Those Beautiful Lighthouse Lenses

Ever seen something practical, but it was just so mesmerizingly beautiful you couldn’t stop looking at it? You wanted to see it safe and protected forever as a piece of art…

That’s the way I feel about Fresnel Lenses. They were/are beautifully cut glass lenses used in lighthouses. Many are well over a hundred years old, and happily some of them have found safe homes in maritime or lighthouse museums.

Today, I’ll share briefly about how the lenses worked, a story about Fresnel lenses during the American Civil War, and a couple that I’ve seen in museums. Continue reading

American Lighthouses: West Coast

Lighthouses might not be the first thing you think of when talking about California, Oregon, Washington, or Alaska, but the west coast of the U.S.A. has some beautiful, historic lighthouses. The story of their construction and service is linked to the territory and early statehood days of these coastal states, the maritime history, and the Lighthouse Board.

Today, we’ll take an overview glance at the lighthouses in this region and their unique piece in maritime and national history.

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American Lighthouses: Southern & Gulf Coasts

Continuing our “journey” along the American coastlines, we’ve reached the Southern and Gulf Coasts. If you imagine lighthouses with tall towers reaching high toward the clouds, you’re probably remembering these aids to navigation found in tonight’s focus region.

With coastline and necessity dictating the style of the lighthouses and history leaving its mark, lighthouses along the Southern and Gulf Coasts are memorable structures, former homes, and aids to navigation. Continue reading

American Lighthouses: Middle Atlantic

We’re continuing our overview journey and looking at different types of lighthouse styles found along different regions of the American coastlines. Last week we discussed New England, and today we’ll journey a little farther south and explore some of the lighthouses in the Middle Atlantic region.

There are beautiful “traditional” lighthouses in this area and also some unique screw-pile lighthouses, designed to withstand weather and ice. Read on to learn more about the regional challenges and a memorable story about lightkeeping in the Middle Atlantic region.

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American Lighthouses: New England

What do you imagine when I say “lighthouse?” A stormy scene? A breath-takingly beautiful rocky coast with a picturesque lighthouse perch on a cliff? A tall, tall tower reaching into the sky (or so it seems)?

I used to always associate lighthouses with New England. They fit nicely into the maritime history of the region and many of the quaint and picture-perfect structures are in that region. Also, New England tourism markets lighthouses and frequently uses them as symbolism.

In recent weeks, we’ve discussed the purpose of a lighthouse and their beginnings in American history. As the Lighthouse Board took over and worked with engineers more aids to navigation were constructed along the United States coasts and lakeshores. This month we’ll be looking at the different styles of lighthouses and discovering the unique features of lighthouses in the various regions of the U.S.A. And we’ll kick-off our discussion with a trek to New England through text and photos to discover some lighthouses in the region. Continue reading

The Lighthouse Board, 1852-1910

After investigations revealed neglect and penny-pinching by Stephen Pleasonton, the U.S. Government established it’s second agency: The U.S. Lighthouse Board. This agency would oversee the administration of all lighthouses within the United States, ensuring their upkeep, creating standardized rules, overseeing keepers, and allocating funds.

The “Lighthouse Board Era” is a fascinating, expansive, and detailed time in American lighthouse history. The era lasted from 1852 to 1910; at the end the Bureau of Lighthouses took over, followed by the Coast Guard in 1939.

This blog post will attempt to give some generalized historical information about the board, proceedings, and expectations – but there’s so much amazing information we can’t cover it all in 1,000 words! Enjoy the summary… Continue reading