The following is written on a New England Lighthouse web site. http://lighthouse.cc/boston/history.html History - page one
Boston lighthouse) holds a place of honor among our nation's beacons.
This was the first light station established on the North American continent, and the last in the United States to be automated. It's also our only light station that still retains an official keeper.
Because Boston Light was destroyed in the Revolution and rebuilt in 1783, the tower itself is the second oldest in the U.S.....It's recorded that there was a beacon on Point Allerton in Hull as early as 1673.
Sorry, in St. Augustine we scoff (in a friendly way) at 1673. Heck, we were a 108 by then. Maybe they got the idea for the 1673 lit watch tower from St. Augustine? Yes, Boston is important, and claiming first American lighthouse is significant. But claming first "North American" watchtower is a different thing all together.
An exciting point from this excerpt about Boston is the report that fires burned in towers very early on at Hull. This happened before they were designated "lighthouses." What does that mean? Is it important in some way? Let's explore it a bit more.
Consider this quote from Puertos del Estado, a Spanish web site discussing Spain's port system. The quote below has been translated into English, See the original at: http://www.puertos.es/es/index.html
The origins of the visual aids to navigation date back to the humans' first attempts to discover new commercial routes, going far a way from the coast in their vessels. In the daytime, the geographical unevenness oriented these men. However, at night, they needed to use the light emitted by bonfires burning in strategic coastal points in order to come back to the port. Since the rain or the wind extinguished these bonfires, they were protected with a kind of structure...Thus, the lighthouses started....
After the fall of the Roman Empire...countries were focused on the wars more than on the social and economic development. Few new lighthouses were built...Morever, the existing lighthouses were destroyed.
Since the 12th Century, the navigation in the Mediterranean Sea and in North Europe was reactivated. In order to guarantee the safety in the shipping routes, lighthouses were built. Thus, Scandinavia and Germany had the best-lit coast in Europe (15 lighthouses in 1600).... In addition, bonfires were placed on existing watchtowers such as Porto Pi in Mallorca.
Hmmm? So, according to Spanish historians, Europe used lighthouses formally as early as 1600. More excitingly for us, there is a recorded history in Spain of lighting watchtowers!!!
I believe the question is not "How early was there a lighthouse?" But rather, "When did economic activity and coastal defense call for maritime aids to navigation? It is at this point that we begin to discover when the "port" became a "port" and not just a ship's landing site."
Continue reading "Of Old Ports, Lighthouses and Ben Franklin. " »