National Lighthouse Day is a yearly celebration on August 7. How did it come about? The United States Congress established the day to pay tribute as a remembrance. The first National Lighthouse Day was authorized on the 200th anniversary of their officially supporting construction and maintenance of lighthouses. That also included public piers and navigational beacons and buoys.
This was the Act of 1789: "An Act for the Establishment and support of Lighthouse, Beacons, Buoys, and Public Piers"
The Act was approved by Congress on August 7, 1789.1
1789 Lighthouse Act
The act had four sections:1
Section 1 addressed the expenses for the "support, maintenance and repairs of all lighthouses, beacons, buoys and public piers" and itemized how they were handled.
Section 3 required the Secretary of the Treasury to take charge of this Act's requirements, subject to presidential approval. That includes needed supplies, hiring of appointees by the president and arranging salaries and needs.
Section 4 stated vessel pilots in U.S. waters still needed to adhere to current navigational U.S. law
An April 28, 1988 a resolution was introduced in Congress by Senator John H. Chafee of Rhode Island. Its purpose was to designate the day of August 7, 1989 as National Lighthouse Day. It proposed opening lighthouse grounds to the public on that day, throughout the country, wherever possible.1
It passed the Senate, and then was introduced to the House by Representative William J. Hughes of New Jersey. It then passed there. It was signed by President Reagan on November 5, 1988: Public Law No. 100-622.2
Establishing a National Lighthouse Day
Even though Public Law No. 100-622 was designated and enacted, it was only for that particular year - 1989. A similar resolution was passed in 2013, but only to be officially recognized for the current year. Thus we still do not have a yearly Federally approved National Lighthouse Day.3
So today, this is a day that is observed by those who have an interest in lighthouses. People with a concern for lighthouse maintenance and preservation continue to market their appeal to Congress. Still trying to get an official federal recognition for a National Lighthouse Day to be celebrated yearly on August 7th - nation-wide. It hasn't yet happened. There is no giving up on this idea!
But meanwhile, we all can celebrate Lighthouse Day. The beacons at lighthouses throughout the U.S. continue to shine on all who wish to celebrate the day. Activities are planned every year. Special events draw people to all coastal areas of the country to mark this eventful day!
Will you be there?
How & Where to Celebrate Lighthouse Day
You can plan a trip, and visit a lighthouse that has a special event for National Lighthouse Day.
Some states highlight Lighthouse Day - Florida has so many wonderful lighthouses, with its Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Go ahead and see Some Florida Suggestions>
The National Park Service participates in Lighthouse Day, even though it hasn't been declared an official national holiday. In South Carolina, for instance, Fort Sumpter National Monument has been known to distribute a poster of its proud heritage: Charleston Light! Free to visitors on the celebratory day! Will they do it again? Will other NPS lighthouses do something similar? We'll have to see!
States' Lighthouse Day
Maine has their own Designated Lighthouse day. It's sponsored by the U.S. Coast Guard, the State of Maine and the American Lighthouse Foundation. Approximately 20 different lighthouses on their coast open up for the day's visitors. It's sure to be hectic as you might try to visit as many as you can. But it's best to pick out your favorites - or those you haven't had a chance to get to yet. Most are open from 9am to 3pm, but a few have shorter times. Here's the likely lighthouse list this year:
Bass Harbor Head, Burn Coat Harbor, Burnt Island, Curtis Island, Doubling Point, Dyce Head, Fort Point, Goat Island, Grindle Point, Marshall Point, Monhegan Island, Moose Peak, Owls Head, Pemaquid Point, Portland Breakwater Bug Light, Portland Head, Seguin Island, Spring Point, Squirrel Point Light, West Quoddy Head, Whitehead, Wood Island
Also visit the Maine Lighthouse Museum at One Park Dr., Rockland - (207) 594-3301
Another good spot: Maine Maritime Museum, 243 Washington St., Bath - (207) 443-1316
Somes Sound Light Tour - From Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co., 1 West St., Bar Harbor - 1-888-WHALES-4
New Jersey observes National Lighthouse Day with a focus at the southern end of the state. The Cape May Lighthouse has craft vendors, live music, and kids crafts - all free from about 9am to 2pm. Of course the tower is open for a climb! But look along the coast for other New Jersey lighthouses that are likely to be joining in National Lighthouse Day on August 7th:
Absecon Lighthouse, Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, and East Point Lighthouse - for starters!
Maryland's Chesapeake Bay Area - Event celebrating National Lighthouse Day at the Concord Point Lighthouse, scheduled for August 7, 1 to 5pm. Get to it by exiting off Interstate 95, at exit 89, 700 Concord St., Havre de Grace. Free Admission to Lighthouse and Keeper's House.
Oregon has many lighthouses on their magnificent coastline. Be sure to look into planning an Oregon coastal road trip for August 7th! See Heceta Head Lighthouse, Cape Meares Lighthouse, Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, Umpqua River Lighthouse, Coquille River Lighthouse, and/or Cape Blanco Lighthouse. Yaquina Head Lighthouse is managed by the BLM, and sponsors observances related to their particular needs. But they also keep National Lighthouse Day in mind!
International Lighthouse Event Days
The International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend (ILLW) is a yearly event currently sponsored by an Australian, Kevin Mulcahy, who is an amateur radio operator. This Lighthouse Event is held the 3rd Saturday + Sunday weekend in August
They are concerned with bringing attention to the value of lighthouses and lightships. That they are a part of history and should be repaired and refurbished. Along with that they are a group of amateur radio enthusiasts involved in this promotion, thus they promote that as well, and in doing so their aim is to advance interactive fellowship among people throughout the world.
The group originally began with two Scottish gentlemen from the Ayr Amateur Radio Group. From that beginning, it's evolved and expanded into approximately an involvement with 95 different countries.
Their event process is to locate at a lighthouse and set up their radio station there, or nearby. They broadcast from there, interacting with other radio operators, including with other lighthouse stations throughout the world to bring attention to lighthouse needs.
1 American Lighthouse Foundation (2020). National lighthouse day – August 7th. Retrieved from lighthousefoundation.org/national-lighthouse-day/
2 United States Lighthouse Society (2020). National lighthouse day. Retrieved from uslhs.org/fun/lighthouse-festivals-events/national-lighthouse-day
3 Harrison, T. (n.d.) Make national lighthouse day a reality. Lighthouse Digest Magazine. Foghorn Publishing. Retrieved from lhdigest.com/news/day.cfm