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The Lighthouse News and History Magazine

National Lighthouse Day Declared for August 7

The past and future of lighthouses will be celebrated on August 7, 2013, now federally designated as National Lighthouse and Lighthouse Preservation Day.

The designation came with the unanimous passage of a Senate resolution marking the date as the 224th anniversary of the federal government's first public works act, the establishment of the Lighthouse Service as President George Washington signed the ninth act passed by the First Congress of the United States.

The resolution was submitted by Sens. Angus S. King Jr. and Susan Collins of Maine, using wording proposed by the American Lighthouse Council. In the House, Rep. Brian Higgins of Buffalo, NY, read the text into the Congressional Record.

Passage of the act is a significant step in an initiative by the lighthouse preservation community to have August 7 designated as an annual commemorative date. While some lighthouse organizations already celebrate National Lighthouse Day, and President Ronald Reagan signed an earlier bill so naming the bicentennial date in 1989, there has been no official recurring designation for the anniversary, a more complex legislative task.

That designation has been sought by the American Lighthouse Council, the movement's national leadership council and forum. Formerly known as the American Lighthouse Coordinating Committee, the ALC built its resolution on wide community support and earlier calls for the national commemoration.

"As a nation, we all should recognize lighthouses for the prominent part they have played in the growth and expansion of our country. Safeguarding ships and passengers along coasts and inland waterways, into and out of U.S. ports, with a network for distribution of commerce that has had a significant impact on every state in the nation" said Donald J. Terras, ALC president and the director of the Grosse Point Lighthouse in Illinois.

"Lighthouses have for centuries stood tall and strong as symbols of safety and security upon Maine's rocky coasts, faithfully guiding seafarers to our shores," Maine's senators said in a joint statement. "It is important for us not only to recognize the tremendous role that they play in our maritime commerce, but to also preserve the legacy and history that they embody. We're immensely pleased that the United States Senate joined us in that endeavor by declaring August 7th of this year as National Lighthouse and Lighthouse Preservation Day."

Sen. King also expressed interest in working to have the date declared an annual commemoration, which is the main thrust of the ALC initiative.

"Lighthouse groups can celebrate the August 7th anniversary on their own, and some do," noted Mike Vogel, a former ALC president who heads the Buffalo Lighthouse Association and serves as secretary of the United States Lighthouse Society board of directors. "But the date is important enough for the official annual designation, and the resolution also seeks to honor the decades of hard work that volunteers and organizations have put into preserving these iconic reminders of America's rich maritime traditions."

"Lighthouses are among the oldest standing historic structures in the United States and this is an important step in honoring the significant role that they, and the people who served at them, had in the development of our nation," said Timothy Harrison, publisher of Lighthouse Digest magazine and a long-time proponent of the annual designation. He went on to say, "I believe that a person can learn more about early American history, by studying all phases of lighthouses, than from any other single source."

Terras, Harrison, Vogel and former Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association president Richard Moehl have been working on the legislative initiative. Adding lighthouse preservation to the designation comes as the Great Lakes group is marking its own 30th anniversary, a milestone that will be reached next year by the United States Lighthouse Society. The text of the resolution also acknowledges even earlier individual lighthouse preservation efforts, and the work of other regional and national groups including the American Lighthouse Foundation and state lighthouse organizations.

Legislative support has been garnered not only from Sens. King and Collins and Rep. Higgins, but also from Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky. Supporters of the annual designation hope that interest will continue to build as more members of Congress recognize the importance of lighthouses to their states' heritage and cultural tourism economies.

For more information, contact: Donald J. Terras, President (

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