If you are planning a trip, I recommend a sojourn to New England to take in the sea breezes and the landscape dotted with lighthouses.
Lighthouses date back to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. The first signals for seafarers were actual fires set to warn sailors that they were coming close to shore. Shortly thereafter, lighthouses were constructed to warn seafarers of the nearby coastline.
During Colonial times, lighthouses became synonymous with safety along the rocky and treacherous eastern coast of the United States, namely in the states of Massachusetts and Maine. The first guiding light in America was constructed in 1716 in Boston Harbor. Boston Light, as it is known, was destroyed during the Revolutionary War and later rebuilt in 1783 to aid the activities of the busy seaport. Constructed of granite, brick, and rubble stone, Boston Light is a beacon soaring 89 feet high. Today, it not only holds the special distinction of being the oldest lighthouse in the country, located on Little Brewster Island in Boston Harbor near Boston, MA, but it also will be forever maintained due to an 1989 Act of Congress. The congressional mandate states that Boston Light will serve as a monument to the service of light-keeping and will always be manned and cared for by human hands. While automated, Boston’s famous lighthouse will remain a symbol for the innovators who kept the seaside superhighway safe since the infancy of our country.
Cape Cod and the Islands
As Boston set an example for lighthouses along the rocky Atlantic coast, Cape Cod presented some of the most dangerous areas for the all-important fishing and sea-shipping industries. Cape Cod’s eastern coast and “elbow” as the natives call it near Chatham, MA saw horrible storms, significant beach erosion, and shipwrecks in great numbers during the late 18th, 19th, and 20th Centuries. Around the famous Cape, lighthouses were built with multiple lights to illuminate the path for ships. For instance, a ship traveling from points south to north along the coast, the government commissioned on light at Monomoy, two lights at Chatham (at mid-Cape), and three lights (known as the three sisters) at Nauset. This group of lighthouses aided in safe passage along the waters off the Cape Cod shoreline. Famously, the two towers that once stood at Chatham to give light to the seafarers succumbed to beach erosion from storms. In 1879 and again in 1881, the two towers fell into the sea. A single lighthouse was reconstructed and serves sea traffic today at Chatham, MA. It is a site that warms my heart as a native New Englander as we spent many a summer vacation along Chatham’s shoreline.
Along the coast of Maine, some of the most famous and often photographed lighthouses exist including Marshall Point Light at Penobscot Bay. Marshall Point Light was made famous by Tom Hanks’ cross country jog in the film, Forrest Gump, Portland Headlight which was commissioned by President George Washington in 1791, and the red and white candy-cane striped West Quoddy Headlight near Lubec, Maine. West Quoddy Headlight marks the easternmost point in the continental United States.
When visiting lighthouses, remember they are a nod to bygone times when they showed a sailor the way to safety. Before radar or GPS, these beacons saved many lives. Many lighthouses are brightly painted, high stepping landmarks while others serve as commercial bed and breakfasts where you can rent a night’s lodging beneath the lantern.
Dr. Lori is the expert appraiser on the hit TV show, Auction Kings on Discovery channel. Ph.D. antiques appraiser, author, and award-winning TV personality, Dr. Lori presents antique appraisal events nationwide. Visit DrLoriV.com, Facebook.com/DoctorLori or call (888) 431-1010.