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Lighthouse

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The Louisbourg Lighthouse in Louisbourg, Nova Scotia.

Originally designed to be beacons of hope for wayward fishermen, lighthouses have also provided the backdrop for many a novelists including Virginia Woolf and Anne Mortimer. These iconic figures continue to dot our coastline, though few of them still serve their original purpose. Nevertheless, these towering structures still casts an enchanting shadow that draws millions of fascinated tourists to them each year.

The fascination people in general and writers in particular have with lighthouses is rooted in the romanticisms they evoke in us. “Here is a novel to the last degree severe and uncompromising” wrote Eudora Welty in her introduction to “To The Lighthouse.” Just being in the presence of such history and grandeur is enough to make the fingers of the hand move of their own accord as they impatiently try to capture in words what the hearts feels.

Lindau Lighthouse

The Lindau Lighthouse in Germany is the epitome of this imagery. Now surrounded by water, the ancient lighthouse remains at its post, undaunted by the relentless pounding of the elements and even the passage of time. Built in 1856, the Lindau Lighthouse was part of a renewal project that saw it replace the Mangtrum Tower, a structure that had stood in the same spot since the year 1230.

Considered modern at the time, the Lindau Lighthouse is one of only a few in the world that, in addition to its guiding light, has a clock in its 108 ft. tower. The clock is clearly visible from the center of the city and, just as its beacon guided sailors safely to shore, the Lindau Lighthouses’ clock never lets the city’s population lose track of time.

The Lindau Lighthouse continues to be a major tourist attraction in Germany.

Fanad Lighthouse

When I think of the term breathless, I think of the Fanad Lighthouse in Ireland. Situated on the rocky coast of the Fanad peninsula, the grand lighthouse looks down on the turbulent waters of the North Atlantic defiantly; this magnificent structure has manned its post since 1818.

Originally built in response to the town’s people’s demands that something be done to protect mariners, who were all too often meeting a watery death, the Fanad Lighthouse was constructed to alert sailors of their proximity to the shoreline. The famed lighthouse has since undergone several upgrades to the beacon that resides in its heart; yet, the Fanad hasn’t loss any of its elegance.

Portland Head Lighthouse

Along the Maine shoreline sits a lighthouse that is as old as the republic itself and just as grand. The Portland Head Lighthouse in Maine is a spectacle to behold. Buttressed by the red-roofed, colonial-style keeper's residence, the gleaming white tower looks married to the relatively new addition. But the tower that held the beacon that helped colonists ward off repeated incursions by the British was actually constructed a hundreds earlier.

Built in 1791 in Cape Elizabeth, the tower stands guard at the mouth of the Portland Harbor. And, although the tower has undergone some renovations since it was first constructed, the Portland Head Lighthouse still occupies the same spot it did when it helped protect the Union during the 18th century.

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse

When early settlers spread their wings and moved westward, at the end of their journey they encountered another ocean with rocky coastlines and treacherous currents. This immediately signaled to the newcomers, who settled Newport, Oregon, the need for a lighthouse to protect their compatriots who chose to make their living at sea. As a result, the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse was built in 1871. But, the handsome lighthouse, that looks more like a country home than a lighthouse, was destined to have a short lifespan. . . had it not been for the heroic efforts of the Lincoln County Historical Society. The group worked tirelessly to raise money to preserve the structure, which had been scheduled for demolition in 1946. Had they failed, we would not have had the pleasure of viewing what is now one of the west coast’s loveliest lighthouses.

But, the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse still stands and is now in the National Register of Historic Places. Further, the Historic Preservation act made it possible for the structure to be completely restored. And, just like Phoenix rising from the ashes, Yaquina’s light was turned on again for the first time in a hundred years.

St. Augustine Lighthouse

Looking like some giant candy cane, the St. Augustine Lighthouse sits off the St. Augustine, Florida coast on Anastasia Island. This is a replacement lighthouse, however; the original having been consumed by the sea. Built in 1871 and later purchased by the city to save it from destruction, the St. Augustine Lighthouse is now a part of the National Register of Historic Sites and is now safe from the hands those who are incapable of seeing the beauty in these magnificent structures.

To insure that its future remains secure, the St. Augustine Lighthouse Museum was established in 1994. Revenue from the effort goes toward preserving the structure.

Peggys Point Lighthouse

Far away into the frigid north lies a lighthouse that exudes loneliness and isolation. Located along the shore of the icy North Atlantic in Nova Scotia, Canada, the Peggys Point Lighthouse has maintained its cold vigil since 1915. Though it has been guarding the mouth of St. Margaret’s Bay for some 100 years, the lonely sentinel’s duties have now been reduced to being a popular tourist’s attraction. However, that does not take away from the Peggys Point Lighthouse’s regal status one bit.

Like many others, the present structure is a replacement for an even older lighthouse. Unfortunately, the original lighthouse was destroyed by Hurricane Edna in 1954, so we have been denied the privilege of bearing witness to its beauty.

At one time, the Peggys Point also doubled as a post office, but because of health concerns, not to the lighthouse, but to the public, that duty was unceremoniously taken away from Peggys Point.

It has been said that the English have a way of doing things; this statement has never been more truly exhibited than in the architectural design employed in the Star Point Lighthouse. The gothic designed structure, nestled amongst the rolling English hills, evokes images of the Hound of the Baskervilles.

Star Point Lighthouse

The Star Point Lighthouse is a major English tourist attraction and is listed on England’s Historic Buildings and Monuments.

Tower of Hercules Lighthouse

“In Spain, the dead are more alive than the dead of any other country in the world,” wrote Fedirico Garcia Lorca once when musing about his beloved homeland. I cannot help but wonder whether that quote was inspired by the Tower of Hercules Lighthouse in Corunna Spain. Built in the second-century, the Tower of Hercules is the oldest lighthouse in the world, seemingly having thumbed its nose at death itself.

Reminiscent of some ancient Roman castle, the Tower of Hercules’s design is reported to be based on one located in Alexandria, Egypt. Not surprisingly, the ancient edifice is on Spain’s National Monument’s list, as well as well as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Remarkably, the Tower of Hercules is still in use to this day.

Pulling double duty as a lighthouse, for which it was constructed, and the residence of a member of the Coast Guard and his family, the Bass Harbor Head Station is a quaint and idyllic structure perched precariously upon a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Bass Harbor Head Station

Built in 1858 and nestled away in the southeast corner of Mount Desert Island, the Bass Harbor Head Station is off limits to casual visitors. However, if you are stealthy enough, you may be able to get close enough for some glorious camera shots.

The Bass Harbor Head Station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

White Shoal Lighthouse

The designer of the White Shoal Lighthouse in Michigan had to have been a barber, or, was so grateful for his barber that he designed the barber-shop-pole shaped structure to honor him. Built in 1912, the White Shoal is the only one of its kind in the U.S.

However, if you were planning on taking a casual stroll out to see this magnificent structure the next time you’re in Michigan, you’re in for a big surprise: the White Shoal Lighthouse is located so far off shore that the only way to get to it is either by boat or plane.

Nevertheless, the White Shoal is one of Michigan’s most popular tourist attractions and has even been featured on the state license plate. Normally, the purpose of a lighthouse is to serve as a beacon to prevent ships from impaling themselves on the rocky shore. However, during World War II, a few of these grand structures were called on to serve in a different capacity.

During World War II, German U-boats used to patrol the waters off North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Their stealthy ability enabled them to wreak havoc on American merchant ships. In response, the Coast Guard manned some of the lighthouses to give them a better vantage point. This enabled them to spot the U-boats when they surfaced more easily, especially at night.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

One lighthouse in particular used for this purpose was the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse off the coast of North Carolina. Built in 1870, Cape Hatteras is the tallest lighthouse in the U.S. However, in 2000, this historic monument had to be moved inland some 2800 ft. to keep it from being claimed by the sea.

Kolobrzeg Lighthouse

Along the Baltic Coast, there stands an edifice steeped in history: The Kolobrzeg Lighthouse.

The city of Kolobrzeg was selected as a site for a lighthouse because of its proximity to the Baltic Sea. The residents of the area had for a long time saw the need for some way of signaling ships entering the mouth of the Parseta River. At first, strategically placed lights were used to signal the ships. But, in 1899, the Germans built a lighthouse in what is now known as Kolobrzeg. At the time, the area was part of Germany and the city was known as Kolberg. Then, in 1909, the old structure was raised and a new one built on the same spot. Incidentally, the ground that the Kolobrzeg sits on was once a nineteenth-century fortress.

Near the end of the war, Russian soldiers attacked the city and decimated the German forces and leveled the entire city, including the Kolobrzeg Lighthouse. However, the triumphant Russians rebuilt the lighthouse in 1948.

Sumiyoshi Lighthouse

Built sometime around the twelfth-century, the Sumiyoshi Lighthouse is Japan’s oldest. Located in the Gifu Prefecture, the Sumiyoshi is just one of many wooden lighthouses built by the Japanese to illuminate the coastline for merchant ships. However, the Sumiyoshi was more than just a lighthouse. It also served as a religious object honoring their chief deity.

Unfortunately, the original Sumiyoshi Lighthouse was destroyed in 1950 when Typhon Jane struck the area. However, a new, sturdier structure was built to replace the old one.

Sambro Island Lighthouse

The oldest continuously operated lighthouse in North America is the Sambro Island Lighthouse in Halifax Nova Scotia.

With its distinctive red stripes, the Sambro could almost warn approaching ships of their proximity by its brilliance alone. Nevertheless, the Sambro has been using its beacon to do the job for over 200 years.

The site where the Sambro Island Lighthouse sits also has a lot of history attached to it. It was the site of some America’s bloodiest battles during its fight for independence. And, during World War II, German U-boats patrolling along the east coast dealt major blows to the Allies merchant marine fleet just under the watchful eye of the Sambro Lighthouse.

Interestingly enough, the Sambro Island Lighthouse was even built while war was raging all around it. The Sambro Island Lighthouse was built during the Seven Year War between Britain and France.

In 1906, those distinctive red stripes were added to increase visibility during heavy snow. However, the Sambro has been unoccupied since 1988, but it still draws a few tourists who are interested in the areas rich history.

Lighthouses

Lighthouses are more than just buildings; they seem to have been with us forever. They’ve been at our side during battles, and acted as a guide when we became lost. Some of them even provide shelter for its caretakers, but we all know who the real caretakers are. They are durable creatures, braving the elements for hundreds—no, thousands—of years. Others, succumbed to the sea, yet we haven’t forgotten them, or what they meant to us.

No, lighthouses are eternal and they’ll always have a place in the hearts of romantics like me.

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