A bit of inspiration and a question about lighthouses

I’m in the middle of reading a book of romances set around historical lighthouses. As I read the novellas written by Diana Mills and three other Christian romance authors, I begin to hear the words of an old hymn entitled The Lighthouse, which if you are a Christian like myself, you will remember very well.
After finding a recording of this hymn online, I began giving thanks for the spiritual blessing. After my prayer was finished, I started reading again. As I did so, I pictured myself climbing the narrow steep steps up to the lighthouse.I don’t know why, but I have this strong urge to visit a lighthouse, to know what it feels like to climb to the top of the staircase, and stand up over the seashore, as the lighthouse keepers do. I may not be able to see the ships as they come in, or the light that burns bright during the night, but just the feel of being up there is fascinating.
Here’s a question for you dear readers: What does a modern lighthouse look like.? I don’t want a bunch of pictures, because I can’t see them. I would appreciate it if you could paint a picture of a lighthouse for me with words. If you have any links to videos that describe what a lighthouse looks like so I can “see” it for myself, that would be nice too.Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.
One more question, have you ever been so inspired by what you read, or a picture that forms in your mind that you had to go and experience it for yourself? If so, please share your story, so I can experience this fascinating adventure through your eyes.

16 thoughts on “A bit of inspiration and a question about lighthouses”

  1. I have never been inside a lighthouse. Many have been abandoned or automated. This Old House (PBS) recently showed a short segment about a man who purchased a lighthouse in Boston Harbor and is refinishing it as a summer house. The light is still functional and he has agreed to let it continue to operate.

    I guess the closest I’ve come to that kind of climb was at the observation towers in Gettysburg. I think the tallest is about 75 feet, but from the top, you can look out over various sections of the historic battle field. Having a somewhat aerial view is a very different perspective. We had toured the battle field on the ground, and on horseback, but the view at any one point is limited by the terrain. From the tower, you could more easily imagine soldiers advancing and defending and moving through the railroad cut.

    I’ve been in very tall observation towers, but I think the shorter ones at Gettysburg offered a view that could be processed easier. The views from hundreds of feet up is much harder to appreciate (for me). It’s like looking at a map.

    I’m not sure it this is helpful. I catch myself using visual references in the description. I hope I’m not writing something that is frustrating to read.

    • How did you climb to the top of the observation towers. The lighthouses in these novellas have steep stairs made of either wood or iron. I have pictured myself climbing up to the top of one of these staircases, but I can’t see myself in the lantern room, but I see myself standing out on the catwalk. I’ve felt a bit inspired to write a story with a lighthouse in the setting, but I am not sure how to do that effectively, accept with the images in my mind. What do you think?

      • The towers were an open metal square framework with stairs and some short catwalks on all four sides. The tower and the stairs narrowed as we got to the top, There was a catwalk around the four sides near the top and the railings held engraved metal plaques that told the story of the land you could see from that direction. There are also monuments at Gettysburg and I believe there are or were lighthouses where the stairs are stone. The lighthouse featured in the PBS show has seven foot thick granite walls!

        • So I take it that a person would be safe from a storm up there while keeping the light burning all night in the house on This Old House, or any other lighthouse? I think I understand why mama likes lighthouse whatnots.

          • Most of the active lighthouses have survives over 100 years and they tend not to have any other protection from the weather beyond their walls. I think you would be safe.

          • Through your visual references, you have just given me a short “sound-seeing” tour of the observation towers, and now I picture these towers with a lantern room, like the lighthouses in my book of historical Christian romances. Thanks for your help and inspiration.

          • Hey Dan, you just peaked my curiosity. Why do they call the landing at the top of a set of lighthouse or observation deck stairs a catwalk? Believe me when I say that I have no idea why this subject is so fascinating. I guess it’s a facet of my climbing interest. To understand what I’m talking, read my post about climbing dreams being the inspiration for my novel called A Journey of Faith.

  2. I’m not sure ‘modern’ lighthouses are being built. I’ve seen a couple in Maine and one on Lake Superior in northern Michigan. I’m going to look through my notes and photos, and check a few things online, then I will come back and describe the lighthouses I’ve seen. I don’t recall having access to the towers or catwalks, but we were able to walk through the historically preserved living quarters where one or two families typically lived. Depending on the location, it could be a very isolated existence.

    I have seen photos of lighthouses in winter – some are quite close to water’s edge where the waves can get so strong and winds blow so fiercely in below zero weather that the exterior becomes encrusted with thick uneven layers of ice and snow. While they pose a certain rugged beauty, they also speak to some of nature’s harshest conditions under which these stoic structures exist.

    • Thanks for describing these lighthouses for me, even if I can’t experience one for myself, I can possibly get a feel for what it was like to be inside one of these structures.

      • I wasn’t sure from your post whether you think the stairs are on the exterior of the tower or are enclosed. I’m pretty sure they are all enclosed but I will verify that too. My memory is often foggy on details much to my dismay. I will have some info for you in a day or two.

        • In the book I read, the stairs to the towers were enclosed. a character had to open a door then climb up the steep, sometimes narrow staircase to the catwalk and lantern room.

          • The following is taken from the website for the Point Iroquois Lighthouse website, which is one I visited and thought I climbed the stairs. If you need more information, please let me know.

            The Lighthouse watches over Lake Superior at the mouth of St, Mary’s River and the entrance (from the west) to the Soo Locks (heading into Lake Muchigan). It was un operation from 1857 until 1962 when a beacon was placed further out in the water.

            Because this canal passage was so busy, the original wooden housing structure was expanded to accomodate an assistant keeper and his family. A government-funded school on The Point served both keepers’ children and those of nearby fisherman.

            The housing is a large two-story white wooden slat building with a red roof sloping over gables and house additions. The attached brick round tower is white with a black parapet and lantern room. The conical tower is 16 feet in diameter at the base, stands 51 feet tall to the lantern deck and 65 feet tall overall.

            Visitors can climb 72 steps that spiral the interior of the tower. Now I remember, going up the steps was easy with a hand on the cool brick wall. I have a little vertigo, and the standing, walking space around the lantern was very tight – little space to move or walk with 4 of us who up there, and I felt uncomfortable standing at the edge of the waist-high wall to look out across the lake or inland to the hills. The house and tower were set back from water’s edge; i’d say we were 20-30 feet from shore. Other lighthouses, like one we visited in Maine, stood right in top of the huge boulders at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.

            Walking back down those tower steps took concentration. The spiral design left little area on the step for one’s foot – we had to hold onto the railing a place each foot sideways on each step to have room for our feet.

            Exhilarating and scary at the same time. I hope this helps.

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