U. S. Lighthouse Facts
Many casual lighthouse enthusiasts will know some of the following facts about the lighthouses in the U. S., but only the very few hard-core lighthouse boosters will know all of these.
We start with the easy ones.
*The first light station on the North American continent was built in Boston Harbor in 1716. The lighthouse was destoyed during the American Revolution, and the present Boston Harbor lighthouse was built in 1783, making it the second oldest lighthouse still in existence in the U. S., (Sandy Hook, New Jersey holds the distinction as being the oldest lighthouse in the country, having been built in 1764)
*Boston Harbor also has the distinction as being the last of an era. In 1998, it became the final lighthouse to be automated. It remains, however, the last lighthouse in the country to be manned by Coast Guard personnel, performing all of the duties of a lightkeeper, except turning the light on and off.
*The last lighthouse built by the U. S. Government as an aid to navigation was Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, built in 1962. It also has the distinction of being the only triangular tower in the U. S., as well as the only one with an elevator.
*The state with the most lighthouses remaining is Michigan, with 104. (Many people are surprised at this fact, as most equate lighthouses to the ocean. Storms on the great lakes can be as fiersome as any on the ocean, and there are a large amount of shipping hazards throughout the lakes.)
*The tallest lighthouse in the U. S. is Cape Hatteras, North Carolina at 207 feet, (10 feet underground, 197 feet above ground).
*The tallest West Coast lighthouses are Pigeon Point, California and Point Arena, California. Both stand 115 feet tall.
*The first lighthouse built by the U. S. Federal Government was Montauk Point, New York in 1791, (lighthouse was commissioned by president George Washington).
Now the medium-hard ones.
*The first U. S. lighthouse to have a flashing beacon was Cape Cod (Highland) Light in 1797.
*The first lighthouse to use electricity was The Statue of Liberty in 1886, (was considered a lighthouse then because it was used as an official aid to navigation).
*The first U. S. lighthouse to use a Fresnel lens was Navesink (Twin Towers), New Jersey. It was also the first coastal lighthouse to use mineral oil in its lamps, and also the first U. S. lighthouse to use an electric arc lamp.
*According to most accounts, the most photographed lighthouse in the nation is Cape Neddick, (Nubble), Maine
*The first and only nuclear powered lighthouse in the world was Baltimore Light in Maryland. In 1964, a small nuclear reactor was placed in the lighthouse. It was removed one year later.
*The first American built West Coast lighthouse was Alcatraz Island Lighthouse in 1854, (before the prison was constructed).
*The first Great Lakes Lighthouses were Buffalo, New York and Erie, Pennsylvania, both built in 1818.
*The most expensive lighthouse built in the U. S. was St. George Reef in California. Built in 1891-1892, the cost was a staggering $700,000+ (1892 dollars).
*Now the hard ones.
*It is estimated that between 1600 and 1800 light stations were built in the U. S. between 1716 to the present. Of these, only about 600 remain.
*The U. S. Coast Guard still owns and "maintains" over 400 light stations. Each year, a handful are dubbed as "surplus" by the Coast Guard and are posted as "available". According to the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, municipalities and non-profit organizations could apply for these lighthouses as long as they met certain criteria, such as forming a financial plan for reconstruction, making the lighthouse available to the public, and proof of ability to get insurance for the lighthouse, among other requirements.