Notable National Sea Sentinels

Of all the American Lighthouses to visit or view Lighthouses from the sea for the first time, a tour any of the following historic lighthouses for their architectural splendor, scenic coastal vistas, and technological improvements highlights the distinctive charm of America's Coastal Castles.

Colonial Lighthouses

1716  Boston Harbor Light A - Little Brewster Island / Boston Harbor, MA
1746  Brant Point Light (2) A - Nantucket Island, Massachusetts
1749  Beavertail Light A - Conanicut Island, Jamestown, RI
1759  Tarpaulin Cove Light (3) A - Naushon Island, Massachusetts
1760  New London Harbor Light A - New London Harbor Entrance, Connecticut
1764  Sandy Hook Light A - Sandy Hook, New Jersey
1765  Cape Henlopen Light *  - Cape Henlopen, Delaware
1767  Morris Island Light D - Charleston Harbor Entrance, South Carolina
1768  Plymouth Light A - Gurnet Point, Plymouth Bay, Massachusetts
1771  Portsmouth Harbor Light A - Fort Constitution, Portsmouth Harbor, NH
1771  Cape Ann Lights A - Thacher Island, Cape Ann, Massachusetts
1774  Old Point Comfort Light A - Hampton Roads Harbor, Virginia
1782  Fort Niagara Light D - Niagara River / Lake Ontario, New York
In 1783, the Continental Congress established its authority over the nation’s twelve lighthouses and the Colonies transferred their Lights to the Federal Government after the Act of August 7, 1789.

1784  Great Point Lighthouse A - Nantucket Island, Massachusetts
1788  Plum Island Light A - Plum Island, Ipswich Bay; Massachusetts
1790  White Island Light A - Isles of Shoals, New Hampshire
Lighthouses first started by the States
and completed by the United States Federal Government.

1791 Portland Head Light A - Portland Harbor, Cape Elizabeth
1792 Cape Henry Light D - Chesapeake Bay, Virginia
1796 Bald Head Light D - Bald Head Island / Cape Fear River, NC

First Lighthouse authorized by the U.S. Federal Government

1797 Montauk Point Light A - Montauk Point, Long Island, New York

First Lighthouse to use a Flashing Light Characteristic

1797 Highland (Cape Cod) Light A - North Truro, Massachusetts

First Lighthouse to use a Fog Bell, 1820

(Boston Harbor Light's Fog Cannon was the First Fog Signal, 1719)

1808 West Quoddy Head Light A - Bay of Fundy, Lubec, Maine

First Lighthouses to use Fresnel Lens

1828 Navesink Twin Lights A - Lower New York Bay, New Jersey
1850 Sankaty Head Light A - Siasconset, Nantucket Island

First Tallest Lighthouses

1854 Cape Hatteras Light, 1803 A - Cape Hatteras, North Carolina
1858 Fire Island Light, 1827 A - Fire Island, New York

First under-water Foundation built to support a Lighthouse

1879 Race Rock Light A - Race Rock, Offshore from Fishers Island

First Electric Lighthouse, a Gift from France

1886 Statue of Liberty D - Liberty Island, New York Harbor


* - A Northeast storm destroyed Cape Henlopen Lighthouse, April 13, 1926.

(1) Abbreviations: A= Active Aid and D= Deactive Light.

(2) In 1736, Tybee Island Light was first built as a Day Beacon and and the Day-mark was converted to a Lighthouse by the federal government in 1791. Tybee Island Light is Currently an Active Aid located at the entrance of the Savannah River, Georgia.

(3) For unknown reasons, privately owned and operated colonial Lighthouses are not included in the list of the official twelve colonial government Lights. Regardless, private Lighthouses were important aids to the developing colonial regions.

(4) For additional Lighthouse information, Click the Highlighted Lighthouse Location Text.

(5) - Lighthouse Guide was recently updated.


Certain Light List Information should not be used for Navigational purposes since Light Lists do change. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is current.

The purpose of including the Light's Aid No., Characteristic, Daymark, and Position is to note the importance of Light Stations as Aids to Navigation. A Lighthouse without these markings would be a expensive useless structure:

Consider the Position (Latitude, Longitude) helps mariners to determine the location of a Harbor entrance or dangerous shoals which is similar to a Street Address helps us to find the location of homes and other buildings.

Likewise, the Characteristic (Flash sequence and color of the light) and the Daymark (Light Tower Color and Markings) aid in determining which Lighthouse is being approached by night or day which is no different than describing the color and style of your home when giving directions!

With this information, the Lighthouse marks the obscure presence of navigational dangers, the entrance to harbors or guides vessels through shipping channels. A Lighthouse enables mariners to locate their position by taking bearings from two or more Lighthouses using the Light's Characteristic. Plotting these bearings on a chart fixed their vessels location to check whether they were on course or needed to correct or change their heading.

Range Lights, consisting of paired towers, were designed to guide vessels through shipping channels into harbors. A low height Front Range Light was constructed with a higher height Rear Range Light located a distance from the Front Range. When mariners aligned these Lights [the Rear Range Light was directly on top of the Front Range Light], they would be safely on course in mid-channel.

Twin Lights were two Towers exhibiting Fixed White lights. Before Flashing Light Characteristics existed, Twin Lights were used to distinguish the Light Station from other nearby Lighthouses.

In addition, these Identifying Marks illustrate the ingenuity of mankind throughout history to solve problems for the common good of all.

Document Updated: Fri 20 Aug 2010, 08:20:00pm EDT (GMT-4)