National Lighthouse Day is celebrated annually on August 7. This holiday shines a spotlight on the iconic towers that for centuries symbolized safe harbor for ships at sea. On this day in 1789, the Federal Government took over responsibility for building and operating our nation’s lighthouses. Two hundred years later, Congress designated August 7 as National Lighthouse Day to honor the role that the conical buildings play on America’s coastlines.
Throughout maritime history, the beacons of light have helped ships navigate the water through inclement weather, saving an untold number of boats and consequently an even greater number of lives.
Although the historic structures have lost popularity with the advent of satellite-based GPS and modern navigation technology, lighthouses remain the universal symbol of safety and security, serving as important reminders of our nation’s maritime history.
In honor of National Lighthouse Day, The Hillsboro Lighthouse Preservation Society will open the Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse to a guided public tour on Saturday, August 20.
The tour takes visitors about two miles along the Intracoastal Waterway, through the surrounding, historic Coast Guard facilities. The lighthouse is one of Broward County’s oldest structures in South Florida. Construction of the 147-foot tower dates back to 1905, at a foundry in Detroit. In 1906, the lighthouse was shipped to the Hillsboro inlet – where it was reassembled and first lit on March 7, 1907.
The Hillsboro Lighthouse Preservation Society (HLPS) was founded 90 years later, with the primary goal to restore and repair of the original Fresnel lens. Today, the Fresnel lens at Hillsboro shines 28 nautical miles, making it the strongest light beam of any lighthouse in the world.
The HLPS is now a 700-member nonprofit with 22 volunteers who work to preserve the historic Hillsboro Light Station for the safety, enjoyment and education of the public.
According to HLPS Preservationist and President Emeritus Art Makenian, the lighthouse’s annual upkeep can cost over $25,000 – without considering extra repairs.
Makenian served as president of HLPS for the eight years, before stepping down in January. However, his involvement with the lighthouse started with a request by the US Coast Guard 18 years ago.
“In 1998, the Coast Guard was having a major renovation done to the lighthouse and asked me, a Coast Guard auxiliary member with an engineering background, to overlook the work,” Makenian said. “I got the project in 2000 – I modified the lighting system and got it working normally.”
In 2013, the US Coast Guard released all duties for continued service of the lighthouse to the Hillsboro Lighthouse Preservation Society.
“The coast guard no longer funds any of the lighthouse expense of the lighthouse,” Makenian said. “The Hillsboro Lighthouse Preservation Society is responsible for all financial needs.”
The HLPS will host lighthouse tours on Saturday, August 20, every hour from 9:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. for $25 per person. This will help fund maintenance for the lighthouse and cover transportation by boat. Tours are free for HLPS members. Annual dues are $25 for individuals, $50 for families and $100 for businesses and organizations.
Those planning to tour the lighthouse should be mindful of the following: Children must be at least 8 years old and accompanied by an adult. The lighthouse has 175 steps and 130 vertical feet to the top. The stairs are narrow and the building interior is hot. Sandals, flip-flops and shoes with heels are not permitted. Flat shoes with closed toes and rubber soles are recommended.
Learn more at hillsborolighthouse.org. The HLPS museum is located at Hillsboro Inlet Park
A1A at 2700 N. Ocean Boulevard, Pompano Beach. For more information please call 954-942-2102 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Photos courtesy of the Hillsboro Lighthouse Preservation Society.
Emily Robinson is a rising sophomore majoring in political communication at the George Washington University, where she is design assistant for The GW Hatchet and online engagement chair for GW Hillel.