Perhaps the most famous lighthouse in history is the Lighthouse of Alexandria (aka Pharos of Alexandria), built on the island of Pharos in Hellenistic Egypt in 280 B.C. With a height variously estimated between 383 to 440 feet it was among the tallest man-made structures on Earth for many centuries, and was identified as one of the Seven Wonders of the World by classical writers. It was slowly destroyed in stages by invaders and earthquakes, being totally ruined in the 1300s.
|Rendition of the Lighthouse of Alexandria|
It appears that the oldest existing lighthouse in the world is considered to be La Coruna Lighthouse; which is also known as the Tower of Hercules and located in Spain. Records indicate it was built in 200 A.D.; it was renovated and altered in 1682 and again in 1778. It is the only Roman lighthouse in working order.
|La Corona Lighthouse (aka Tower of Hercules)|
|The lens from the Cuckolds Lighthouse in ME|
An interesting fact is that the first U.S. authorized Public Works project was the construction of the Cape Henry light in the Chesapeake Bay, in 1792 (today, a newer structure stands nearby, so there are actually two lighthouses at Cape Henry). Most of the lighthouses constructed during this era were harbor lights, with very few coastal lights being constructed. By 1820, the United States had a total of 55 harbor and coastal lights. This included two on the Great Lakes, with the rest on the east coast.
Lighthouse Keepers have normally been thought of as male, but by 1852, there were 30 female lighthouse keepers. Kate Walker, a widow, whose husband had been the keeper of the light at Robbins Reef in New York Harbor, rescued more than 50 fishers in distress over the years. In addition to maintaining the lighthouse, she raised two sons, rowing them a mile each day to Staten Island to attend school. A United States Coast Guard Coastal Buoy Tender is named after her and it is rumored that the folk song, “Lighthouse Keeper” by Neptune’s Car is based on her. What an amazing woman!
|Katherine “Katie” Walker – American Lighthouse Keeper|
- Tallest U.S. lighthouse – Cape Hatteras, NC (191 ft.)
- First Colonial Lighthouse – Boston, MA (1716)
- Oldest U.S. Lighthouse in Service – Sandy Hook, NJ (1764)
- First American West Coast Lighthouse – Alcatraz Lighthouse (1854)
- First Great Lakes Lighthouses – Erie, PA & Buffalo, NY (1818)
- First Lighthouse Built Entirely by the Federal Government – Montauk Point, NY (1797)
- Most Expensive Lighthouse (Adjusted) – St. George’s Reef, CA (1891)
- First U.S. Lighthouse to Use Electricity – Statue of Liberty (1886)
- Oldest Known Lighthouse Keeper – Henry Hall, 94 – Eddystone, Great Britain
- Highest U.S. Lighthouse (above sea level) – Cape Mendocino, CA (515 ft.)
- Newest Seaside Lighthouse – Charleston, SC (1962)
- Weight of Diamond Shoals Lightship’s Anchor & Chain – 14 tons