The Historic Lighthouses of Eastern America

The Three Oldest Lighthouses on Eastern Coast

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 The St. Augustine lighthouse built in 1586Boston Light lighthouse on Little Brewster island in Boston Harbor in Massachusetts built in 1716The oldest working octagonal Sandy Hook lighthouse built in 1764
 The St. Augustine lighthouse built in 1586
The St. Augustine lighthouse built in 1586 | Source
Boston Light lighthouse on Little Brewster island in Boston Harbor in Massachusetts built in 1716
Boston Light lighthouse on Little Brewster island in Boston Harbor in Massachusetts built in 1716 | Source
The oldest working octagonal Sandy Hook lighthouse built in 1764
The oldest working octagonal Sandy Hook lighthouse built in 1764 | Source

The Historic And The Oldest Lighthouses

Symbolizing the romantic nostalgia of old days, the lighthouses on the Eastern shores of the United States have a long and fascinating maritime history. As they did in colonial times, several such lighthouses still guide the ships to the shores. Having unique history, legends and folklore, the three such lighthouses compete with each other to become the oldest ones in US.

Situated on Little Brewster island in Boston Harbor in Massachusetts, the Boston Lighthouse is officially the first one in America. Actually it is the second oldest lighthouse built in 1716. it was rebuilt in 1783, because the earlier one was damaged during the Revolutionary War of 1776. Its lights flash every 10 seconds and is visible up to 16 miles. It is the only working lighthouse in United States, where a resident keeper has been employed. Although the Graves Light has overshadowed it, yet it is still in use.

Designed and built in 1764, the octagonal Sandy Hook lighthouse in New Jersey is the oldest standing lighthousein USA. It has been leading the ships into New York Harbor and still stands as it was originally constructed. That is why it is termed as the oldest lighthouse.

Originally a light station, the St. Augustine lighthouse was built in 1586. Then in 1683, it was enclosed in a stone structure, and later on in 1820, it was officially converted into the lighthouse.

Lighthouses of Outer Banks of North Carolina

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Tybee Island Lighthouse built in in 1736 and rebuilt in 1861Ocracoke Lighthouse is the oldest of the North Carolina lighthouses built in 1823Bodie Island Lighthouse buily in 1848, and rebuilt in 1859 and 1872 Florida’s Sand Key Lighthouse first built in 1827 and rebuilt in 1853 Currituck Beach Lighthouse, Corolla, NCCape Hatteras LighthouseThe Cape Lookout lighthouse
Tybee Island Lighthouse built in in 1736 and rebuilt in 1861
Tybee Island Lighthouse built in in 1736 and rebuilt in 1861 | Source
Ocracoke Lighthouse is the oldest of the North Carolina lighthouses built in 1823
Ocracoke Lighthouse is the oldest of the North Carolina lighthouses built in 1823 | Source
Bodie Island Lighthouse buily in 1848, and rebuilt in 1859 and 1872
Bodie Island Lighthouse buily in 1848, and rebuilt in 1859 and 1872 | Source
Florida’s Sand Key Lighthouse first built in 1827 and rebuilt in 1853
Florida’s Sand Key Lighthouse first built in 1827 and rebuilt in 1853 | Source
Currituck Beach Lighthouse, Corolla, NC
Currituck Beach Lighthouse, Corolla, NC | Source
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse | Source
The Cape Lookout lighthouse
The Cape Lookout lighthouse | Source

The Outer Banks of North Carolina

The lighthouses on the eastern coast of America have a rich heritage of the colonial era. Some of these are open to the tourists and the few are converted into museums. Most of the eastern coastline has the following historical lighthouses.

  1. The 154 feet tall lighthouse situated on the Tybee island Georgia, was built in 1736, but when the Confederate troops retreated from the area in 1841, the structure got devastated in fire and was rebuilt in 1846.
  2. The oldest lighthouse on the banks of North Carolina is the Ocracoke lighthouse, which was built in 1823. At present the small fishing village of Ocracoke was the home of Blackbeard pirate.
  3. The lighthouse on Bodie island was built three times. The first one was built in 1848 and was forsaken in 1858, because it was built poorly. One year later the second lighthouse was built, but it was destroyed by the retreating Confederate army during the Civil War so that it may not go into the hands of the northern troops. The present lighthouse is 156 feet tall, and it was built in 1872.
  4. The Sand Key lighthouse is situated on the southern most point of the United States in Florida. It was built in 1827, but a hurricane destroyed it in 1846. It was again rebuilt in 1853, and was renovated in 1941. It can send the light for over 13 miles on seawater.
  5. The furthest north of the North Carolina lighthouses is situated the Currituck Beach lighthouse. It was built in 1875.
  6. Over a million bricks were used to build The light of Cape Hatteras lighthouse reaches as up to 51 miles over the Atlantic. In 1999, this lighthouse was moved 3000 feet from its original position within 23 days only, because an erosion threatened its existence.
  7. A diamond pattern on the tower of Cape Lookout lighthouse warns the seamen of the shallow shoals waters. During the stormy weather, the white diamonds face deep waters where ships could find shelter. The dangerous shallow waters off the headlands of the island are faced by the black diamonds.

Lighthouses of Broward County

Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse, Pompano Beach, Florida
Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse, Pompano Beach, Florida | Source

Lighthouses of Broward County or Fort Lauderdale Area

The coastline of Florida is the longest of any state of the eastern United States. It has a longest peninsula which separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Gulf of Mexico. The major part of the coast is low and sandy having narrow inlets which lead to shallow lagoons. That is why tall lighthouses are required for proper visibility at a distance. That is why there are more than three dozen traditional lighthouses in the region. More than any other states, Florida has worked hard to preserve and maintain its lighthouses.

The preservation of all the onshore lighthouses has been entrusted to Florida Lighthouse Association or FLA and the local societies. For the care and upkeep of six historic offshore lighthouses, the FLA has organized a Reef Lights Association.

The US Coast Guard looks after the navigational aids, while the ownership or sometimes the operation, preservation and organizations of historic lighthouses has been transferred to local authorities.

1. The Hilsbroro Inlet Lighthouse is located on Pompano beach in Florida. It is situated midway between Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton on the north side of the beach of Hillsboro inlet. It is one of only three surviving towers of this design, which was built in 1907, and is 136 ft tall. The flashlight given by it after every 20 seconds is not visible from the terrestrial side. The the lower half of this octagonal and pyramidal tower has been painted white, while the central cylinder, lantern and upper half is black. The wood keeper's house and other buildings are still present in good shape. The light station is used as a recreation area for senior military personnel. The original and rotating Fresnel lens is still working after the replacement of the rotating mechanism of the light in 2000. The gallery was restored in 2003, whereas a museum and visitor center was opened on the southern side of the inlet park in March 2012. There was a controversy, whether the light should be extinguished to protect the nestling sea turtles.

2. The Port Everglades Range Front lighthouse is 80 ft tall. The active focal plane of this triangular skeletal tower is 85 ft and it gives a continuous green light. The large rectangular day-mark of the tower has a white vertical stripe painted on red background. The lighthouse is located at a major port of Fort Lauderdale. The port has a large cruise ship terminal and the petroleum storage and container ship facilities are also available there.

3. The lighthouse of Port Everglades Range Rear is a triangular skeletal tower with a height of 135 ft. It carries both fixed and flashing directional lights which are green in color. The large rectangular day-mark of the tower has been painted red with a white vertical stripe.

Lighthouses of Volusia County

Ponce de Leon Inlet Light (Mosquito Inlet), or Ponce Inlet lighthouse,Located on South Peninsula Drive in the town of Ponce Inlet, south of Daytona Beach in Florida
Ponce de Leon Inlet Light (Mosquito Inlet), or Ponce Inlet lighthouse,Located on South Peninsula Drive in the town of Ponce Inlet, south of Daytona Beach in Florida | Source

Lighthouses of Volusia County or Daytona Beach Area

Built in 1887, the Ponce de Leon Inlet or Mosquito Inlet lighthouse has red painted tower and it is the second tallest brick lighthouse in America, with a height of 175 ft. The black painted lantern of the lighthouse gives six white flashes after every 15 seconds, followed by an eclipse of same duration. It has a third Fresnel lens with a focal plane of 159 ft. The present lighthouse is active and is privately maintained and is located in the south of Daytona Beach on South Peninsula Drive in the town of Ponce Inlet.

Before becoming activated, a lighthouse constructed on the opposite side of the Inlet in 1835, was destroyed by a storm in 1836.

A variety of lenses including the first order Fresnel lens of 1887 to 1933 and the Cape Canaveral's original first order Fresnel Lens of 1860, the beacons, lighthouse artifacts etc., are on display in the modern exhibit hall of light station museum. The museum consists of pump house, oil house and the three original keeper's houses and is one of the most complete museums in America and is acknowledged as a National Historic Landmark.

Nassau County Lighthouse

Amelia Island Lighthouse
Amelia Island Lighthouse | Source

Nassau County Lighthouse

In 1838, the Amelia island lighthouse on the Georgia side of the St. Mary's river was reconstructed on the Great Cumberland Island lighthouse which was built in 1820. It is located in the north of Atlantic Avenue in Fernandina Beach.

With a focal plane of 107 ft, it gives white flash after every 10 seconds. This white painted and active lighthouse has a 64 ft high stucco-clad tower. A very unusual thing in this Southern lighthouse is the spiral stairway made of granite.

After being replaced by modern Coast Guard housing in 1950, the historic keeper's house was demolished in 1960, but the old oil house made of bricks is still there. The International Chimney Corporation carried on the restoration work in 2004.

© 2013 Sanjay Sharma

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4 comments

SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

SANJAY LAKHANPAL 23 months ago from Mandi (HP) India Author

Thanks MHiggins for the visit and the comment. The lighthouses always fascinate me and the Lighthouses of Eastern America are marvelous.


MHiggins profile image

MHiggins 23 months ago from Michigan

Very interesting hub! I used to service many of the lighthouses in the Great Lakes. It was a great experience. I appreciate all of your research and the well written article.


SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

SANJAY LAKHANPAL 2 years ago from Mandi (HP) India Author

Thanks bearnmom for the visit and the comments.


bearnmom profile image

bearnmom 3 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

While this article contains very good information and is interesting to watch the videos, it is tedious to read through. Perhaps it could be broken down into smaller articles featuring different parts of the East Coast. It was all I could do to work my way backwards through the article while one of the videos played some music. All of the videos are interesting and need to be a part of your article.

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