Celebrate A Quarter Millennium Of The Sandy Hook Lighthouse At Gateway National Recreation Area

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Still going strong after 250 years./NPS

Quick, how old is the Sandy Hook Lighthouse at Gateway National Recreation Area in New Jersey?

If you answered 250 years, pat yourself on your back. This Saturday that anniversary will be marked from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Sandy Hook.

"For 250 years, the Sandy Hook Lighthouse has stood as a beacon of hope, surviving a revolution, hurricanes and two world wars," said Gateway Superintendent Jennifer T. Nersesian. "Since its first lighting on 1764 it has guided thousands of ships to safe harbor, keeping countless lives safe. The nation's oldest standing and operating lighthouse inspires us to weather adversity, such as how Fort Hancock and our neighboring communities have survived challenges like Hurricane Sandy."

The celebration begins at 11 a.m. on the southwest lawn of the lighthouse. The Fifes and Drums Band of the Old Barracks in Trenton, N.J., will open the ceremony with Colonial-era marching music, while high school students from Sandy Hook's own Marine Academy of Science & Technology (MAST) will present a color guard. Speakers will welcome the public, followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11:45 a.m.

Parking and all programs are free. Visitors should tell guard house employees that they are attending the lighthouse event and they will not be charged. Several activities are planned, including:

* Lighthouse tours from noon to 4:30 pm. To get to the top, visitors must climb 95 steps on a spiral staircase and a nine-rung ladder. Children must be at least 48 inches tall to get to the top.

* Musket and cannon demonstrations by Revolutionary War living historians.

* Musket drills and Colonial era children's games on the main parade ground.

* 1700s bateau (flat-bottom boat) demonstrations on the bayside beach, opposite Guardian Park Picnic Area.

* Talks on the life of a lighthouse keeper and the history of colonial lighthouses by U.S. Lighthouse Society President Wayne Wheeler, held in a tent near the Lighthouse Keepers Quarters.

* In the Lighthouse Keepers Quarters: exhibits, gift shop (including 250th anniversary souvenirs).

The original whale oil lamps of the Sandy Hook Lighthouse were first lighted on June 11, 1764. Today, an electric light aids ships as they sail in and out of New York Harbor. Technology continues to change at the lighthouse today, with a webcam in the process of installation and the creation of the park's Instagram page (GatewayNPS). Both will be online by this Wednesday, June 11, the true 250th anniversary.

Sandy Hook Lighthouse was the fifth of 11 lighthouses built in the 13 former British colonies between 1716 and 1773. It has literally stood the test of time to become the oldest standing and operating lighthouse in the United States, surviving the American Revolution when Sandy Hook became a base for British troops from 1776 to 1783. In 1964, its bicentennial year, the lighthouse was designated a National Historic Landmark.