HISTORY TIMELINE OF THE
UNITED STATES LIGHTHOUSE SERVICE
The Eleven Colonial Era Lighthouse
1716 Colonial-era lighthouses were constructed by individual colonies or municipalities. These towers were often constructed of wood, rubble stone, or a combination of both. The lighthouse on Little Brewster Island in Boston Harbor is given the honor of being officially considered to be the first colonial light. It was completed in 1716 and destroyed in 1776 during the American Revolution. A new tower was built in 1783, and this tower is still standing and active today.
The 1716 Boston Light The 1783 Light
1746 Brant Point (Nantucket Island, Massachusetts) The first lighthouse on the site was completed in 1746 and was destroyed by fire in 1758. The current tower, the tenth light at this location, dates from 1901.
1749 Beavertail Lighthouse (Jamestown, Rhode Island) was at first a wooden tower constructed in 1748 and called the Newport Light. It burned down four years later and was replaced by a stone tower. The current lighthouse was completed in 1856.
1760 New London Harbor (Connecticut) The tower was demolished and replaced in 1801. This tower is still standing and currently active.
1764 Sandy Hook Lighthouse (New Jersey) The only surviving original colonial-era lighthouse, Sandy Hook is still in active use today.
1767 Charleston Lighthouse (Morris Island) Completed by the Colony of South Carolina in 1767, the Charleston Light was first replaced in 1838. The current tower was built in 1876 and was discontinued in 1962 due to erosion. A new tower was commissioned at Sullivan's Island on the north side of Charleston Harbor in 1962.
1767 Cape Henlopen (Delaware) Completed in 1767 and first lit in 1769, the Cape Henlopen Light was greatly damaged during the Revolutionary War. Repairs were made, but structural problems and erosion made it clear that the light was in danger. It was discontinued in 1924 and the tower finally collapsed in 1926.
1768 Plymouth Twin Lights (Gurnet Point, Massachusetts) The first lighthouse was a wooden keeper dwelling with a beacon light at each end of its roof. The twin lights were used to distinguish the lighthouse from the nearby Boston Light. The twin lights were destroyed by fire in 1801, and in 1803, twin lighthouses 30 feet apart were constructed to replace the original structure. These lights were soon deemed to be too close together to be distinguishable from a distance, and they were eventually replaced in 1842 by another set of twin towers. In 1924, the northeast tower was torn down and the remaining tower was given a new flashing characteristic. The tower is no longer an active lighthouse.
1771 Portsmouth Harbor (New Castle, New Hampshire) A hexagonal wooden tower was constructed on the order of Governor John Wentworth in 1771. Pictured here is an 1804 replacement tower which was built nearby. The tower was shortened in 1851 and in December of 1854 a fourth order Fresnel lens was installed. In 1877 the tower was replaced by a cast-iron lighthouse. In 1887, the tower's daymark was changed from white to brown and in 1902 it was changed back again to white. The beacon underwent a change from fixed white to fixed green in 1941.
1771 Cape Ann /Thatcher Island (Cape Ann, Massachusetts) Twin towers, 300 yards apart, were activated in December of 1771. Winslow Lewis installed his newly developed lighting system in one of the towers and its brilliance in comparison to the other light earned him his first government contract. In 1860, the original towers were removed. Replacement towers illuminated with first order Fresnel lenses were activated the following year. The north tower was discontinued in 1932. The north tower was eventually restored and now functions as a private aid to navigation. The south tower is still operated by the Coast Guard.
1773 Tybee Island (Savannah, Georgia) A daymark tower was completed in 1736 but collapsed during a 1741 storm. A replacement tower was also lost and a third tower was completed in 1773. In 1822, a shorter tower was built nearby and the two functioned as range lights. In 1857, both towers were fitted with Fresnel lenses. After the Civil War, the main lighthouse was restored and expanded. The shorter tower was replaced by a 50-foot skeletal tower, also equipped with a Fresnel lens. The main light was heavily damaged by a hurricane in 1871, and it was never replaced. The skeletal tower was replaced by a shorter, sturdier tower in 1877. The lighthouse is now owned by the Tybee Island Historical Society.
The United States Light-House Establishment
Winslow Lewis Lewis lamp with lens and reflector
Bamber's description of his working platform The working platform in use at Mosquito Inlet
The United States Lighthouse Service