Historical Village To Celebrate Lighthouse Day
On Wednesday, April 13, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Sanibel Historical Village will celebrate Lighthouse Day with speakers and events throughout the day.
Events at the Sanibel Historical Village on April 13 begin with a talk by a Coast Guard representative from Fort Myers Beach at 10:45. The representative will discuss the Coast Guard’s role in keeping lighthouses alive and will tell about the Coast Guard Cutter named Sanibel, stationed at Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
Museum volunteer Hal Theiss will play Henry Shanahan, Sanibel lighthouse keeper. Accompanied by his wife and two sons, Shanahan moved to Sanibel in 1888 and two years later became the assistant lighthouse keeper. When the head keeper resigned in 1892, Shanahan applied for the position but authorities at first denied him because he was illiterate. He threatened to resign and was granted the position. There’s much more to this story, which “Henry Shanahan” himself will explain on Lighthouse Day.
National Lighthouse Day is in August, when communities all over the country take part in ceremonies and festivities in honor of their lighthouses. On August 7, 1789, through an Act of Congress, the Federal Government took over responsibility for building and operating the nation’s lighthouses. The government recognized the importance for ships at sea to find safe harbor during fog and storms. Over the years, lighthouses have saved many ships and an untold number of lives.
Sanibel residents first petitioned for a lighthouse in 1833, but no action was taken. In 1856 the Lighthouse Board recommended a lighthouse on Sanibel, but Congress took no action. In 1877 government workers surveyed the eastern end of the island and reserved it for a lighthouse. Congress finally appropriated funds in 1883. The foundation for the new lighthouse was completed in early 1884, but the ship bringing ironwork for the tower sank two miles from Sanibel. A crew of hard-hat divers from Key West recovered all but two of the pieces for the tower.