Lighthouse Facts

The first known lighthouse was the Pharos of Alexandria, Egypt. Ptolemy I and his son Ptolemy II constructed it between 300 and 280 B.C. It stood about 450 feet high. This lighthouse was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was destroyed in stages by invaders and earthquakes, being destroyed in the 1300s.

The oldest existing lighthouse in the world is considered to be La Coruna in Spain that dates from ca. 20 B.C. A Roman lighthouse is located on the Cliffs of Dover in the UK that was constructed in 40 A.D.

The first lighthouse in America was at Boston on Little Brewster Island (1716). The first keeper was George Worthylake who was drowned, along with his wife and daughter, when returning to the island in 1718. The original tower was destroyed by the British and eventually reconstructed in 1784.

The oldest existing lighthouse in America is Sandy Hook, NJ (1764), which is still in operation.

The most expensive lighthouse built in America is St. George Reef, off Crescent City, CA. It took ten years to construct (1882 - 1892) and cost $715,000.00. The Coast Guard abandoned it in 1972.

The Lighthouse Service was created in 1789 by the 9th Act of the first Congress. Over the years, lighthouses were placed under the direction of the Department of Revenue (this department was disbanded in 1820), Treasury (until 1903), Commerce, and Transportation. The Lighthouse Board (of the U. S. Lighthouse Establishment) held sway from 1852 to July 1, 1910 when Commerce created the Bureau of Lighthouses. The Coast Guard took over on July 7, 1939.

The source of light is called the "optic" (be it electric or fueled by oil); the magnification of the light is caused by the "lens." This is located in the "lantern" of the tower and the glazings (windows) are called storm panes.

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