For the Love of Lighthouses

Fun Facts about Lighthouses

What's the oldest? The newest? The tallest? The most famous? (You'll kick yourself if you don't guess the last one.)

We at Coastal Living love lighthouses as much as our readers do. We've accumulated some lighthouse trivia that we think you might enjoy.


The first known lighthouse―the Pharos of Alexandria, Egypt―was completed about 280 B.C. It stood more than 350 feet tall until an earthquake destroyed it in the 1300s.

The world's oldest working lighthouse, La Coruna, stands at the northwest tip of Spain. The Romans built it early in the second century A.D. It's also called the Tower of Hercules.

The first lighthouse in what is now the United States was built on Little Brewster Island at the entrance to Boston Harbor in 1716. The British blew it up in 1776. The replacement tower, dating to 1783, still functions as a navigation aid. Known as Boston Harbor Light, it is the only U.S. lighthouse that is still manned.

The oldest active U.S. lighthouse is the Sandy Hook Light at Gateway National Recreation Area in Fort Hancock, New Jersey. It first lit the night in 1764.

The first U.S. lighthouse to use electricity is also the world's most famous lighthouse: the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. From its opening in 1886 until its deactivation as a lighthouse in 1902, its torch carried an electric light that was visible for 24 miles.

The tallest masonry U.S. lighthouse is the Cape Hatteras Light near Buxton on North Carolina's Outer Banks. It was recently measured at 207.49 feet from the bottom of the foundation (about 10 feet underground) to the top of the spire.

The first lighthouse on the West Coast was the Alcatraz Island Light in San Francisco Bay, completed in 1854. The original tower has been replaced by a 1909-vintage structure.

The first Great Lakes' lighthouses were the Erie Land Light in Erie, Pennsylvania, and the Buffalo Light in Buffalo, New York, both established in 1818. Neither of the original towers remain, though both sites still contain active lighthouses.

The newest U.S. lighthouse is the Charleston Light on Sullivans Island, South Carolina, completed in 1962. The rather strange-looking triangular structure (click on www.lighthousegetaway.com/lights/SC/sullivan.gif for a photo) is also the only U.S. lighthouse with an elevator and air-conditioning.

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