lighthouse with a cargo of ice. The
vessel soon went to pieces, the crew being picked up later.

In February 1881, the keeper sighted the _U. B. Fisk_ caught in an ice
floe. The crew had abandoned ship but were unable to make shore. The
keeper waded out into the water, up to his armpits, and threw them a
small line. With this he sent them a heavier line which he used to pull
their boat ashore, as their schooner was being crushed in the ice pack.

Other wrecks occurred in 1887, 1889, and in 1890. It was not until 1889
that the red sector in the Great Point Light was inserted to mark Cross
Rip Shoal and the other shoals south of it. From then on the wrecks were
less numerous although in 1915 the _Marcus L. Oran_ was wrecked on the
Wasque Shoal and keeper Norton at Great Point helped rescue “13 men, a
woman, and a cat.” He was given a life-saving medal for this

Nantucket (Great Point) Lighthouse is described as a white tower 71 feet
above ground and 70 feet above water, visible 14 miles, and located on
the point at the north end of Nantucket Island. It is equipped with a
25,000-candlepower third-order electric light, fixed white, with a
5,000-candlepower red sector which covers Cross Rip and Tuckernuck
Shoals. (5)



On November 16, 1787, the Massachusetts Assembly authorized the building
of two lighthouses on the north end of “Plumb Island” and the original
towers were erected the following year. On June 10, 1790, they were
ceded to the newly formed Federal Government.

Because of the shifting sand bars at the mouth of the Merrimac River,
these lights have since been moved many times.

In 1830 the _Lady Howard_ was wrecked in the vicinity, and during the
storm of December 22, 1839, the _Pocahontas_ and _Richmond Packet_ both
came to grief. The former bound from Cody to Newburyport was swept to
destruction on the sand bar off Plum Island and all hands were lost. The
latter was driven ashore and began to break up on a point of rocks.
Captain Toothaker jumped overboard with a line and reached the rocks,
where he made the line fast. Then he signaled his wife to come in on the
line, but before she could do so the line snapped and she was lost. The
crew members were all saved, however.

Forty-one of the one hundred and thirty vessels that had taken refuge in
Newburyport Harbor were damaged in this storm, which struck so suddenly
that the keeper of the light, who had left the tower for a few hours for
the mainland, was unable to return. That night there was consequently no
light at the entrance to the harbor.

In order to conform to changes in the river channel the “bug” light was
removed to a new position in 1864, and, again in 1867, the range light
was moved 90 feet to mark a new channel formed by a shifting of the bar.
In 1869 the beacon was moved one-third of a mile northeast. In 1870 a
more powerful light was recommended, but in 1874 the towers on Plum
Island had to be moved 75 feet southward “owing to the encroachment of
the sea.” Sand and thatch embankments were erected to protect their
foundations in 1876. In 1887 a new stone tower was built for the range
light but by 1890 the position of the river channel across the bar had
so shifted that the lights no longer served as a guide through it.
Meanwhile jetties were being built to better control the shifting
channel and in 1898 the rear light tower was rebuilt.

Today only one white conical tower built in 1788 and rebuilt in 1898
remains on Plum Island. It is 50 feet above water and the
3,000-candlepower, fourth-order electric light is visible for 13 miles.

                      PLYMOUTH (GURNET) LIGHTHOUSE

One of Massachusetts’ two minor peninsulas, extending north and south
into the sea between Scituate and Plymouth, extends far south along a
great stretch of sand dunes which end at the Gurnet.

In 1606 Champlain landed here and watched the Indians fishing for cod
with fishhooks made of wood, on which a spear-shaped bone was fastened.
The lines were made of tree bark.

The Pilgrims called the land “the gurnett’s nose.” The place was
apparently named after several similar headlands in the English channel,
many of them being called for the fish of that name which is caught
along the coast of Devonshire.

The Plymouth (Gurnet) Lighthouse was first established in 1768 by the
Massachusetts Legislature. The first keeper was John Thomas on whose
land the original lighthouse was built, and for which rent of 5
shillings per year was paid him by the colony. Later Hannah, his widow,
was keeper. Both had received $200 per annum for their services. The
lighthouse cost £660 to erect, was 30 feet long, 20 feet high, and 15
feet wide with a “lanthorn” at each end of the building, holding two
lamps each.

During the Revolution, the three towns of Plymouth, Duxbury, and
Kingston had erected a fort on the Gurnet. In the midst of an engagement
between the fort and the British frigate _Niger_, which had gone aground
on Brown’s Bank, a wild shot from the ship pierced the lighthouse. Later
the vessel got off and escaped. The Gurnet Light, however, is thus the
only United States lighthouse known to have ever been hit by a cannon

In 1778 the armed brigantine _General Arnold_ was caught in a blizzard
while less than a mile from the light and the captain anchored his
vessel rather than risk the treacherous waters of Plymouth’s inner
harbor without a pilot. The vessel dragged anchor and hit on White
Flats. Seventy two of the crew died most of them freezing to death in
the below-zero temperature before they could be rescued. The keeper of
Gurnet Light was unable to go to their aid because the harbor was
blocked with ice. A causeway had to be built over the ice to rescue the


In 1783 the damage done to the lighthouse during the Revolution was
repaired. In a terrible December snowstorm in 1786, a coasting sloop
from Boston to Plymouth was caught off Gurnet. Only one man was hurt
when the ship struck a sand bar and all landed safely. Several miles
from any habitation two men finally reached Gurnet Lighthouse and Thomas
Burgess, the keeper, dispatched his assistant to help the others reach
the lighthouse safely.

Under the act of August 7, 1789, the United States accepted cession of
the lighthouse by Massachusetts on June 10, 1790, including “the
interest of the Commonwealth in the lighthouse land, etc., on the Gurnet
Head, west of Plymouth.”

On July 2, 1801, the lighthouse was completely destroyed by fire. The
merchants of Plymouth and Duxbury erected a temporary beacon at their
own expense. On April 6, 1802, Congress appropriated $270 to reimburse
them. At the same time Congress also appropriated $2,500 “for rebuilding
the lighthouse on Gurnet.” Twin lights were built and the Thomas family
was paid $120 for the land on which the new lighthouses were

Joseph Burgess succeeded his father as keeper on October 16, 1812, and
remained in charge of the light until 1851.

Congress appropriated $5,000 in 1836 “for preserving the point of land
leading to the fort and lighthouse at the Gurnet, in Duxbury, by hurdles
or double ranges of piles.”

Lt. Edward W. Carpender, USN, reported on November 1, 1838, that the
Gurnet light beams were horizontal rather than perpendicular as other
lighthouse beams were. “They require to be double to distinguish them
from the single light at Barnstable. They are in separate towers, 22
feet high and 30 feet apart. They consist * * * of a single series of
six lamps each, with old 8½-inch reflectors, arranged in a circular
form, so as to suit the harbor as well as sea navigation. Their
elevation is 70 feet above the level of the sea, enabling them to be
seen * * * 19 miles.”

Carpender pointed out that the lights were too close together, causing
them to blend and appear as a single light at a short distance. Also
being horizontal they “were likely to come into a range with each other,
by which they also appear single.” Carpender’s remedy for this was to
convert them from horizontal to perpendicular beams, but his suggestion
was never carried out.

In 1842 the Gurnet lighthouses were rebuilt and the new structures,
while still of wood, each had a distinctive design. In 1871 the lights
were of the sixth order and were declared by the Lighthouse Board to be
“entirely too small” and “readily mistaken for the lights in a dwelling
house, when they can be seen at all.” Their distance apart was also too
short to afford an efficient range. Nothing ever came of the
recommendation that they be replaced with fourth-order lights “separated
by a proper distance for an effective range.”

After 1851, Thomas Treble followed Joseph Burgess as keeper. His
successors were William Sears, Milton Reamy, Edward S. Gorham, Henry L.
Pingree, and A. S. Eisener. Keeper Davis in 1929 had a long list of
rescues to his credit, and keeper Reed rescued the crew of the mine
sweeper U. S. S. Swan stranded on Gurnet Beach on November 28, 1930.

Gurnet Light had lost its importance as a light as Plymouth Harbor lost
its shipping traffic over the years. Not until Cape Cod Canal was opened
in 1914 did the lighthouse again become an important coastal beacon.

In 1924 the northeast tower was discontinued and the station is now
described as a white, octagonal, pyramidal tower, with white dwelling,
39 feet above ground and 102 feet above water. Its 700,000 candlepower,
fourth-order electric light shows group flashing white every 20 seconds
and is visible for 16 miles. An air diaphragm horn blasts for 3 seconds
every 15 seconds during fog. (5)

                        LITTLE SABLE LIGHTHOUSE


East shore of Lake Michigan.

Little Sable Lighthouse, a white brick tower, 107 feet in height,
connected to the keeper’s dwelling, and surrounded by a picturesque
group of trees, stands on a point about 10 miles south of Pentwater. The
lighthouse was built in 1874, and the light now shown from the tower is
fixed and flashing white, the flashes being of 40,000 candlepower.
Several miles to the northward is Big Sable Lighthouse, on the point of
that name, distinguished at night from Little Sable by having a fixed
white light, and by day by the color of the tower, banded in black and
white. Big Sable Lighthouse is the same height as the tower at Little
Sable, but was erected in 1867. (1) (2)


The Spectacle Reef Lighthouse cost $406,000 and is the best specimen of
monolithic stone masonry in the United States. The work on the
lighthouse, which stands on a submerged limestone reef off the eastern
end of the Straits of Mackinaw, was commenced in May 1870. It was
planned and built by Maj. O. M. Poe, who was General Sherman’s chief
engineer on his march to the sea. The light was first exhibited from the
finished structure in June 1874. The available working time on the
structure was, however, only about 20 months, because no work could be
done on it during the winter months.

The nearest land to Spectacle Reef is Bois Blanc Island, 10½ miles away.
The stone for it was prepared at Scammon’s Harbor, 16 miles distant and
one of the items in its cost was the purchase of a steamer to convey the
materials to the site.

The waves at Spectacle Reef have a fetch of 170 miles to the
southeastward and the ice fields, which are moved by a current and are
thousands of acres in area, are often 2 feet thick. These had to be
especially provided for because when they move in mass, they have an
almost irresistible force. This force was overcome by interposing a
structure against which the ice is crushed and by which its motion is so
impeded that it grounds on the 7-foot shoal, which thereby forms a
barrier against other ice fields.

The tower, in the shape of a frustrum of a cone, is 32 feet in diameter
at the base and rises 93 feet above the base, which is 11 feet below the
water. The focal plane is 4 feet 3 inches above the top of the parapet,
making it 97 feet 3 inches above the top of the submerged rock and 86
feet 3 inches above the surface of the water. For 34 feet up the tower
is solid and from them on up it is hollow. In it are five rooms, one
above the other each 14 feet in diameter, with varying heights. The
walls of the hollow portion are 5 feet 6 inches at the bottom, tapering
to 16 inches at the spring of the cornice.

The blocks of stone below the cornice are 2 feet thick, and those of the
solid portion of the tower are cut to form a lock on each other in each
course, and the courses are fastened together with wrought iron bolts 2½
inches thick and 2 feet long. The tower is bolted to the foundation rock
with bolts 3 feet long which enter the bed rock 21 inches, the other
courses receiving the bolts for 9 inches. Each bolt is wedged at both
ends, and the bolt holes, which were made with a diamond drill, after
the stones were in place, are plugged with pure portland cement, now as
hard as the stone itself. Hence the tower is, in effect, a monolith.

The stones were cut at the depot at Scammon’s Harbor, 16 miles away, and
fitted, course by course, on a platform of masonry. The stones were so
well prepared that a course could be set, drilled, and bolted in 3 days.

The foundation, 11 feet under water, was laid in a cofferdam protected
by a crib work of 12-inch timber, built upon ways at the depot, as a
ship might have been, than launched and towed by a number of steamers to
the reef and grounded on the site. This crib was 92 feet square and 24
feet high. This afforded a protected pond for the cofferdam, a landing
wharf, and quarters for the men all 12 feet above water. The cofferdam
was then pumped out until the bedrock was exposed and on this bedrock
the masonry courses were laid.


A severe gale in September 1872 did considerable damage, though only of
a temporary character, exposing the east face of this crib at a point
where it had not been sheathed to protect it from the ice during the
winter. It swept away the temporary cribs and nearly destroyed the
workmen’s quarters.

After the winter of 1873-74, when the keepers returned to the newly
completed tower, they found the ice piled against it at a height of 30
feet, or 7 feet higher than the doorway, and they could not gain
entrance until they had cut away the iceberg of which the lighthouse
formed the core.

The light now flashes alternately white and red, every 60 seconds, the
white light being 400,000 candlepower and the red light 80,000
candlepower, both second-order electric, and visible for 17 miles. There
is also a 100 candlepower white winter light which flashes every 5
seconds. An air-diaphone fog signal is also located at the station. (1)



Stannard Rock, lying about 23 miles southeast of Manitou Island, was for
years the most serious danger to navigation in Lake Superior. The rock
was first marked by a day beacon in 1868, but by 1871 the rapid increase
in commerce between Duluth and the lower lakes demanded the construction
of a lighthouse on the rock. The construction of Spectacle Reef Light,
which presented a similar problem, had been started in 1870 and it was
believed that all the costly apparatus and machinery purchased for that
job could be made available for constructing a lighthouse on Stannard

In 1873, when the Spectacle Reef construction was three-quarters
completed, Congress appropriated $10,000 for a preliminary survey. This
indicated that a structure would be needed of the most substantial and
costly kind, that it would probably be located in 11 feet of water and
would cost $300,000. As a matter of fact the final cost was $305,000.

It was not until 1877, 4 years after Spectacle Reef Lighthouse had been
completed, that Congress appropriated $50,000 for commencing the
construction of the lighthouse. All the machinery which had been used in
constructing Spectacle Reef was moved to the depot at Huron Bay where
necessary quarters, docks, shops, etc., were erected. The tower was to
be similar to that of Spectacle Reef, with the addition of a permanent
protective crib. This crib was begun at Huron Bay in July 1877 and taken
out to the rock in August, where soundings were made to fit it to the
bottom. It was then returned to Huron Bay and built up to 14 courses and
in August 1878 was taken out and placed in position at Stannard Rock. By
October it had been filled with concrete and stone mined from a quarry
opened on Huron Island. Congress had meanwhile appropriated another
$100,000 for this work.

By June 1879 the iron casting for the concrete pier was in place and the
pier had been built up to the surface of the water with another $50,000
appropriation. By midyear 1880 the work was 14 feet above lake level.
The tower was completed and the light first exhibited July 4, 1882, with
another $123,000 made available.

Work on the tower and its various appliances continued in 1883. The
light is exhibited 102 feet above water and shows a 20,000 candlepower
flashing white light of the second order, visible about 18 miles. There
is also an air diaphone fog signal at the station. (1) (2)

                         SPLIT ROCK LIGHTHOUSE

In township of Split Rock, north shore of Lake Superior.

Picturesquely located at the top of an imposing rock jutting out into
Lake Superior is Split Rock Lighthouse. The station derives its name
from the appearance of the rock as it is approached from the open lake.
The octagonal brick tower 54 feet in height was built in 1910. Because
of the height of the rock, the light was 168 feet above the level of the
lake and could be seen for 22 miles. An incandescent oil-vapor lamp was
used inside the third-order lens, producing a light of 450,000
candlepower. The station was also equipped with a compressed air
operated diaphone fog signal, sounding a blast every 20 seconds in time
of fog. Split Rock Lighthouse is one of the most frequently visited
lighthouses in the United States. The light was discontinued in 1969.
(1) (2)


                       ISLE OF SHOALS LIGHTHOUSE

Capt. John Smith discovered the rugged, storm-swept Isles of Shoals off
the coasts of Maine and New Hampshire in 1614. The first settlers were
Robert, John, and Richard Cutts who came across the seas from Wales to
build their huts on the islands. Later Sir William Pepperell established
the fishing industry there and laid the foundation for a fabulous
fortune. The Pepperell Mills at Biddeford, Maine, stem from this
beginning and Sir William was closely associated with Gen. George
Washington and Gen. Knox during the Revolution.


The largest of the island group was originally called Hog Island, but
this was later changed to Appledore. This island contains about 4 acres
and its greatest elevation is 75 feet above the sea. In 1641 the 40
families living on the island incorporated it into a town and here the
first church in the Province of Maine was erected, under the direction
of the Reverend John Brock. The town flourished through its fisheries
and enjoyed an extensive trade with the Spaniards. In 1670, during
trouble with the Indians, the inhabitants moved to Star Island, for
greater protection.

Smutty Nose, earlier known as Haley’s Island, lies close to Appledore
and at low tide Cedar and Malaga Islands are connected with the latter
by a breakwater, built, it is said, by Captain Haley with the proceeds
from four bars of silver found among the rocks. He also erected a salt
works, built a ropewalk and set up a windmill. Each night he kept a lamp
lighted from the sunset to sunrise to aid the mariners into the harbor
formed by the breakwater. Notwithstanding this aid to navigation, the
ship _Sagunte_ from Cadiz was wrecked on the southeast point of the
island on January 14, 1813, and stones marking the graves of those lost
can still be seen.

It was on Star Island that Captain Kidd was said to have buried some of
his treasure. During the colonial period, the Indians swept down upon
Star Island in their canoes and killed or carried off every inhabitant
except a Mrs. Moody, who hid herself and her two children under the
rocks. Unable to keep them quiet, the mother killed them with a knife
she was carrying rather than let them fall into the hands of the

The first Isle of Shoals Lighthouse was erected on White Island, 5½
miles off the coast of New Hampshire in 1821. It was a stone tower with
the lantern about 90 feet above the water. In 1835 Capt. Henry D. Hunter
of the United States Revenue Cutter _Jackson_ inspected it and reported
“The lanthorn is old and wants a new one. The whole establishment is
dirty and in bad order.”

Thomas B. Laighton, who was defeated for Governor of New Hampshire in
1839, sold his business in Portsmouth and became keeper of the Isle of
Shoals Light. Five years before, he had purchased Appledore, Smutty
Nose, Malaga, and Cedar Islands, across the boundary line in Maine, from
Capt. Samuel Haley. When Laighton retired as keeper in 1847, he had
built a large hotel, the Oceanic, on Star Island.

During the Civil War, because of the danger from blockade runners and
Southern gunboats, the lighthouse was entirely rebuilt of granite, with
walls 2 feet thick.

One night in 1873, Louis Wagner, knowing that the men were away from
Smutty Nose Island, rowed all the way across from the mainland to rob
fisherman Houtnet’s residence. Caught and recognized by the women,
Wagner killed two of the three females on the island. Then he returned
to his dory and rowed back to the mainland. Later he was captured,
tried, and hanged.

Today the white conical tower rises 58 feet above ground and 82 feet
above the water, and the 170,000-candlepower second-order incandescent
oil-vapor light, flashing white every 15 seconds, is visible for 15
miles. An air diaphragm horn blasts for 3 seconds every 30 seconds
during fog. (5) (6)


In 1771 the first wooden tower at Portsmouth Harbor was built on a point
of land running out into the harbor. This early colonial tower was one
of the 12 lighthouses turned over to the Federal Government under the
act of August 7, 1789. The original tower was replaced by another wooden
tower in 1804. In 1877 this second tower was removed and a cast-iron
beacon erected 1,000 feet east of the first station. This was on ground
known as Newcastle. In reaching the lighthouse by land one has to pass
through the “Old Fort” yard before arriving at the lighthouse

For 30 years after its first settlement in 1623, this area was known as
“Strawberry Bank” because of a large patch of wild strawberries on the
bank of the river.


In 1789 the Portsmouth Lighthouse was visited by George Washington who
remained in Portsmouth 4 days. Earlier in 1782 General Lafayette had
been a lighthouse visitor. Daniel Webster practiced law here in 1807,
and was a frequent visitor at the lighthouse during his 9 years of
residence in Portsmouth.

Today the lighthouse is a white conical tower, with a fog signal house
attached, built on Fort Point. It rises 52 feet above the water and its
3,000 candlepower fourth-order electric light flashes a green light
visible 13 miles. During fog a bell strikes once every 10 seconds. (5)

                          NAVESINK LIGHTHOUSE

Navesink Light, N. J., on Navesink Highlands, south of the entrance to
New York, was established in 1828. It consisted originally of two rubble
towers. In 1862 two brownstone towers replaced these, the north tower
being octagonal and the south tower square. They are 73 feet high and
connected by a dwelling. The present light is exhibited from the south
tower only and shows a flashing white light every 5 seconds, 246 feet
above water and visible 19 miles. The light in the north tower was
discontinued in 1898.


In 1841 the first Fresnel lens to be used in this country was imported
from France and installed in the south tower. In 1898 an electric arc
lamp replaced oil lamps in the south tower, this being the first primary
lighthouse in the United States to use electric light. The electric arc
lamp was equipped with a bivalve lens of the new lighting type. This
lens, weighing over 7 tons, revolved in 10 seconds, and gave a flash
every 5 seconds, lasting 0.3 seconds. The Navesink Light was the only
shore station having a plant for generating electricity. Its estimated
candlepower was 25,000,000 making it the most powerful coast light in
the United States. Although on account of the curvature of the earth,
the light itself could not be seen more than 22 miles, its beam was
reported to have been observed in the sky at a distance of 70 nautical

After the establishment of this electric flashing light many complaints
were made by residents of the neighborhood of the great discomfort and
annoyance caused by the brilliancy of the flash. This was remedied by
darkening several of the lantern panels on the land side. The light was
later changed to an electric incandescent light of 9,000,000
candlepower. With the improvement in floating aids, however, this
lighthouse lost some of its early importance, and the candlepower was
reduced to 5,000 candlepower. It was changed to unwatched in 1949. The
light was discontinued in 1952 and used as a daybeacon until 1963. (3)

                         SANDY HOOK LIGHTHOUSE

The Sandy Hook Light tower is the oldest original tower still standing
and in use in the United States. The light in this tower was lighted for
the first time on June 11, 1764. Originally called the “New York
Lighthouse,” it was built by Mr. Isaac Conro of New York City with money
collected by a group of New York merchants and maintained by tonnage
dues of 22 pence per ton paid to the port of New York “By order of an
Act of the Colony.” The location of the lighthouse on New Jersey land
eventually caused dissension between the two States. It was one of the
12 lighthouses built by the colonies which, by the act of August 7,
1789, were ceded to the United States. The new Federal Government agreed
to maintain them thereafter.

The lighthouse was described in 1764 as follows: “This House is of an
Octagon Figure, having eight equal sides; the Diameter of the Base 29
feet; and at the Top of the Wall 15 Feet. The Lanthorn is 7 feet high;
the Circumference 15 Feet. The whole Construction of the Lanthorn is
Iron; the top covered with Copper. There are 48 Oil Blazes. The Building
from the Surfaces is Nine Stories; the whole from Bottom to Top 103


A lot of about 4 acres “at the point of Sandy Hook, in Monmouth County,”
was ceded to the United States by the State of New Jersey on November
16, 1790, and on March 1, 1804, the State of New Jersey “consented to
the purchase of a lot on the north point of Sandy Hook, for the purpose
of erecting a beacon.” Appropriations for a beacon “to be erected on the
north point of Sandy Hook” were made in 1804 ($2,000), 1805 ($6,000),
1807 ($1,200) and 1817 ($1,200). In 1832 there were two beacons on the
Hook, “one on the north point, ranging with the light and buoy of the
upper middle; and the westernmost one and light ranging with the buoy on
the SW. spit, in both of which are lamps.”

In 1852 the Lighthouse Board reported “The tower of Sandy Hook main
light was constructed in 1764, under royal charter, of rubblestone, and
is now in a good state of preservation. Neither leaks nor cracks were
observed in it. The mortar appeared to be good, and it was stated that
the annual repairs upon this tower amount to a smaller sum than in the
towers of any of the minor lights in the New York district. * * * The
illuminating apparatus is composed of 18 21 inch reflectors, and argand
lamps which were fitted new, according to the best information on the
subject, in 1842.”

The light is a 60,000-candlepower, third-order electric light, fixed
white, in a white stone tower, 85 feet above ground and 88 feet above
water, visible for 15 miles. (1) (2) (7)


In 1858 a light was placed on a 7-acre site at Crown Point, on Lake
Champlain, near the historic Grenadier Battery, historic ruins of French
and English fortifications. The base of the tower was 57 feet above
water and the focal plane was 86 feet above water level. A fixed
fifth-order, white light was there in 1894. In 1888 a steamboat wharf
had been built to accommodate visitors by water to the fortifications.


In 1926 the light was discontinued and the site conveyed to the State of
New York. The States of New York and Vermont, as part of the
commemoration of the three hundredth anniversary of the discovery of the
lake by Samuel de Champlain, removed the old tower and built in its
stead an ornamental cylindrical tower of cut granite blocks, surrounded
by eight Doric columns. On the pedestal is an heroic group in bronze
with Champlain as the central figure, presented by the Republic of
France. The bronze group was designed by Rodin, the famous French
sculptor. (3)


Congress appropriated $5,000 on May 23, 1828, “for building a lighthouse
at a proper site, at or near Portland, on Lake Erie, in the State of New
York.” The site was purchased for $50 and contract was made to erect a
lighthouse and dwelling which cost $3,456.78. The first keeper appointed
May 27, 1829, was Joshua Lane, a “deaf, superannuated clergyman, having
numerous female dependents” whose salary was $350 per annum.

The first light apparatus was described in the contract as 11 patent
lamps with 11 14-inch reflectors and 2 spare lamps. There were double
tin oil butts for 500 gallons of oil. No mention was made at that time
of equipment for burning natural gas.

On January 1, 1831, a contract was made to provide the light with
natural gas “at all times and seasons” and to keep the apparatus and
fixtures in repair at an annual cost of $213. This was described at the
time as follows:

“The Lighthouse at Portland Harbor in the County of Chautauqua and State
of New York, is now illuminated, in the most splendid style, by _natural
carburetted hydrogen gas_. Ever since the first settlement of the
country about Portland, it has been known that an inflammable gas
constantly issued from the fissures of a rock, which forms the bed of a
little brook that empties into Lake Erie, near the harbor, in such
quantity as to be easily set on fire by applying a flame to it. This
fountain of gas was known to the early settlers of the country by the
name of the ‘burning spring.’ No valuable use, however, was made of this
gas until Mr. W. A. Hart, an ingenious gunsmith of the village of
Fredonia, and some other young mechanics, five or six years ago,
collected a quantity of similar gas from the rocky bed of Canadaway
creek in a reservoir, and conveyed it from thence to all the principal
stores, taverns, and shops in the said village, where it is still used
instead of lamps.”

In the fall of 1829, on completion of the lighthouse at Portland Harbor,
several persons associated together for the purpose of conveying the gas
from the “burning spring” to the lighthouse. They dug into the rock at
the place where the largest quantity of gas was found, in the form of a
common well, about 40 or 50 feet in diameter and 3 feet deep. Over this
well they erected a cone of solid mason work, so tight as to contain the
gas which should collect within it, and at the same time exclude the
water around it. They inserted a pipe at the base of the cone; bent down
the end toward the bottom of the well; and then extended the pipe along
on the bed of the brook to its termination below the dam. From that
point it was conducted by pipes buried in the ground the distance of 230
rods to the lighthouse.


A stand of lamps adapted to the reception, emission, and burning of the
gas was next invented and constructed by Mr. Hart. These consisted of
several horizontal arms extended like the radii of a semicircle, at the
end of each of which a brass pipe was attached. The quantity of gas
consumed by each burner was regulated by a stopcock. Each burner had a
large and suitable reflector. There were two tiers of these lamps, seven
on the lower tier and six in the upper, interspaced so that, when viewed
from the lake at night, the whole tower represented one complete,
constant and unwavering blaze.

“Altogether” the account continues “this is one of the greatest natural,
philosophical and mechanical curiosities which the country can produce.
As a light for a lighthouse it exceeds, both in quantity and brilliancy,
anything of the kind I ever saw.”

In November 1838 it was reported, however, that “Owing to a failure of
gas, that may be attributed to the excessive draught, oil is now
substituted. It is presumed, however, that the fall rains will replenish
the stream from which the fountain is supplied, and thus prevent the
escape and loss of the gas.”

In 1851 the report read: “We have one lighthouse at Portland on Lake
Erie, lighted with natural gas, carried a distance of 2 miles in pipes
to the tower; and even here we are obliged to keep oil and lamps, as
water frequently collects in the pipes, over which the gas will not
pass, and whilst they are being taken up and freed from water, oil light
has to be used. We have a contract for supplying this gas at the annual
cost of the oil which would be required, if lighted with that material.”

The Portland Harbor (Barcelona) Light was discontinued in 1859 and in
1872 the buildings were sold to the highest bidder. (1) (2)

                          RACE ROCK LIGHTHOUSE

Race Rock Lighthouse, in Long Island Sound, 8 miles from New London,
Conn., was built under great difficulties. The builder was Captain
Scott. His engineer was F. Hopkinson Smith, who later became famous as a
writer of lighthouse stories. Race Rock Lighthouse is off Fisher’s
Island Sound, at the mouth of the Race, where the waters of the Sound
rush both ways, according to the tide, with great velocity and force,
and where, in heavy weather, the waves run high. By 1837 eight vessels
had been lost in 8 years on Race Point reef.

In 1838 Congress appropriated $3,000 for erecting a lighthouse at Race
Rock but the money was never expended. In 1852 the Lighthouse Board
reported: “Various efforts have been made, and numerous appropriations
expended, in endeavoring to place an efficient and permanent mark on
this point. Buoys cannot be kept on it, and spindles have hitherto only
remained until the breaking up of the ice in the spring.” In 1853 $7,000
was appropriated “for a beacon on Race Rock.” This took the form of a
daybeacon completed in 1856.

In 1854 Congress appropriated $8,000 for a lighthouse but only $1,600 of
this was spent, mostly in surveys. In 1869 $90,000 was appropriated “for
a lighthouse at or near Race Point, Fisher’s Island, Long Island Sound.”
After preliminary surveys costing $6,528.57, an additional appropriation
of $10,000 was made in 1870, after the Board had estimated that $200,000
would be required to build the lighthouse. In 1871 $150,000 more was
provided by Congress.

Construction of the riprap foundation began in April 1871. In all 10,000
tons of granite were used in the foundation. “The proposals for the
construction of the foundation and pier of this structure were so
excessive in rates” the Board reported in 1872, “and so much above the
amount of the appropriation on hand ($95,539.66 had been expended out of
$261,000 appropriated to June 10, 1872) that no more than the landing
and the enrockment of the foundation, and two courses of the pier, could
be contracted for.”

In 1873 Congress appropriated a further $75,000 and the lighthouse was
completed at an additional expenditure of $175,048.09 between 1873 and
1878. The total cost of the lighthouse was $278,716.33.

The ledge on which the lighthouse is built is under water and
three-fourths mile from Race Point Reef. It has one large and several
smaller spurs of rock rising above the general surface. The least depth
at mean low water on the principal spur or Race Rock proper, is 3 feet.
The greatest depth at mean low water, within the circle of 69 feet, is
13 feet.


The ledge was, with the help of divers, made approximately level with
small broken stone and riprap. Upon this was placed a circular-stepped
mass of concrete, 9 feet thick, built in 4 concentric layers. The lower
layer is 69 feet in diameter and 3 feet thick. To form the layers of
concrete, cylindrical bands of half inch iron, of the height and
diameter required for the respective layers, were used. The upper
surface of the concrete, 8 inches above mean low water, carries a
conical pier, 30 feet high, 57 feet in diameter at the base, and crowned
by a projecting coping 55 feet in diameter. The pier is made of heavy
masonry backed with concrete, in which cisterns and cellars are located.

The pier is surmounted by a granite dwelling one story and a half high.
From the center of its front the granite light tower ascends. A
landing-pier, 53 feet long and 25 feet wide, built of heavy masonry,
gives access to the lighthouse. The whole structure is surrounded and
protected by riprap. The tower, which is square at the base and
octagonal at the top, carries a fourth-order alternating flash white and
red electric light of 90,000 candlepower, being 67 feet above sea level
and 45 feet above land, and visible 14 miles at sea. (1) (2)


On December 14, 1790, the State of North Carolina ceded to the United
States 10 acres of land on Cape Fear Island, in response to the
invitation held out by the act of August 7, 1789, for the States to make
cessions to the Federal Government of “lighthouses, beacons, buoys, and
public piers, and lots of land for lighthouses, etc.”

On April 2, 1792, Congress appropriated $4,000 and provided “that the
Secretary of the Treasury, under the direction of the President of the
United States, be authorized, as soon as may be, to cause to be finished
in such manner as shall appear advisable, the lighthouse heretofore
begun under the authority of the State of North Carolina, on Bald Head,
at the mouth of the Cape Fear River in said State.” Three further
appropriations totalling $7,359.14 were made between 1793 and 1797 and
the light was completed and first shone in 1796.

Between 1813 and 1817, $16,000 was appropriated “for rebuilding Bald
Head Lighthouse.”


On July 1, 1834, Capt. Henry D. Hunter of the revenue cutter Taney
inspected Bald Head Light which he described as having 15 lamps, 109
feet above the level of the sea, showing a fixed light. Two years later
he again inspected the light. “The keeper is an old revolutionary
soldier,” he reported “and is unable from sickness to give the
lighthouse his constant personal attention. The light, however, shows
well from a distance.”

A Jones fog bell was placed near Bald Head Lighthouse in 1855. In the
same year the Lighthouse Board recommended the substitution of “a
third-order lens, larger model, 360°, for the present apparatus.” It
also recommended a fixed light, light, varied by flashes “to distinguish
this light, under all circumstances, from Federal Point Light.”

The range lights on the upper jetty of Cape Fear River, which had been
installed in 1856, “were extinguished by the rebels in 1861, and the
structures entirely destroyed.”

In 1866 Bald Head Light was discontinued after a new lighthouse had been
built at the mouth of the Cape Fear River to replace Federal Point
Light. In 1880, however, Federal Point Light had been rendered useless
and was discontinued because of the closing of the New Inlet Channel by
the Engineer Department. Bald Head Light was relighted at that time and,
together with a small stake light on the beach in front of it, served as
a guide through the 16- to 18-foot Oak Island Channel across the bar.

The shore on the inside was reported in 1881 as being “rapidly abraded
by the action of the sea, which is doubtless increased by the augmented
flow of water through Oak Island Channel due to the closing of New
Inlet.” In the following year it was noted, “Some means of protection
must soon be used, or the lighthouse will be destroyed.” In August 1883
a stone jetty, 150 feet long, was authorized for the protection of the
foundation of the tower. This work was completed, in time probably, to
save the tower from destruction in the hurricane of September 1883. In
1885 the jetty was extended another 50 feet.

In 1889 the Lighthouse Board reported that the shoals forming the
continuation of Cape Fear for about 18 miles to the southeast were
dreaded by ship masters only a little less than those at Cape Hatteras.
The lightship, near the outer extremity of the shoals, warned vessels of
danger and gave them a good point of departure, but was not sufficient
to insure adequate protection because of the small area lighted by it,
and its liability to being set adrift from its moorings during violent
storms, at the very time it was most needed. The Cape Fear Light (Bald
Head), on account of its inland position and want of height, did not
cover the shoals and therefore did not give sufficient warning to
vessels in case the lightship should drift from her moorings. The Board,
therefore, recommended a first-order lighthouse, with a radius of 18½
miles of light, about 150 feet high and costing $150,000 to be built on
the pitch of Cape Fear.

This recommendation was made each year thereafter until 1897, the
estimate being revised downward to $70,000 in 1893. On July 1, 1898,
Congress appropriated $35,000 for the new lighthouse, with authority to
contract for another $35,000, followed by an appropriation for a similar
amount on March 3, 1901. A new skeleton tower was completed in 1903 on
Smith Island and furnished with a first-order flashing lens apparatus.

Upon completion of the new Cape Fear Light the old Cape Fear Station
(Bald Head) was changed to a fourth-order fixed light and its name
changed to Bald Head Light Station. The station was discontinued in
1935. A radiobeacon was established on the site in 1941. (1) (2) (7)

                        CAPE HATTERAS LIGHTHOUSE

On July 10, 1797, Congress appropriated $44,000 “for erecting a
lighthouse on the head land of Cape Hatteras and a lighted beacon on
Shell Castle Island, in the harbor of Ocracoke in the State of North

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse cost $14,302 to build and the Shell Castle
Island Lighthouse was built from part of the surplus. Both were
completed in 1803.

The Cape Hatteras light marked very dangerous shoals which extend from
the cape for a distance of 10 nautical miles. The original tower was
built of dark sandstone and retained its natural color. The original
light consisted of 18 lamps, with 14-inch reflectors, and was 112 feet
above sea level. It was visible in clear weather for a distance of 18

In July 1851, Lt. David D. Porter, USN, reported as follows:

“Hatteras light, the most important on our coast is, without doubt, the
worst light in the world. Cape Hatteras is the point made by all vessels
going to the south, and also coming from that direction; the current of
the Gulf Stream runs so close to the outer point of the shoals that
vessels double as close round the breakers as possible, to avoid its
influence. The only guide they have is the light, to tell them when up
with the shoals; but I have always had so little confidence in it, that
I have been guided by the lead, without the use of which, in fact, no
vessel should pass Hatteras. The first nine trips I made I never saw
Hatteras light at all, though frequently passing in sight of the
breakers, and when I did see it, I could not tell it from a steamer’s
light, excepting that the steamer’s lights are much brighter. It has
improved much latterly, but is still a wretched light. It is all
important that Hatteras should be provided with a revolving light of
great intensity, and that the light be raised 15 feet higher than at
present. Twenty-four steamship’s lights, of great brilliancy, pass this
point in one month, nearly at the rate of one every night (they all pass
at night) and it can be seen how easily a vessel may be deceived by
taking a steamer’s light for a light on shore.” The improvement in the
light referred to had begun in 1845 when the reflectors were changed
from 14 to 15 inch. In 1848 the 18 lamps were changed to 15 lamps with
21-inch reflectors and the light had become visible in clear weather at
a distance of 20 miles. In 1854 a first-order Fresnel lens with flashing
white light was substituted for the old reflecting apparatus, and the
tower was raised to 150 feet.

In 1860 the Lighthouse Board reported that Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
required protection, due to the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1862 the
Board reported “Cape Hatteras, lens and lantern destroyed, light


Between 1867 and 1870 Congress appropriated $167,000 in three annual
sums, for rebuilding Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The new tower, from which
the first-order light was first exhibited December 16, 1871, was the
highest brick lighthouse tower in the world. It was 193 feet above
ground and the focal height of the light 191 feet above water. The old
tower “being no longer of any use and in danger of falling during some
heavy storm” was blown up and totally destroyed in February 1872.

In the spring of 1879 the tower was struck by lightning. Cracks
subsequently appeared in the masonry walls, which was remedied by
placing a metal rod to connect the iron work of the tower with an iron
disk sunk in the ground. In 1912 the candlepower of the light was
increased from 27,000 to 80,000.

Ever since the completion of the new tower in 1870, there had begun a
very gradual encroachment of the sea upon the beach. This did not become
serious, however, until 1919, when the high water line had advanced to
about 300 feet from the base of the tower. Since that time the surf had
gnawed steadily toward the base of the tower until in 1935, the site was
finally reached by the surf. Several attempts were made to arrest this
erosion, but dikes and breakwaters had been of no avail. In 1935,
therefore, the tower light was replaced by a light on a skeleton steel
tower placed farther back from the sea on a sand dune, 166 feet above
the sea, and visible for 19 miles. The old tower was then abandoned to
the custody of the National Park Service.

The Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration
erected a series of wooden revetments which checked the wash that was
carrying away the beach. In 1942 the Coast Guard reassumed its control
over the tower and manned it as a lookout station until 1945. The old
tower was now 500 to 900 feet inland from the sea and again tenable as a
site for the light which was placed in commission January 23, 1950.

The new light consists of a 36-inch aviation-type rotating beacon of
250,000 candlepower, visible 20 miles, and flashing white every 15
seconds. The skeleton steel tower has been retained to guard against the
time that the brick tower may again be endangered by erosion and thus
require that the light again be moved. (1) (2)

                        CAPE LOOKOUT LIGHTHOUSE

The Cape Lookout Lighthouse was completed in 1812 at a cost of
$20,678.54 and had one wooden and one brick tower.

The station was described in 1850, when William Fulford was keeper, as
having 13 lamps, new lighting apparatus having been installed in 1848.
The keeper was obliged, in 1850, to keep wheeling away sand from the
front side of the keeper’s dwelling to prevent the sand from covering it
up. “The sand banks,” the report reads, “are now higher than the tops of
the windows; and only a few feet from them, at high water mark. On the
sea side, it has washed away about 100 feet last year by abrasion and
sea flows.”


In 1851 Cape Lookout Lighthouse was reported as one of nine coast lights
“which require to be improved. * * * The towers of each of them should
have an elevation of 150 feet above the level of the sea and * * *
should be fitted up in the best manner with first-order lens apparatus,
to insure a brilliancy and range adequate to the wants of commerce.
These lights are not sufficiently well distinguished, but a general plan
for all the seacoast lights will best accomplish this object.”

On March 3, 1857, Congress appropriated $45,000 “for rebuilding and
fitting out with first-order apparatus the lighthouse at Cape Lookout,
North Carolina.” The new lighthouse was completed and first lighted on
November 1, 1859.

During the Civil War, in 1862, the tower was damaged and the lens, etc.,
removed, but by 1863 the lighthouse had been refitted and the light
re-exhibited. A third-order lens was placed in use temporarily until the
first-order lens, “injured by the rebels” could be repaired and restored
in 1867.

The lighthouse is now a black and white diagonally checkered tower, 169
feet above ground and 156 feet above water and shows a group flashing
white electric light every 15 seconds of 80,000 candlepower, visible 19
miles, from a first-order lens. (1) (2)

                          OCRACOKE LIGHTHOUSE

As a consequence of the invitation held out by the act of August 7,
1789, and other similar acts of Congress, various cessions of
lighthouses, beacons, buoys, public piers, and lots of land for
lighthouses were made from time to time by the various States, vesting
the property, jurisdiction, and sometimes both, or right of occupancy in
the Government of the United States. On February 7, 1795, land necessary
for a lighted beacon on Shell Castle Island (later known as Beacon
Island) was turned over to the United States by the State of North
Carolina and in a deed from J. G. Blount and John Wallace bearing the
date of November 29, 1797, for a lot on Shell Castle Island, it was
stipulated “that no goods should be stored, no tavern kept, no spirits
retailed, no merchandise to be carried on, and that no person should
reside on, or make it a stand to pilot or lighter vessels.”

The first lighted beacon at Ocracoke was built on Shell Castle Island in
the year 1798, and was erected in connection with the lighthouse on Cape
Hatteras. This was authorized on July 10, 1797. Further appropriations
for this beacon were made in 1800, 1803, and 1808.

On May 15, 1820, Congress appropriated $14,000 “for building a
lighthouse on Shell Castle Island, in the State of North Carolina, or,
in lieu thereof, a light vessel to be moored in a proper place near said
island if, in the opinion of the Secretary of the Treasury, the latter
shall be preferred.”


A total of $6,625 was spent in 1820 and 1821 for this purpose. “In
process of time” Mr. S. Pleasonton, Fifth Auditor of the Treasury, later
wrote “the channel leading in and out of Ocracoke left the lighthouse
the distance of a mile, so as to render it altogether useless. The fact
being made known to Congress, an appropriation was made of $20,000 for
building another near the channel, and this was built in 1823, by Noah
Porter, of Massachusetts, for $11,359.35.”

This light was built on Ocracoke Island under a congressional
authorization dated May 7, 1822. It was built on 2 acres of land sold to
the United States for $50 on December 5, 1822, by Jacob Gaskell,
jurisdiction being ceded to the United States by the North Carolina
General Assembly on December 28, 1822.

The 1854 report of the Lighthouse Board indicated that at Ocracoke
Island a fourth-order Fresnel fixed white light was substituted for the
old reflecting illuminating apparatus. In 1857 the Board reported “The
Ocracoke channel light vessel and the Beacon Island lighthouse, at the
same place have, several times, been reported by this Board as useless
and their discontinuance recommended. * * * The erection of a small
beacon light at the Ocracoke main light station, to serve as a range
light, at a cost, if authorized, of not over $750, and to form a part of
the present light station at Ocracoke, will fully subserve the wants of
the present and prospective navigation of that inlet much better than by
keeping up the Ocracoke Channel and Nine Feet Shoal light vessel, and
Beacon Island lighthouse, at an annual saving of between $5,000 and
$10,000.” Congress appropriated the $750 for the beacon range light on
Ocracoke Island on March 3, 1859, “provided that the lighthouse on
Beacon Island and Ocracoke Light vessel be discontinued after the
erection and exhibition of the aforesaid beacon light.” In 1862 the
Beacon Island light tower was still standing but the lens had been
removed. Meanwhile new Franklin lamps had been substituted for valve
lamps in the Ocracoke Lighthouse. In 1899 new model fourth-order lamps
were supplied. The present white tower, on Ocracoke Island built in
1823, stands 76 feet above the ground and 75 feet above water and the
8,000-candlepower, fourth-order fixed white electric light is visible
for 14 miles. (1) (2)

                       TILLAMOOK ROCK LIGHTHOUSE

One mile off shore, at Tillamook Head.


Tillamook Rock, one of the most exposed stations on the Pacific coast,
has received many batterings by violent storms. Although the lantern is
133 feet above the level of the sea, the protective glass has on more
than one occasion been shattered by stones hurled by giant waves. During
the building of the station a lighthouse engineer lost his life during
an attempted landing on the rock. While extensive repairs were being
made to the lighthouse following a disastrous storm, a keeper and a
workman were taken seriously ill as the result of exposure. A lighthouse
tender attempted to remove them from the rock, but after several efforts
to send a boat to the rock it was necessary to remove the men by means
of a breeches buoy. Other men were landed on the rock in the same manner
to take the place of those who were ill. In 1957 the light was
discontinued and the island sold.

                         BEAVERTAIL LIGHTHOUSE


On the south end of Conanicut Island. Beavertail Lighthouse was the
third lighthouse to be built in what is now the United States, the
original tower having been constructed in 1749. Its erection was
authorized as early as 1738 by the General Assembly of the Governor and
Company of the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation;
but nothing was then done because of war breaking out between England
and Spain. The first lighthouse has now been gone for nearly a century,
but there stands in its place a more sturdy structure, built of granite,
which was built in 1856. Almost from its first erection, Beavertail has
been a sort of proving ground for various types of signaling equipment,
many of which were here first tried out. One of the most curious of
these was an early air-operated fog signal, for which a horse was kept
on hand for the purpose of operating the air compressor. At the present
time Beavertail is equipped with an electric lamp set inside a
fourth-order lens. It also has a compressed-air-operated siren. (1) (2)

                       PRUDENCE ISLAND LIGHTHOUSE

In 1862 a white octagonal tower for a lighthouse was built on Sandy
Point on the east side of Prudence Island, R. I. With the tower was
built a keeper’s dwelling.

During the terrible September hurricane of 1938, five persons, including
the wife of the lighthouse keeper, were carried out to sea and drowned,
when the dwelling house on the lighthouse reservation was swept away by
the savage fury of the tropical gale. The keeper was also thrown into
the sea, but another wave swept him back ashore.


The light itself is only 28 feet above water and is visible for 10
miles, flashing green every 6 seconds. The light is now unwatched, being
a 1,400-candlepower fourth-order electric. A bell renders one stroke
every 15 seconds during fog. (5)


The Charleston Light, located on Morris Island, at the entrance to the
harbor of Charleston, S. C., was one of the colonial lights turned over
to the Federal Government under the terms of the act of August 7, 1789.
The light was in a brick tower, built by the Colony of South Carolina in
1767. On May 7, 1800, Congress appropriated $5,000 for repairing the

In 1838 the light was described as a revolving light, the tower being
102 feet from the base to the lantern. A new first-order lens was
installed in the tower on January 1, 1858.


On December 20, 1860, on receiving reports from the lighthouse inspector
at Charleston regarding the probable seizure of the lighthouse property
by the Confederacy, the Secretary of the Lighthouse Board wrote the
Secretary of the Treasury that he would not recommend “that the coast of
South Carolina be lighted by the Federal Government against her will.”
Ten days later the inspector at Charleston informed the Board that “the
Governor of the State of South Carolina has requested me to leave the
State. I am informed that forcible possession has been taken of the
lights, buoys, etc., of this harbor, and that similar measures will be
adopted in regard to all lights in the State.” Early in January 1861,
the Rattlesnake Shoal Lightship was towed into Charleston and the
lighthouse tenders were seized. By the latter part of April 1861,
practically all lights were extinguished, lightships removed, and other
aids removed or destroyed from the Chesapeake to the Rio Grande, with
the exception of some of the lights on the Florida coast and reefs.

In 1862 the Lighthouse Board reported “Charleston, lens and lantern
destroyed.” In all, 164 lights were forcibly discontinued during the
Civil War on the southern coasts. These were relighted from time to
time, and by 1866, the greater part had been restored. The Charleston
Channel was re-marked promptly on the occupation of the city by Union
troops in February 1865.

In 1865 the Lighthouse Board reported “that an almost total change had
taken place, leaving no channel in the harbor as it was in 1860, and
opening new ones.” Under this altered state of things it became
necessary to establish lights temporarily at such places as would be
useful guides through existing channels and omit all other.

On March 3, 1873, Congress made the first of three appropriations for a
new lighthouse on Morris Island. $60,000 was granted on that date for
“commencing the rebuilding of a first-order seacoast light on Morris
Island destroyed during the war.” Two other appropriations totaling
$90,000 in 1874 and 1875 were for completing the work. The new structure
was to be at or near the same spot as the old tower, 150 feet high and
built of brick, with a first-order flashing light. Foundation piles were
driven and the space between them filled with concrete 8 feet thick. The
new tower, when completed in 1876, was 161 feet in height and the cost
was $149,993.50. A first-order Fresnel lens was installed. In 1884 the
illuminating apparatus was changed for the use of mineral oil instead of
lard oil.

The cyclone of August 25, 1885, destroyed the rear beacon of the Morris
Island range, overturned part of the brick wall which enclosed the tower
and dwelling of the main light, carried away the bridge between the
beacons, and destroyed a large part of the plank walks connecting the
several lights and dwellings, and overturned the boathouse. The range
was reestablished 3 days later by a temporary beacon. A new wooden
skeleton structure 40 feet high was built in 1885.

The earthquake of August 1886 threw the lens of the main light out of
position and cracked the tower extensively in two places, but not so as
to endanger its stability. The lens was replaced and the cracks repaired
without delay.

Erosion of land caused the Coast Guard to begin construction of a new
lighthouse in 1960. The new light was commissioned on June 15, 1962. The
tower stands 163 feet high on the north side of Charleston Harbor
entrance on Sullivans Island. (1) (2) (7)

                        POINT ISABEL LIGHTHOUSE

When Fort Polk was abandoned, after the Mexican War, the site was
transferred to the Treasury Department and on September 28, 1850,
Congress appropriated $15,000 “for a lighthouse and beacon light at
Brazos, Santiago.” The tower was completed in 1852 and was lit by four
lamps, 57 feet above the ground and 82 feet above sea level. By 1854 the
light had 15 lamps and 21 reflectors and was visible 16 miles. A
third-order lens was installed in 1857, and the fixed light was varied
by flashes.

At the conclusion of the Civil War, when the southern portion of Texas
was occupied by Union forces, the light station was overhauled,
refitted, and relit February 22, 1866.

In 1879 the Lighthouse Board reported the tower in a dilapidated
condition. During a rain it was impossible to keep the lens and lamps
dry as the lantern leaked “in every direction.” By 1881 a new iron
lantern had been erected on the tower and the following year mineral oil
lamps were fitted.


In 1887 a question as to the title of the United States to the land
occupied by the light station was raised, and, upon investigation, it
was found that the United States had no title to the land. It had been
occupied by General Taylor as a camp and depot at the outbreak of the
Mexican War. As no title to the land could be established, the light was
discontinued on May 15, 1888, and the station abandoned.

Evidence was soon presented to the Lighthouse Board that a light was
needed at Point Isabel and that it would be necessary to purchase land
for a site at an estimated cost of $8,000. “Upon the discontinuance of
the present light” the report continues “the possession of the light
structures went to the owners of the land upon which they were built.
These buildings are worth considerably more than the sum for which the
owners offer to sell the present site, including improvements, to the
United States.” Congress accordingly, in 1889, appropriated $8,000 for
reestablishing the light and the purchase of land on which it stood. The
owner offered to sell the site on which the station was situated for
$6,000 but the United States attorney reported adversely on the title
and he was directed to commence proceedings in condemnation to acquire
title. When the case was called for trial in 1891 the district engineer,
under instructions from the Lighthouse Board, declined to turn over the
requisite amount until the title had been approved by the Attorney
General. The sale was finally consummated in 1894 for $5,000 and the
Board reported “The purchase has at last been consummated. The title to
the site is now in the Government. The light will be shown at an early
day.” The light was finally reexhibited on July 15, 1895, but 10 years
later, in 1905, discontinued for good. In 1927 the site was sold to the
highest bidder for $2,760. (1) (2)

                        CAPE CHARLES LIGHTHOUSE

The original lighthouse on Smith Island, near Cape Charles, Va., at the
entrance to Chesapeake Bay was completed in 1828, at a cost of
$7,398.82. In 1856 Congress appropriated $35,000 for “rebuilding the
Cape Charles Lighthouse upon a proper site and fitting it with proper
illuminating apparatus.” This sum was spent in 1858 and 1859 and on June
20, 1860, an additional $10,200 was appropriated for a keeper’s
dwelling. Only about $1,890 of this was spent, however. Before the new
tower was finished it was completely destroyed by “a party of
guerrillas” in the Civil War then raging.

“In August last (1862)” the Lighthouse Board reported “the lighthouse at
Cape Charles was visited by a party of guerrillas, who completely
destroyed the light, carrying away such portable articles as they deemed
valuable. The new tower authorized for that station had, at the outbreak
of the rebellion progressed in construction to a height of 83 feet, the
greater part of the materials to complete the tower to its proper height
(150 feet) being on the ground, stored, ready for future use. During the
rebel occupancy of this part of the peninsula, the articles which had
been stored were subjected to indiscriminate pilfering and spoliation,
so that a new provision will have to be made.”

In 1864 Congress appropriated $20,000 for rebuilding the lighthouse and
the tower was completed forthwith, the light being first exhibited on
May 7, 1864. “Owing to the liability of this important light to an
attack from the enemy” the Board reported on June 30, 1864, “a competent
military guard for its protection has been asked for.”

The encroachment of the sea upon the shore at this station had been in
progress for many years by 1883 and about 300 feet had been washed away
since 1857. By that time (1883) the waterline was within 300 feet of the
tower and still nearer the keeper’s dwelling. The average annual
encroachment was then about 30 feet. As a result, Congress in 1885
appropriated $10,000 to be used for “jetties of stone resting upon heavy
timber mattresses to prevent too rapid sinking into the sand.”


However, further congressional action was believed necessary in that
year to authorize the purchase of additional land needed for the three
large jetties and $30,000 was asked for this purpose. By 1886 about 120
feet of brush mattresses of this shore protection were completed and
partially loaded with stone and about 80 feet of one jetty was finished
extending from the shore to about low water mark. The jetty had already
gathered much sand but had washed away somewhat at the sea extremity. In
1889, as steps were being taken to extend the protection, a heavy
northeasterly gale washed away about 75 feet of the jetty and undermined
the south end of the protection wall, and, at one time, the station was
entirely surrounded by water. The retreat of the shore was not local but
was general along the island. Any protection works, therefore, would
have to extend a long distance to the northeast and be very expensive.
It was, therefore, thought to be more economical to build a new light
station where it would not be exposed to any danger. This would cost
about $150,000.

Measures were meanwhile taken to construct four jetties at right angles
to the shore protection and a protection wall in front of the one still
standing. These were begun in February 1890. An appropriation of
$150,000 for a new tower was made on August 30, 1890. The new jetties
were finished in April 1891.

The contract for a new iron tower on a new site was signed in June 1893
and the structure was completed December 21, 1894. A first-order lens
was installed and the light first exhibited August 15, 1895.

The tower is an octagonal, pyramidal skeleton structure, 191 feet above
land and 180 feet above water. The 1,200,000 candlepower first-order
electric apparatus is unwatched and is visible 20 miles. (1) (2)

                         CAPE HENRY LIGHTHOUSE

Provision for building a lighthouse at Cape Henry, at the entrance to
Chesapeake Bay, was included in the first appropriation made for
lighthouses by Congress on March 26, 1790. The amount was for
$24,076.66. The project had already been undertaken by the State of
Virginia and Governor Randolph had written President Washington on
December 18, 1789:

“The State, some years ago, placed upon the shore of Cape Henry nearly a
sufficient quantity of materials to complete such a lighthouse as was at
that time thought convenient, which have been, in the course of time,
covered with sand. Measures are being taken to extricate them from this

The Governor offered to sell these materials to the Federal Government
and to cede the necessary land for the lighthouse to the United States.

The tower which was constructed under contract for $15,200, was an
octagonal sandstone tower, the materials for which had undoubtedly been
brought from abroad as ballast. The light, which was first shown in
1792, first consisted of oil lamps burning in turn fish oil, sperm oil,
colza oil, lard oil, and finally kerosene after the discovery of
petroleum in Pennsylvania in 1859.

In 1857 the lighthouse was provided with a dioptric Fresnel lens. Great
difficulty, however, was experienced in distinguishing between lights
along the coast in the 1840’s because of the numerous fixed white
lights, such as Cape Henry’s. It was not until 1922 that the Cape Henry
light’s characteristic was changed to a distinctive group flashing

During the Civil War the lantern of Cape Henry lighthouse was destroyed,
but it was back in operation by 1863 being protected by a military guard
detailed from Fortress Monroe. All the light vessels from Cape Henry
southward had either been removed, sunk or destroyed by the Southern

In 1872 the Lighthouse Board recommended the building of a new tower,
stating that the old tower was in an unsafe condition and that there was
no way of repairing it satisfactorily. “It is in danger of being thrown
down by some heavy gale.” It was not until 1875 that Congress
appropriated $75,000 “for rebuilding and remodeling the lighthouse at
Cape Henry.”


In 1879 a contract for a new iron lighthouse, consisting of cast-iron
plates backed by masonry walls, was entered into and after two more
appropriations of $25,000 each in 1880 and 1881, the new tower was
completed and the light first shown on December 15, 1881.

The old tower remained standing and became one of the antiquities of the
State of Virginia, serving as a monument commemorating the landing of
John Smith.

The new structure was 170 feet in height and the lantern was equipped
with a first-order lens, the lamp having five concentric wicks. A steam
siren fog signal was also established. An incandescent oil-vapor lamp,
burning kerosene vapor, replaced the wick lamp in 1912. This increased
the intrinsic brilliancy, but decreased the area lit. The candlepower,
however, was increased from 6,000 to 22,000. The candlepower has now
been increased to 80,000 for the white light, with 16,000-candlepower
red sector covering the shoals outside the cape and the middle ground
inside the bay. The light is 164 feet above water and visible 19 miles.
This station is also equipped with a diaphone fog signal and a
radiobeacon. (1) (2)

                        CAPE FLATTERY LIGHTHOUSE

Off shore, on Tatoosh Island.


Cape Flattery Lighthouse was built in 1857, but only after great
difficulties with the Indians. Before commencing the lighthouse, it was
necessary to build a blockhouse, and 20 muskets with ammunition were
furnished for protection against Indians from the Canadian side of the
Strait. Shortly after the light was completed the keeper resigned
because he was annoyed by the numerous Indians who used the island as a
fishing and whaling station. Cape Flattery Lighthouse is now
electrified, and is fitted with a diaphone fog signal and a radiobeacon.

The light can be seen for 19 miles and is 165 feet above water. (1) (2)


  (1) Inspection Reports by Army, Navy, Revenue Cutter Officers and
  Special Agents of the Treasury Department—The National Archives,
  Washington, D. C.

  (2) Annual Reports of the Lighthouse Board—1852-1910.

  (3) Lighthouses and Lightships of the United States (1917 and 1933).

  By George R. Putnam—Houghton-Mifflin Co. (by permission).

  (4) Sentinel of the Coasts (1937).

  By George R. Putnam—W. W. Norton Co., Inc., New York (by permission).

  (5) Famous New England Lighthouses (1945).

  By Edward Rowe Snow—The Yankee Publishing Co., 72 Broad Street,
  Boston, Mass. (by permission).

  (6) Lighthouses of the Maine Coast (1935).

  By R. T. Sterling—Stephen Daye Press, Brattleboro, Vt. (by

  (7) The Lighthouse Service—Its History, Activities, and Organization

  By George Weiss—The Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, Md.

  (8) Cape Florida Lighthouse. A paper presented to a joint meeting of
  the South Florida Historical Association and the Florida Historical
  Society at Miami in April 1949 by Lt. Comdr. Charles M. Brookfield,

                      ★ U. S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: 1972 0—463-008


                             U.S. COAST GUARD
                       Public Information Division
                          Washington, D.C. 20590


                           Transcriber’s Notes

--Silently corrected a few palpable typos.

--Retained publication information from the printed copy: this is public
  domain in the U.S.

--In the text versions, italicized words are _delimited by underscores_.

--Illustrations are not captioned, since they are all photographs of the
  lighthouse being described.

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