Celebrating National Lighthouse Day 2020

By Shalana Millard

It’s August 7: one of my favorite days of the year. What’s so special about it? It’s National Lighthouse Day; the day the United States has designated annually, to celebrate the history, power and magic of lighthouses.

My capture of Concord Point lighthouse in Havre de Grace, Maryland on September 29 2018.

As an avid lover of lighthouses, I think of the history and stories they hold. I think of the keepers that occupied lighthouses, maintained them and helped ensure they were a beacon of safety for mariners. Each lighthouse has its own unique story to tell.

During my first visit to Hooper Straight lighthouse on the grounds of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michael’s Maryland in 2017, I was drawn to a poster that explained that due to the danger every year from winter ice, women and children were not allowed to live at Hooper Strait; they could visit for two weeks during the summer. I wondered what it may have been like for a married keeper at Hooper Strait, to live without their family for a majority of the year, knowing they would only see them for two weeks.

September 29, 2017- I captured this poster inside Hooper Strait lighthouse that explained due to the dangers from winter ice, women and children could not live at the lighthouse, but could visit two weeks in the summer.

When I think of the stories lighthouses hold, I think of Anna Weems Ewalt, who was born in Drum Point lighthouse on July 13, 1906. (During my visit to Drum Point on September 22, 2014, they had a tribute to Anna on one of the walls.) I wondered what it was like for her parents to bring a child into the world inside a lighthouse.

Drum Point lighthouse honors the woman who was born inside the lighthouse on July 13, 1906.

As I contemplate the stories lighthouses hold, I also think of the physically demanding job of being a keeper. I think of the oil canister that was on display during my first visit to Absecon lighthouse in Atlantic City, New Jersey on September 20, 2013, and how my mind wondered how a lighthouse keeper would have managed to carry a heavy oil canister up 228 steps in order to maintain the light.

September 20, 2013- I captured this oil canister on display inside Absecon lighthouse in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Whether you’re fascinated by the beauty and romance of lighthouses, or the stories of the keepers who lived in and maintained them, find a reason to celebrate lighthouses not just on today, National Lighthouse Day, but every day!

Leave a comment in this post to let me know how you’ll be celebrating lighthouses. Are you planning to visit one as lighthouses begin to re-open safely, with protocols in place, during the global pandemic?


A Love Note For Abby on Her 162nd Birthday

Her light first began shining brightly on January 15, 1857. I’ve been in love with her for nearly six years, when I met her on a beautiful summer day in September 2013.

She’s a force of nature: the tallest lighthouse in the Garden State of New Jersey. And the third tallest in the United States.

She is Absecon Lighthouse, and at 162, she still draws people to her beauty.

It’s a magical climb up 228 steps. Abby welcomes you with open arms, thanks to her volunteer lightkeepers who greet you with an “I Saw The Light” congratulatory card when you’ve reached the top.

But don’t just take my word for it. Visit sweet Abby in Atlantic City, and you’ll fall in love with her just like I did.

Happy birthday, Abby! Continue lighting the way.


Abby at 160: Happy Birthday, Absecon Lighthouse!

Picture it. Atlantic City. August 1996. (See what I just did there, Golden Girls fans? I know you read that out loud in your best Sophia Petrillo voice).

But I digress. Back to Atlantic City. 1996. During a weekend trip to see The Color Purple on Broadway, I was in Atlantic City for a few hours. While there, I noticed a replica of a lighthouse. Immediately, I was intrigued. The replica included a sign that said “Absecon Lighthouse,” along with an arrow indicating the direction of the lighthouse.

Above: Replica of lighthouse, and sign pointing towards Absecon Lighthouse, that I saw in Atlantic City in 1996.  

I knew I would not be in Atlantic City long enough that day to see the lighthouse up close. So I made a mental note to come back another time.

Fast forward to 2013. I decided to get serious about indulging my love of lighthouses, by actually beginning to visit these aides to navigation. When pondering what lighthouse to visit first, it was a no-brainer: Absecon Lighthouse!

And so on September 20, 2013, I spent my birthday climbing Absecon Lighthouse’s (or Abby, as she is affectionately known) 228 steps.

Above: Standing outside Absecon Lighthouse, preparing to go in, during my first visit on September 20, 2013.

Below: Standing at the bottom of the spiral staircase.

Since that moment, I have had a special affinity for Abby as the first lighthouse I ever visited. And I have made an effort to return to Abby every year (although I missed 2015 due to illness). I usually like to visit Abby around my birthday in September. It is my birthday gift to myself, to be doing something I am so passionate about: visiting and climbing lighthouses.

But today, there is someone else’s birthday I am celebrating. Abby is turning 160 years old. The Garden State’s tallest lighthouse, and the third tallest lighthouse in the United States, was first lit on January 15, 1857. Her first order fresnel lens shines brightly still.

Above: Abby’s first order fresnel lens, during the day on September 20, 2013, and at night, September 16, 2016.

And for lighthouse aficionados like myself, there is a magic to climbing those 228 steps, and imagining what it was like for Abby’s lighthouse keepers to undertake the physically challenging task of carrying an oil canister up 228 steps, to light Abby at night. And there is a sense of accomplishment in reaching the top, and receiving an I Saw The Light card from the volunteer light keeper on duty.

Above: The I Saw The Light card I received from Bayard, the volunteer light keeper on duty that day, September 20, 2014.

Above: As Miley Cyrus once sang: “It’s the climb…” Abby’s beautiful spiral staircase. As the incredible staff at Absecon are fond of saying: “228 Steps-One Amazing Journey.”

Above: Something I instantly noticed on display during my first visit to Abby: an oil canister like the ones Abby’s lighthouse keepers of yesterday, would have to carry up the 228 steps at night.

Above: My view of Absecon Lighthouse at night, after participating in the Harvest full moon climb, on September 16, 2016.  Isn’t she lovely?

This year, if you are in Atlantic City, stop by Absecon Lighthouse. Or plan to make a special trip there like I do annually. Be sure to let Abby know just how well she wears her 160 years.

Above: She’s a beauty!  Abby on September 20, 2014.

Happy birthday, dear Abby! 


Abby at Night: A Full Moon Climb of Absecon Lighthouse

Lighthouses, of course, have been a practical, life-saving tool for many mariners and others who have counted on these aids to navigation, to help guide them through dangerous waters.

But for many (like myself) who are avid lighthouse lovers, there is also something magical about them that helps capture the imagination. My journey of visiting lighthouses began in 2013, when I first visited Absecon Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse in New Jersey, and the third tallest in the United States.

Since then, each year, I have made an effort to experience lighthouses in a different way. In 2015, this included a day-long boat cruise to see 10 lighthouses along the Chesapeake, from the MV Sharps Island Boat.

This year, I asked myself how I wanted to experience a lighthouse in a different way in 2016. And the answer was easy: a nighttime climb!

Some lighthouses offer full moon climbs several times a year during a full moon.

On Friday, September 16, I returned to Absecon Lighthouse for their last full moon climb of 2016.

The doors opened at 6 PM, and the last climb was at 8 PM. I made sure to time the walk from the hotel to the lighthouse just right. I could see the lighthouse from the hotel room, and once I saw the light come on at Absecon (or “Abby” as she is affectionately called), I knew it was time to walk to the lighthouse.

Absecon Lighthouse just as day began to turn to night, September 16, 2016.

Upon arriving to Absecon, it instantly became clear that the lighthouse takes on a different feel at night, than it does during the daytime climbs. As I began the climb to the top, I noticed that the spiral staircase was lit, to guide visitors going up, and coming back down.

Absecon’s glorious spiral staircase, leading you up, and back down, 228 steps.

I took advantage of Absecon’s six landings, where you can stop, catch your breath, look out the windows and experience different views of Atlantic City, and read historical information about the lighthouse and some backstory on the view you are witnessing. Stopping at each landing on this trip to Absecon, was made even more magical by the full moon shining, and the various views of Atlantic City at night, with the lights from the hotels and casinos shining brightly.

On one of the six landings, taking a moment to appreciate the view of Atlantic City,  before making the rest of the way to the top of the lighthouse.

I reached the top and was instantly, and warmly, greeted by Mary J., the volunteer light keeper on duty, and received the “I Saw The Light” card that one always receives upon successfully climbing 228 steps and reaching the top of Absecon Lighthouse.

I stepped out on to the walkway and soaked in the incredible view of the full moon and chatted with other visitors just as in awe as I was. The view was so amazing, I felt I could have stayed out there forever.

Nowhere but to the top: looking out at Atlantic City from the top of Absecon Lighthouse during the Harvest moon climb.

Finally, I stepped back inside and inhaled the view of the first-order fresnel lens I was seeing. Although this was my third time seeing Abby’s fresnel lens, like so many other things about the lighthouse, it takes on another dimension at night, and I imagined Abby’s previous lighthouse keepers climbing the 228 steps with heavy oil canisters, to ignite the light each night as the sun would begin to set.

After a farewell and thank you to Mary J., I made my way back down the spiral staircase. I stopped back by the gift shop to collect the items I had purchased when I first arrived to the lighthouse that night, and walked outside.

Before leaving the lighthouse grounds, I took a few more photos of Abby in all her glory, including her beautiful garden.

If you have never experienced climbing a lighthouse during a full moon, reward yourself by making plans to do so in 2017.


Nature, Uncategorized

Happy Birthday, Abby! Here’s Looking At You.

Absecon Lighthouse officially turned 159 years old on yesterday, January 15.  The lighthouse was first lit on January 15, 1857.

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Above: Absecon Lighthouse’s fourth-order fresnel lens.  September 20, 2014.

Affectionately known as Abby, it is the tallest lighthouse in the Garden State of New Jersey, and the third tallest lighthouse in the United States.

I have a special affinity for Absecon, as it is the first lighthouse I ever visited and climbed. It is the place I spent my birthday for two years in a row, and hope to celebrate more birthdays there.

Above: Video of Absecon Lighthouse on September 20, 2014.

When you reach the top of Abby’s 228 steps, you receive a I Saw The Light card from the volunteer light keeper on duty.  Below are my cards from September 20, 2013 and 2014.



Happy Birthday, Abby!  159 years never looked so good.

May you keep shining brightly.


My view of Absecon Lighthouse at night on September 19, 2013.

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Here’s Looking At You, Fresnel Lens

Today’s post is all about the fresnel lens.

The Fresnel Lens was developed by French physicist Augustin Fresnel.

You can read more about the fresnel lens in the book A Short Brght Flash by Theresa Levitt: A Short Bright Flash

This was my view of the first-order fresnel lens at Absecon lighthouse in Atlantic City, New Jersey on September 20, 2014.

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And this was my capture of the fourth-order fresnel lens inside the tower room at Drum Point lighthouse in Solomons, Maryland on September 22, 2014.

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Finally, from inside the museum beside Drum Point lighthouse, a section dedicated to lighthouses and the fresnel lens.

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Throwback Thursday- Lighthouse Style

On this Throwback Thursday- a look back to Septemeber 19, 2013, and my view of Absecon Lighthouse at night.  Located in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Absecon is the tallest lighthouse in the Garden State, and the third tallest in the United States.

Absecon Lighthouse holds a special affinity for me, as it is the first lighthouse I ever visited.

As the wonderful staff at Absecon are fond of saying- “228 Steps, One Amazing Journey.”