• Nora Curry

National Lighthouse Day


August 7th is National Lighthouse Day! Lighthouses are recognized as a symbol of coastal Maine, and while they often attract tourists at this time of year, their functional roles as literal beacons of light and harbingers of safety are pivotal year round. There are around 700 lighthouses in the United States, about 400 of which are still active lights. Maine lays claim to the oldest lighthouse built under the U.S. federal government with the Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth (completed in 1791), but there are many lighthouses closer to us here in the Midcoast. It's easy to make a little lighthouse day trip to the Rockland Breakwater, Marshall Point, Owls Head, Pemaquid Point, and more, and you can visit the Maine Lighthouse Museum in downtown Rockland.


Many lighthouses that are not normally open to visitors do open their doors on National Lighthouse Day, allowing people to climb the towers, tour with keepers, and participate in other activities. The day has had quite the history of back and forth attempts at official recognition. Congress enacted a resolution, followed by a proclamation from President George H.W. Bush, in 1989 to commemorate "the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Lighthouse Act and the commissioning of the first Federal lighthouse in the United States." The day was declared as a "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." A Senate Resolution in 2013 declared August 7th as National Lighthouse and Lighthouse Preservation Day, but each time, the day was celebrated for only one year. As recounted on Maine Lights Today, "Over the past couple of decades, lighthouse leaders from around the country have worked tirelessly to persuade Congress to permanently designate August 7 as National Lighthouse Day on America’s calendar, and though unsuccessful to date, those noble efforts continue." You can learn more about lighthouses and the history of National Lighthouse Day on Maine Lights Today.


The history, beauty, and functionality of lighthouses has been explored in many books, while these structures have also been the setting of many a fictional tale... from ghost stories to mysteries to classic works like Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse. Children's literature, too, is full of lighthouse stories. And why not, when the history and continued use of lighthouses, as well as their keepers, provide so much fascinating (and often beautiful) territory to explore? So whether you want to read about haunted Maine lighthouses, indulge in a lighthouse-themed cozy mystery, travel on a historical fiction journey to the coast, hear some keeper's tales, quilt a lighthouse design, or read a lighthouse lullaby before bedtime, check out this reading list of lighthouse-themed books below!


Fiction

The Lighthouse Witches, C.J. Cooke

By Book or By Crook, Eva Gates

The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter, Hazel Gaynor

The Lighthouse Keeper, James Michael Pratt

Steamed Open (Maine Clambake mysery), Barbara Ross

The Light Between Oceans, M.L. Stedman

The Lamplighters, Emma Stonex

Lighthousekeeping, Jeanette Winterson

To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf


Nonfiction

Lighthouse Designs for Quilters, Patricia A. Aho

On Lighthouses, Jazmine Barrera

The Lighthouse & Me: History, Memoir, & Imagination, Jeffrey Burke

Windjammers, Lighthouses, and Other Treasures of the Maine Coast, Frank M. Chillemi

Maine Lighthouses: Documentation of Their Past, J. Candace Clifford & Mary Louise Clifford

Women Who Kept the Lights: An Illustrated History of Female Lighthouse Keepers, Mary Louise Clifford

The Lighthouse at Rockland Breakwater, Ted Panayotoff & Courtney Thompson

Lighthouses: Sentinels of the American Coast, Laurence Parent & Elinor DeWire

Haunted Maine Lighthouses, Taryn Plumb

New England Lighthouses: Maine to Long Island Sound, Bruce Reports & Ray Jones

Our Point of View: Fourteen Years at a Maine Lighthouse, Thomas Mark Szelog & Lee Ann Szelog


Children's Books

Hello Lighthouse, Sophie Blackall

Lighthouse Lullaby, Kelly Paul Briggs

Birdie's Lighthouse, Deborah Hopkinson (illustrated by Kimberly Bulcken Root)

Pajama Light, Gale Sypher Jacob (illustrated by Mark Graham)

Gifts From the Sea, Natalie Kinsey-Warnock

Between the Lighthouse and You, Michelle Lee

Lighthouse Seeds, Pamela Love (illustrated by Linda Warner)

The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter, Arielle North Olson (illustrated by Elaine Wentworth)

Lighthouse Dog to the Rescue, Angeli Perrow (illustrated by Emily Harris)

Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie, Peter Roop & Connie Roop (illustrated by Peter E. Hanson)

Our Castle By the Sea, Lucy Strange

The Lighthouse Mystery (Boxcar Children), Gertrude Chandler Warner

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