August 7 is National Lighthouse Day
National Lighthouse Day is celebrated each year on August 7, as it was on this day in 1789 that Congress approved an Act for the establishment and support of lighthouses.
In celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the signing of the Act, Congress passed a resolution on August 7, 1989 designating that particular day as the day to recognize lighthouses. The resolution was sponsored by Ocean City’s own former House of Representative William J. Hughes, who’s congressional district included South Jersey. Hughes went on to become the Ambassador to Panama and is the namesake of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University. Despite his and others’ efforts, Congress has not since officially designated August 7 as a permanent national day of recognition. However, it is informally celebrated each year by lighthouse organizations and supporters.
In his 1989 speech, Hughes laid out the reasons why he felt a national day of recognition of lighthouses was necessary, citing the important role lighthouses played in the history of our country, and the “values of safety, heroism, and American ingenuity” they represent. He further suggested that the contributions made to our country, from protecting coasts to guiding sailors, should be appreciated and remembered.
The three restored lighthouses in his congressional district include the Cape May Point lighthouse, the Hereford Inlet lighthouse and Finns Point lighthouse.
The Cape May Point lighthouse, first lit on October 31, 1859, was closed for 50 years before it was restored and reopened to the public in 1988. Today, its light shines nearly 19 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. The Hereford Inlet lighthouse, built in 1874, stands in North Wildwood as a valuable monument to Cape May County’s maritime history. Finns Point Lighthouse, in Pennsville New Jersey, is a 113-year-old structure made from wrought iron. It served to aid in navigation along the Delaware River from 1877 until 1950, when the river channel was enlarged and deepened.
Special activities are planned at the lighthouses on August 7 to commemorate this national day of recognition.
The Cape May Lighthouse, located at 215 Lighthouse Avenue, will be hosting a day of fun for families, including crafts, music, meeting the lighthouse keepers, and more. Admission is free; kids can climb the lighthouse for free with a paying adult.
A celebration at the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, located at 111 North Central Avenue in North Wildwood, will begin at 2:00 pm. Special guests include the United States Coast Guard and New Jersey State Police Marine Units and historic information will be shared. Admission to tour the historic Hereford Inlet Lighthouse will be free from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm.
A lighthouse is defined as “a tower, building or any other type of structure designed to emit light from a system of lamps and lenses to aid in navigation by maritime pilots at sea or on inland waterways”. Historically, and as a matter of survival, lighthouses have warned boaters of dangerous coastlines, hazardous shoals and reefs and have provided safe entries into harbors. While the US was once home to the most lighthouses of any country, the number of operational lighthouses has declined due to the expense of maintenance and the invention of modern navigational systems. Originally, lighthouses were lit first by open fires and candles but now their light source is either electric or oil fueled. The oldest existing lighthouse still in operation today in the country is New Jersey’s Sandy Hook Lighthouse which was built in 1764.
New Jersey has a total of 11 lighthouses. In addition to the three listed above, these lighthouses include (from north to south): Sandy Hook Lighthouse and the Twin Lights of Navasink, both located in Highlands, Sea Girt Lighthouse in Sea Girt, Barnegat Lighthouse in Barnegat Light, Tucker’s Island Lighthouse in Tuckerton and Absecon Lighthouse in Atlantic City. At the mouth of the Maurice River, you will find the East Point Lighthouse in Heislerville, and further inland along the river is the Tinicum Rear Range Lighthouse in Paulsboro.
Each year, New Jersey hosts a Lighthouse Challenge, where members of the public are invited to climb the lighthouses around the state, as well as participate in activities planned at each location. This year’s event will be held on October 19-20, 2019.
If you participate in any lighthouse visits or activities today, please share your photos of lighthouses and use #NationalLighthouseDay and #theshoreblog to post on social media. Enjoy the climb!