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!