Photo by Joseph Evangelista/Courtesy of MAC
CAPE MAY – Celebrate the majestic beacons that are America’s maritime treasures – lighthouses – during National Lighthouse Day on Sunday, Aug. 7 and enjoy special family friendly activities at the Cape May Lighthouse from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
An aid to navigation since 1859 and one of the oldest continually operating lighthouses in the United States, the historic Cape May Lighthouse is hosting a day of family activities and a crafts show at the base of the lighthouse, sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC). Hands-on, kid-friendly activities include pirate hat making, sing-alongs and games. Meet the Cape May Lighthouse keepers and browse among crafts vendors who are setting up shop on the grounds and selling one-of-a-kind handmade goods including jewelry, photography, original artwork, nautical and nature-themed merchandise.
Admission to the activities on the grounds is free. Admission to climb the lighthouse is $8 for adults and $5 for children (ages 3-12). The Cape May Lighthouse is located in Cape May Point State Park, Lower Township.
In 1857, the Army Corps of Engineers began construction of the Cape May Lighthouse and the beacon was first lit on October 31, 1859. By the 1980s, 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 & Humanities (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 some 80,000 people a year who pay to climb (and perhaps as many more who visit the lighthouse and grounds without climbing), the Cape May Lighthouse is one of the most popular attractions on the Jersey Cape. Some 2.5 million visitors have climbed to the top since May, 1988.
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 have 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.
The Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC) is a multifaceted not-for-profit organization committed to promoting the preservation, interpretation and cultural enrichment of the Cape May region for its residents and visitors. MAC membership is open to all. For information about MAC’s year-round schedule of tours, festivals and special events, call (609) 884-5404 or (800) 275-4278, or visit MAC’s website at www.capemaymac.org. For information about restaurants, accommodations and shopping, call the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May at (609) 884-5508 or visit www.capemaychamber.com. For information about historic accommodations, contact Cape May Historic Accommodations at www.capemaylodging.com