Lighthouses, Lightships, and the Gulf of Mexico

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9780963641212: Lighthouses, Lightships, and the Gulf of Mexico

Soon after the Louisiana Purchase, lighthouses were planned and their construction begun along the Gulf Coast to support a burgeoning seaborne commerce. Shifting bars and bayous, soft and muddy bottoms, coral reefs, and periodic hurricanes challenged the skills of the lighthouse designers and builders, as well as the men and women appointed to keep the lights. Over time, because of the numerous natural hazards, often two, sometimes three or even four replacement towers were built at the same station. Lighthouses on the Gulf Coast were challenged, not only by forces of nature, but also by historical events, especially the Civil War. Extinguished as aids to navigation, lighthouses became Confederate lookout posts and Union targets during this period, some were even bombarded. After the war, materials such as cast iron and new technology such as skeletal towers permitted the construction of towers more suited to the Gulf shore's terrain.

Based on extensive research in primary sources, author David L. Cipra presents the history of 80 light stations and 10 lightships along the Gulf coasts of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.

Today, 48 lighthouses are believed to survive along the Gulf. Some of these towers continue as active aids to navigation, although that function is no longer as vital in an age of radio, radar, loran, GPS, and other sophisticated navigational systems. Others serve as centerpieces to parks or historical sites, but all remain as landmarks to their region's maritime heritage.

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David L. Cipra
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