CAPE MAY — The Cape May Lighthouse, an aid to navigation since 1859 and one of the oldest continually operating lighthouses in the United States, will be hosting a celebration in honor of National Lighthouse Day on Saturday, Aug. 7 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Enjoy family friendly activities including a pirate invasion and a crafts show on the grounds of the Cape May Lighthouse, located in Cape May Point State Park, Lower Township.
Avast ye mateys! Don an eye-patch and watch two buccaneers compete in a sword fight at 11 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. Hands-on, kid friendly activities include arts and crafts projects, pirate-hat making and storytelling. Meet the Cape May Lighthouse Keepers, get your free sample of Rita’s water ice and browse the dozen crafts vendors who are setting up shop on the grounds and selling one-of-a-kind handmade goods including nautical merchandise. Meet representatives from the Cape May County Zoo and learn about wild animals or visit with the MUA and learn to “go green.”
Admission to the activities on the grounds is free. Admission to climb the lighthouse is $7 for adults and $3 for children (ages 3-12). Food will be available for purchase.
In 1857, the Army Corps of Engineers began construction of the Cape May Lighthouse and the beacon was first lit on October 31, 1859. Because of limited federal funds, the Coast Guard began to lease lighthouses around the country to groups willing to maintain and restore the structures. In 1983, the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts (MAC), Victorian Cape May’s leader in historic preservation, expressed interest in restoring the Cape May Lighthouse to its original condition.
In December 1986, the Coast Guard leased the tower to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Division of Parks and Forestry. MAC, in turn, subleased the Lighthouse from the State of New Jersey, with the mission of restoring, maintaining, and opening the structure to the public. MAC opened the ground floor to the public on July 18, 1987, and the full tower on May 28, 1988. With an annual visitation of nearly 100,000 people a year, the Cape May Lighthouse is one of the most popular attractions on the Jersey Cape.
Congress designated National Lighthouse Day on Aug. 7, 1989, marking the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Lighthouse Act and the commissioning of the first Federal lighthouse in the United States. The purpose was to provide recognition for the important role that lighthouses played in the history of this country, and the values of safety, heroism, and American ingenuity that they represent, as well as honoring and encouraging continued restoration efforts for existing lighthouses, many of which had fallen into disrepair.
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