“I can think of no other edifice constructed by man as altruistic as a lighthouse. They were built only to serve."
- George Bernard Shaw
They are also the stuff of legend, romance and adventure. Lighthouses can be at once picturesque and mysterious situated in nostalgic seaside summer vacation spots and remote, desolate end-of-the-world places. One never forgets the feeling of awe standing beneath a tall coastal tower on a windy November night with the foam of the surf blowing about under the light’s unfailing beam or watching the same on a calm, pleasant June evening across the bay as the sun sets.
Lighthouse lore is full of stories of brave men and women (sometimes children) who tended the lights under adverse conditions, and there is no shortage of tales of haunted lights and their associated ghosts of Keepers and drowned seamen. Lighthouses are icons of faith as well as subjects of art, song and literature. One writer and poet who contributed in this area was Robert Louis Stevenson who was descended from a distinguished line of Scottish lighthouse designers and engineers.
Over the years the U.S. Coast Guard that took over the responsibilities of the U.S.Bureau of Lighthouses in 1939 has eliminated many lights and has automated all others. The era of the Lighthouse Keeper is over. Some lights are maintained as aids to navigation and many that no longer serve in that capacity are now preserved as landmarks and museums. Many of these such as Fire Island on Long Island, Barnegat (“Old Barney”) on the New Jersey coast, Cape Hatteras in North Carolina’s Outer Banks and Old Point Loma in San Diego to name a few, are the centerpieces to many State and National parks. Others are more remote and can only be visited by boat or seen through binoculars on shore. My favorite is in this last category upon which I shall elaborate next.
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