Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pottawatomie Lightstation, WI

Pottawatomie Lighthouse is Wisconsin's Oldest Lighthouse!

The Lightstation on the north end of Rock Island is the oldest lighthouse in Wisconsin. It has been restored as a live-in museum to what it was in its 1910 era. Docents live in the lighthouse from Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day each year, giving tours from 10am-4pm daily.

Tours include a visit to the lantern room to see the replica of the 4th Order Fresnel lens and to look north to St. Martin's Island in Michigan and northwest to Escanaba and the Upper Michigan Garden Peninsula. Pottawatomie Lighthouse is a 2-flat with living quarters for the Head Keeper and his family on the main floor and for the Assistant Keeper and his family on the second floor.

One unique feature of this lighthouse is that every room has a large closet which was very uncommon for homes built in 1858. Besides tours, the museum has a gift shop with Rock Island and Lighthouse clothing and souvenirs.

Donations for tours are gratefully accepted in the Summer Kitchen.

Cape Canaveral Lighthouse, FL

In 1843, the U.S. government selected Cape Canaveral as the site for a permanent lighthouse. The eastern tip of the Cape made a natural choice for this vital aid to navigation. Construction of the original Cape Canaveral lighthouse, made of brick, was completed in 1847.

The first permanent lighthouse keeper, Captain M.O. Burnham, arrived at Cape Canaveral in 1853 and tended the Cape Canaveral lighthouse until his death in 1886. Burnham's contributions to the area's history were many, and included the first modern exploration and mapping of the Cape Canaveral area.

Burnham established a permanent household around the lighthouse, and also undertook a number of agricultural projects, including an orange grove. He was the first American to navigate the Banana River, which he named after the wild bananas growing on its banks.
Loyal to the Confederacy during the Civil War, Burnham complied with orders of from the secretary of the Confederate Navy that the Cape Canaveral lighthouse be dismantled to hinder Union navigation. The lighthouse was completely dismantled, and Burnham packed the sensitive lighting mechanisms in wooden crates. These were then buried near his orange grove on the Banana River.

Following the Civil War, Burnham turned over this hardware to the U.S. government, and requested that permission be granted to rebuild the lighthouse. The U.S. government decided to erect a brand new lighthouse rather than rebuild the old one. The new lighthouse was completed in 1868. Instead of brick, it was constructed of wood. The wood was later reinforced with a combination of steel plating, brick and concrete to help the structure better weather the elements.

In 1886, the ocean began to dangerously erode the sand near the lighthouse, and a decision was made to relocate the structure about 1.5 miles inland. The tedious task of dismantling and moving the lighthouse was begun in 1892 and completed in 1894. The ocean, however, was never able to claim the sand around the first structure. The actual base of the original lighthouse has been preserved, and is clearly visible atop the dune line just north of what is today Launch Complex 46 on the eastern tip of Cape Canaveral.

Also surviving is the Cape Canaveral lighthouse itself, which today stands on the site to which it was relocated over 100 years ago. The lighthouse was actually used as a forward observation point for many of the early missile and rocket launches from Cape Canaveral, and was often mistaken as a rocket by tourists anxious to witness a launch while visiting the region.

Although it is not used to support launch operations today, the Cape lighthouse is still maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. A major renovation was completed in 1997, and the top of the lighthouse, as well as its lighting equipment, was completely replaced.

The original roof of the lighthouse was made into a gazebo, and is currently on display at the Air Force Space and Missile Museum, located at Launch Complex 26 on Cape Canaveral Air Station. The lighthouse itself is still lit on a daily basis, and is maintained as an official navigation reference for aircraft and ships.

Cape May Lighthouse, NJ

The wind it blew from Sou'sou'east,
It blew a pleasant breeze
And the man upon the lookout cried:
"A Light upon the lee!"
They reported to the Captain and
these words did he say -
"Cheer up my sailor lads,
Its the light on old Cape May.

Although the English are believed to have laid the ground work for a lighthouse on the cape as early as 1744, there has yet to be found positive proof that the lighthouse was actually built. What is certain is that Congress granted authority for the appointment of commissioners to purchase a site on Cape May for the erection of a lighthouse.

The site selected was a high bluff at Cape Island (Cape May City) in front of the property later occupied by Congress Hall. A search of old maps of the area reveals that the earliest map of the region, a 1779 Des Barres chart does not show a lighthouse at Cape May, but does indicate a lighthouse at Cape James (now called Cape Henlopen).

In 1821, Congress appropriated money of the construction of a lighthouse at Cape May. A site on Cape May Point was selceted, not far from the present lighthouse. Work began on it in 1822. Bricks were brought down the Delaware River from Philadelphia by barge. A stone foundation was constructed upon which the brick structure would rest. The first lighthouse at Cape May was completed in October, 1823. It was described as:

...70 feet high, arched at the top,
with a revolving light consisting of 15 lamps.
One hundred steps led from the base of the tower
to the walk at the top which was surrounded by
an iron railing...
It was 65 feet high to the base of the lantern.
The wall was 25 feet in diameter
and 6 feet thick at the base,
tapering to 2 1/2 feet thick at the top.

In 1859, the second lighthouse was razed and the present lighthouse was constructed, a thousand feet further inshore. Up until a few years ago, some of the foundation of the 1847 tower could be seen on the beach in front of the present lighthouse. The foundation of the 1847 tower remained for many years after the tower was razed and was used as an icehouse in the 1860's, and as a stable at the turn of the century.

The third and present Cape May Lighthouse is 157.5 feet tall (170 feet to focal plane), has a base diameter of 27 feet. At the time of its construction the lantern was equipped with a first-order Fresnel Lens, and kerosene wick lamps. In 1910, the lamps were replaced with incandescent oil vapor apparatus. This too, was replaced in 1938 with a 250 watt electric bulb which cast a beam 19 miles.

The Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts is currently leasing the lighthouse from the state, and has restored and repainted the lighthouse to its former glory.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, NC

The first Cape Hatteras lighthouse was built in 1803. The reason for the lighthouse being built was the offshore currents flow in opposite directions, which produce conditions that can cause fog and dangerous storms. This can also produce rough currents. These rough currents can cause shallow water where the sailors still think they are in deep water and that can cause the ship to wreck.

Plans to build a lighthouse on Cape Hatteras started as early as 1792. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the first lighthouse to be used as a warning light for sailors. The original design stood 90 feet tall and used whale oil lamps to light the tower. This system did not work because the lamps did not produce enough light and many ships almost ran ground because there was not enough light to discern water from land. The lighthouse increased in height from 90 feet to 150 feet in 1854. A Fresnel lens was installed to make the light more intense. Rooms were added for the keepers of the lighthouse to stay in. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was built on a sand dune that kept shrinking. The Lighthouse Board recommended that a new lighthouse be built following inspection of the structure after the Civil War. In 1870, a new Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was constructed. The lighthouse was over 200 feet tall. It still stands as the world's tallest brick lighthouse.

The lighthouse is now a National Historic Landmark.

Xtra Info:

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Route 1 Box 675

Manteo, NC 27954

Phone: 252-473-2111

Sandy Hook Lighthouse, NJ

The Sandy Hook Lighthouse, located about one and a half statute miles (2.4 km) inland from the tip of Sandy Hook, NJ is the oldest working lighthouse in the United States. It was designed and built in 1764 by Isaac Conro.

The light was built to aid mariners entering the southern end of the New York harbor. It was originally called New York Lighthouse because it was funded through a New York Assembly lottery and a tax on all ships entering the Port of New York. Sandy Hook Light has endured an attempt to destroy it (as an aid to British navigation) by artillery Captain Alexander Hamilton, and a subsequent occupancy of British soldiers during the Revolutionary War. Perhaps most impressively, it has endured exposure to the elements on the end of Sandy Hook. The view of the New York skyline from the bridge crossing into "the Hook" illustrates the importance this light played in the history of New York harbor.

During summer weekends, the New Jersey Lighthouse Society offers free tours every half hour from 12:00 p.m. until 4:30 p.m.