National Lighthouse Day
Also known as
National Lighthouse and Lighthouse Preservation Day
National Lighthouse Preservation Day
annually on August 7th (since 1989)
President Ronald Reagan on November 5th, 1988
National Lighthouse Day celebrates lighthouses and the commitment and service of those who tend to them. On April 28, 1988, Senator John H. Chafee [R-RI] introduced a resolution that would designate August 7, 1989, as National Lighthouse Day. It was cosponsored in the House of Representatives by William J. Hughes [D-NJ]—who had introduced his own version of the resolution in the House. Senate Joint Resolution 306 was adopted in the Senate and House and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on November 5, 1988, becoming Public Law 100-622. On June 19, 1989, President George H.W. Bush issued Presidential Proclamation 5993. It reads as follows:
Lighthouses, the buildings whose solitary beacons have helped guide countless ships through the perils of fog and darkness, are a cherished part of our Nation's heritage. These impressive structures have long symbolized safety, vigilance, and faithfulness. Often isolated and repeatedly tested by the ravages of storm and sea, lighthouses are also monuments to the courage and determination of the people who built them and the keepers who have maintained them.
Lighthouses claim an honored place in the maritime history of the United States. They have served as navigational aids indicating landfall, marking dangerous reefs, and identifying harbor entrances. Today, approximately 750 lighthouses remain in the United States, standing along the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf Coasts and throughout the Great Lakes. More than half of them are still used for navigation.
On August 7, 1989, we commemorate the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Lighthouse Act by our Nation's first President, George Washington. The Lighthouse Act established the Federal Government's role in the support, maintenance, and repair of these unique structures and commissioned the first Federal lighthouse.
By the end of this year, the United States Coast Guard will have completed the automation of all lighthouses it currently operates, bringing an end to the proud and colorful era of manned lighthouses. In cooperation with affected communities and concerned organizations, the Coast Guard is working to preserve the remaining structures and to educate the public on the role of lighthouses in our history and culture. These groups have succeeded in having more than 200 lighthouses listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In recognition of the historic value of our Nation's lighthouses and the ongoing efforts to preserve them so that they might be opened to and enjoyed by the public, the Congress, by Public Law 100-622, has designated August 7, 1989, as "National Lighthouse Day" and has authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of this day.
Now, Therefore, I, George Bush, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim August 7, 1989, as National Lighthouse Day. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities. In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this nineteenth day of June, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirteenth.
Although the legislation for the day was just for 1989, National Lighthouse Day has continued to be celebrated by lighthouse enthusiasts each year. Lighthouse groups commonly offer activities on the day, such as tours of lighthouses, presentations, and cruises. In 2013, the Senate agreed to a resolution designating August 7 as National Lighthouse and Lighthouse Preservation Day. The resolution says the Senate "encourages lighthouse grounds to be made open to the general public to the extent feasible" and "encourages the people of the United States to observe National Lighthouse and Lighthouse Preservation Day with appropriate ceremonies and activities." That same year, Representative Brian Higgins [D-NY] rose to give remarks saying that August 7 is National Lighthouse Day. Efforts have been made by lighthouse leaders and enthusiasts to make National Lighthouse Day permanent with an official annual designation, but this has yet to come to fruition.
How to Observe National Lighthouse Day
- Visit lighthouses near you. Perhaps one of them is on the National Register of Historic Places list.
- If you happen to know a lighthouse keeper, thank them for their commitment and service to lighthouses.
- Get involved with an organization that is devoted to lighthouses. These usually support the restoration of lighthouses. Some of the most well-known lighthouse organizations are the American Lighthouse Foundation, The Lighthouse Preservation Society, and the United States Lighthouse Society.
- Spend the night in a lighthouse.
- Visit the National Lighthouse Museum.
- Subscribe to a publication dedicated to lighthouses such as Lighthouse Digest or The Keeper's Log.
- Read a book about lighthouses.
- Watch a documentary that focuses on lighthouses such as The Last Lightkeepers or Legendary Lighthouses.
- Watch a feature film where lighthouses play a large role.