Boca Grande Lighthouse on Gasparilla Island
Top Photo by Alexander Kluge on Flickr
Bottom Photo by isefire on Flickr
Bodie Island Lighthouse Restoration Project
NPS Photo courtesy of Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Boca Grande Lighthouse at Gasparilla Island
Located at the southern tip of Gasparilla Island in Lee County, Florida, the Boca Grande Lighthouse played a significant role in the opening of the Boca Grande Harbor for large phosphate shipments beginning in late 1890. The lighthouse's design reflects its use as a harbor beacon which did not require significant elevation, as opposed to beacons used for alerting outer maritime traffic.
In the 1880s, new phosphate deposits were discovered in west central Florida and advancements in the mining process necessitated a port that could handle the increase in large seagoing vessels for the phosphate transport. Boca Grande Lighthouse's fixed white light with red flashes could be seen twenty-four miles from the harbor. By 1909, larger phosphate docks were built to accommodate larger shipments made possible by the completion of the Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railroad. The light was automated in 1956 and continued to function in its original location until 1960, at which time the light was moved two miles further north due to encroaching erosion. In 1972 the lighthouse and the surrounding thirteen acres were transferred from the federal government to Lee County by the National Park Service’s Federal Lands to Parks Program. The lighthouse was fully restored in 1985-86, and then transferred to the State of Florida in 1988 with its associated acreage to become Gasparilla Island State Park.
The Portland Headlight sits high on a rocky promontory jutting into Casco Bay near Cape Elizabeth, Maine, which was used as a lookout post during the American Revolution. Soldiers on guard at Portland Head could see approaching British ships and warn the citizens of an imminent attack. President George Washington authorized the construction of this and three other lighthouses, and the main section of the tower remains much as it was when completed in 1790. Constructed by two local masons using stone from the nearby fields and shore, it originally stood seventy-two feet high, with a fifteen foot lantern. In 1813 and again in 1883, the tower's height was reduced by about 20 feet, but it was raised again with brickwork in 1885, then repaired in 1900 using the original stones. The Portland Headlight has stood as a beacon of U.S. commerce for well over two centuries and remains a significant part of Maine's history, as perhaps the best-known and most photographed lighthouse on the northeast coast. The Portland Headlight is now owned and managed by the Town of Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
Boston Light marks a main shipping entrance to Boston Harbor—New England's busiest port—which has been commercially active since the 17th century. Established in 1716, the original stone tower was the first lighthouse built in North America. The British destroyed Boston Light during the Revolutionary War in 1776. Rebuilt in 1783, the present light tower is recognized as the Nation's second oldest. Other separate station buildings still standing on the site are the 1876 fog signal building, 1884 keeper's dwelling, 1884 cistern building, 1889 oil house and 1889 boathouse. The buildings are clustered on the three-acre island and connected by foot paths. Boston Harbor Light Station was designated a National Historic Landmark in January 1964. Preservation groups appealed to Congress and the U.S. Coast Guard, and funding was appropriated to keep U.S. Coast Guard staff at the light station, thereby making it the last manned light in the Nation. It is still an active aid to navigation.
Plum Island Life-Saving and Light Stations
Built in 1896, the Plum Island Life-Saving and Light Stations helped ships navigate the Porte des Morte (Death's Door) passage, a treacherous passage named for the high number of shipwrecks that occurred on its rocky shoals. The Life-Saving and Light Stations assisted Lake Michigan's mariners until well into the twentieth century, supporting the safe and expedient passage of goods and people and playing a significant role in the transportation, commerce, and maritime history of the State of Wisconsin. The Stations are currently owned by the Fish and Wildlife Service which has partnered with the non-profit Friends of Plum and Pilot Islands to preserve and manage the island's historic and cultural resources.
The Split Rock Lighthouse was constructed in the summer of 1909 on a scenic point along the west end of Lake Superior in Lake County, Minnesota. After more than fifty years of petitioning, and a late November gale in 1905 which damaged twenty-nine ships on the lake, the Minnesota legislature finally convinced Congress in 1907 to authorize construction of the much-needed beacon. The cargoes of high-grade iron ore and the iron deposits in the lake basin itself caused compass needles to stray from true north, causing many a ship to run aground in the shallows of the rocky coast. Construction was difficult since there were no roads, making it necessary to bring all the workmen and materials across the lake, and then up a 124-foot cliff.
The Split Rock Lighthouse, which began operating in August 1910, guided large shipping vessels that could not rely on their compasses to navigate the treacherous west end of Lake Superior. The fifty-four foot tower initially used an incandescant kerosene lamp until it switched to an electric bulb in 1940. The tower also utilized a fog signal that could be heard for five miles. The U.S. Coast Guard took over operations in 1939. The lighthouse was added to the National Register in June of 1969, being one of the last two lighthouses left standing in Minnesota. In 1971 the light became part of Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. The Minnesota Historical Society took over administration of the site in 1976.
Lightship WAL-604, COLUMBIA
Lightship WAL-604, known as the Columbia, was built in 1950 by the U.S. Coast Guard in the characteristic design of 20th-century lightships, with some improved features such as an all-welded hull, transverse bulkheads, modern interior accommodations, and an alternating current electrical system. The ship was in service along the Columbia River Bar off the coast of Oregon. The combination of sturdy exterior and comfortable interior meant that this lightship could stay out in the roughest seas with as many as 19 crew members and officers. As with other lightships, the Columbia has two pole masts each topped by a light visible up to thirteen miles away, a fog signal that could be heard up to five miles away, a radio beacon synchronized with the fog signal, and a simple hand-operated bell. The ship was decommissioned in 1979, having been the last lightship in service on the Pacific Coast. Only twenty-two American lightships remain, and only six of those remaining were built by the U.S. Coast Guard. The Columbia is one of the best-preserved lightships remaining, and following decommission the lightship was opened as a maritime history museum on the Astoria, Oregon waterfront, while retaining the appearance of an active duty vessel.
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