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FreightWaves Classics: America’s first lighthouse went “online” 305 years ago

The lighthouse, now known as Little Brewster Island, at the entrance to Boston Harbor began operations on this day in 1716. The lighthouse was called the Boston Lighthouse.

Former Freight Waves Classics paper Outlined the history of lighthouses in the United States. As mentioned in that article, today’s ships have navigation and communications aids that were almost unthinkable 50 years ago and almost unthinkable in the 1700s. At that time (and since then), the lighthouse signaled the crew as they approached the land. Over the centuries, beacons from lighthouses in the United States and around the world have saved thousands of seafarers from catastrophe. Even with 21st century equipment, many ships still use lighthouse beacons to safely keep them away from danger.

Today, all US lighthouses are automated. But in 1716 (and even into the 20th century), the lighthouse needed a “keeper” or keeper. The first guardian of the Boston Lighthouse was George Worthylake. He also worked as a pilot for ships entering the harbor. Unfortunately, Worthy Lake, his wife, daughter, and two other men drowned in the harbor when sailing from the lighthouse to Boston.

Boston Lighthouse when Massachusetts was still a British colony. (Image: New England Historical Society)
Boston Lighthouse when Massachusetts was still a British colony. (Image: New England Historical Society)

First boston lighthouse

The 1716 building was a circular, slightly tapered tower made of rubble. It stood about 60 feet high and its light was provided by candles. In addition to the construction of the lighthouse, the “keeper’s house, barn, wharf” was also built at the same time. Three years later, a fog cannon was installed.

The Boston Lighthouse guided the ship for 60 years, but was damaged by light fires in 1720 and 1751 and a violent storm in 1723. The lighthouse was repaired or rebuilt every time an accident occurred. The most serious damage to the lighthouse occurred during the War of Independence. British troops occupied Boston (and the Boston Lighthouse) at the beginning of the war. On July 20, 1775, Americans burned the wooden part of the tower. When the British began repairs, the Americans burned it again on July 31, 1775 and September 1775. They blew up the lighthouse when the last British garrison was evacuating from Boston in June 1776. There was no Boston Lighthouse from that time until after the war. In 1783, the Massachusetts State Council allocated funds to build a new lighthouse at the same location.

Second Boston Lighthouse

As technology progressed, so did the lighthouse. In 1811 a rotating mechanism was installed to create a flashing light. Further improvements have been made. In 1828 a chandelier with 14 lamps and reflectors was installed, and in 1844 the cast iron staircase of the lighthouse, iron window frames, balconies and large iron doors were added. (Everything remains). Then, in 1851, the hoisting bell replaced the fog cannon.

The second lighthouse was also circular and made of mortar rubble. But it was higher than the first one (75 feet high). The light of the second lighthouse was provided by four lamps that were lit using fish oil.

In 1789, the United States Lighthouse Service (USLHE) was founded and was an agency of the US Treasury. All US lighthouses have been transferred to the federal government, which has become a general lighthouse authority.

Part of the coastline of Little Brewster Island, where the Boston Lighthouse is located. (Photo: National Park Service)
Part of the coastline of Little Brewster Island, where the Boston Lighthouse is located. (Photo: National Park Service)

US Lighthouse Commission

The US Lighthouse Board was the successor to USLHE, which was also under the Treasury. A new agency has been set up due to complaints from the shipping industry regarding the USLHE. From 1820 until the US Lighthouse Board took over, USLHE was under the control of a man for over 30 years.

The Lighthouse Commission was responsible for “construction and maintenance of all lighthouses and navigation aids in the United States from 1852 to 1910.” The US Lighthouse Commission was a paramilitary organization that held its first meeting on April 28, 1851. At that time, especially at that time, not only was the lighthouse important to the safety of foreign ships in the United States and US waters, but the lighthouse was able to issue warnings. The government of ships that may be hostile.

There were many lighthouses along the coast of the United States (and around the Great Lakes). Due to the actions of the Lighthouse Commission, lighthouse management and other navigation aid facilities have been more modernized since federal control began.

Boston Lighthouse on Little Brewster Island. (Photo: bostonharborislands.org)
Boston Lighthouse on Little Brewster Island. (Photo: bostonharborislands.org)

Especially at the Boston Lighthouse, the tower was expanded to 89 feet and a rotating lens was installed in 1859. In addition, the interior of the tower was lined with bricks for better support. A brick entry for the lighthouse has also been added. A frame duplex has also been built for the assistant keeper.

Fog is an important danger for ships near the shore. As a result, the Boston Lighthouse fog signal has been upgraded several times as new technologies emerge. An impressive device was added in 1869. The whistle rang in 1871. 1872 fog trumpet. And in 1887, the fog whistle.

The Boston Lighthouse infrastructure has also been improved. A brick building was built (still standing) in 1876 to accommodate the fog signal. Other intact buildings include the framekeeper’s house, built in 1884, and a brick cistern. A brick oil house built in 1889 (in 1883, mineral oil replaced lard oil as a fuel for light). In 1913, the old core lamp was replaced by an incandescent steam lamp.

Boston Lighthouse with the Boston skyline in the background. (Photo: National Park Service)
Boston Lighthouse with the Boston skyline in the background. (Photo: National Park Service)

Lighthouse service

Almost 60 years later, the Lighthouse Commission was abolished by Congress and replaced in 1910 with a private lighthouse station (also known as a lighthouse station) that was first housed under the US Department of Commerce.

A patch of the US Coast Guard in Sector Boston showing that USCG started in Boston. (Image: US Coast Guard Sector Boston Facebook page)
A patch of the US Coast Guard in Sector Boston showing that USCG started in Boston. (Image: USCG Sector Boston Facebook page)

Jurisdiction of the United States Coast Guard

However, President Roosevelt’s Reorganization Order # 11 integrated the United States Coast Guard (USCG) with the Lighthouse Bureau, which came into effect on July 1, 1939. This was only two months before World War II began in Europe.

Boston Lighthouse as a USCG facility. (Photo: USCG Historian Office)
Boston Lighthouse as a USCG facility. (Photo: USCG Historian Office)

After World War II, the Coast Guard made additional changes to the Boston Lighthouse. The lighthouse was electrified in 1948. The motor that drives the lens rotation machine has also been electrified. Keepers no longer have to wind by hand every 4 hours. However, at sunset and sunrise, the keeper had to climb the stairs to the lights to switch the lights and rotating gears on and off. Later, in 1959, the Boston Lighthouse was changed from a family-owned station to a men-only station. The following year, indoor plumbing was installed in the keeper’s house. Prior to that, both the keeper’s house and the duplex were equipped with remote homes that were drained directly onto the island’s rocks (waste was washed away by high tide).

The Boston Lighthouse became a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and was registered on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

Boston lighthouse "complicated." (Photo: National Trust for Historic Preservation)
The “complexity” of the Boston Lighthouse.
(Photo: National Trust for Historic Preservation)

The USCG was preparing to automate the Boston Lighthouse in 1989 and remove its personnel from Little Brewster Island. However, in November of that year, Congress passed a law sponsored by US Senator Ted Kennedy, which requires the Boston Lighthouse to be permanently manned. Currently, the Boston Lighthouse is the only manned lighthouse in the United States.

In addition, the law also required the USCG to facilitate public access to Little Brewster Island. This took place in the 1990s and the island was officially opened to the public in 1999. The Boston Lighthouse lights were automated in 1998 (the last automated lighthouse light in the country) and are now in operation 24 hours a day. .. Today, the light of the Boston Lighthouse projects 27 miles into the Atlantic Ocean.

Boston Lighthouse illuminates the road

The lighthouse still functions as the main navigational aid facility for ships entering and exiting. Boston harbor.. The only operating lighthouse in the United States older than the Boston Lighthouse is the Sandy Hook Lighthouse in New Jersey. However, the Boston Lighthouse is the oldest, continuously used, and last staffed lighthouse in the country.

Boston Lighthouse Lantern. (Photo: National Park Service)
Boston Lighthouse Lantern. (Photo: National Park Service)



https://www.freightwaves.com/news/freightwaves-classics-americas-first-lighthouse-went-on-line-305-years-ago FreightWaves Classics: America’s first lighthouse went “online” 305 years ago

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