History & Facts

Green Cape James Barnet Plans naa
A lighthouse is a structure from which light is projected at night, or which serves as a marker by day, to guide ships sailing in coastal waters. Lighthouses are constructed at important points on a coastline, at entrances to harbors and estuaries, on rocky ledges or reefs, on islands, and even in the water. Lighthouses help identify a ship’s location, warn ships of potential hazards, and notify them that land is near. Lighthouses differ from smaller beacons in that a lighthouse includes living quarters for a lighthouse keeper. Today, however, most lighthouses use automatic electric lights that do not require a full-time resident operator.  -James Hyland, President and founder, The Lighthouse Preservation Society


First lighthouse – Boston, MA (1716)

Oldest original lighthouse in service – Sandy Hook, NJ (1764)

Newest shoreside lighthouse – Charleston, SC (1962)

Only triangular-shaped lighthouse tower – Charleston, SC (1962)

Only lighthouse equipped with an elevator – Charleston, SC (1962)

Tallest lighthouse – Cape Hatteras, NC (191 ft)

First American-built West Coast lighthouse – Alcatraz Lighthouse (1854)

First lighthouse to use electricity – Statue of Liberty (1886)

First Great Lakes lighthouses – Buffalo, NY & Erie, PA (1818)

Most expensive lighthouse (adjusted cost) – St. George’s Reef, CA (1891)

First lighthouse built completely by the Federal Government – Old Cape Henry, VA (1792)

Founding of the U.S. Lighthouse Service – 7 August 1789

U.S. Lighthouse Service merged with the Coast Guard – 7 July 1939

Second most powerful lighthouse in the world (and most powerful in the Western Hemisphere) – Charleston, SC (1962)


Oldest lighthouse – Tower of Hercules. The oldest lighthouse in the world, the Tower of Hercules, also referred to as the Corunna Lighthouse or Farum Brigantium, was constructed sometime in the second century. It is located in northwest Spain outside the city of Corunna. The Roman-built tower is believed to have been based on the Lighthouse of Alexandria. [Read Still Standing Still Shining]

Tallest traditional lighthouse – The tallest traditional lighthouse is widely considered to be 271-foot-tall Île Vierge Lighthouse in France. Built in 1902, it’s made of granite and is the tallest stone lighthouse in the world today. 

Tallest modern lighthouse – Lighthouse of Jeddah: The city of Jeddah has worldwide acclaim as a port city in the otherwise arid Saudi Arabia. The lighthouse of Jeddah is the tallest lighthouse and the first in this list of amazing lighthouses in the world at a staggering 436 feet. Unlike conventional lighthouses, the Jeddah lighthouse acts as a control room for the city’s port and harbour. [Read All Lights Matters]

Shortest lighthouse –  The North Queensferry Light Tower. At only 11 ft., it is the world’s smallest operational lighthouse and it sits on the pier of a small town in Scotland.


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