the year of LIVING UNOFFICIALLY

365 days of celebration

07
August

National Lighthouse Day

Posted by Brittany

National Lighthouse DayLighthouses have been used to mark dangerous coastlines and safe entry to harbors for thousands of years. The most famous lighthouse, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, was built on Egypt’s island of Pharos in 280 BC. One of the tallest man-made structures for hundreds of years, classical writers considered it one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Throughout the centuries, as the number of ports and harbors grew so did the number of lighthouses and, on August 7, 1789 the U.S. Congress approved an Act for the establishment and support of lighthouses. Modern navigational devices and expenses related to lighthouse maintenance have let to a decline in the number of operational lighthouses and, sadly, many of these historic buildings have been closed or destroyed. Two hundred years after Congress’ first Act regarding lighthouses, August 7th was declared as National Lighthouse Day, a day for the “celebration of the history and purpose of lighthouses across America.”

I have vague memories of visiting a lighthouse as a little kid during one of our many family trips to the beach. If my memory is correct, it was the traditional kind of beach lighthouse — tall, and covered in black and white stripes. When Chris and I vacationed on Hilton Head Island last October I got to take my first trip to a lighthouse as an adult. When we explored Sea Pines on the south side of the island, we visited Harbour Town Lighthouse, a 90-foot red-and-white striped structure built in 1970. Today, the quaint lighthouse operates as a museum, with island-related information and artifacts lining the walls during the winding ascent. When you reach the top you enter the lighthouse gift shop, and can exit onto the catwalk for a breathtaking view of the island. Chris and I had originally wavered on whether or not to go up in the Harbour Town Lighthouse, but we loved our time atop the catwalk, and thought the museum exhibits were the perfect supplement to some of the island history we’d already learned during an earlier kayaking tour. But, for us, the best part was what we found at the top of the lighthouse: there’s a live feed web cam and simple instructions so you can call your friends and family and, thanks to the World Wide Web, they can see you with views of the island at your back. We were lucky enough to reach my parents while we were atop the lighthouse and they got a kick out of “seeing us” during our vacation.

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