It may not be in the continental United States, but what has been allowed to happen to the Hams Bluff Lighthouse in the U.S. Virgin Islands is without a doubt a “National Disgrace.”
Built in 1915 by the government of Denmark in what was then known as the Danish West Indies, the ownership of the Hams Bluff Lighthouse went to the United States one year later when Denmark sold the islands to the United States.
Located on the northwestern coast of St. Croix Island, the structure is located in a mostly undeveloped part of the island consisting of trees and shrubs. With the exception of one quarter of an acre of land surrounding the lighthouse, in 1981 the U.S. Coast Guard transferred the rest of the property to the U.S. Navy.
Ever since the Coast Guard took over the duties of the U.S. Lighthouse Service in 1939 they have maintained a light at the site, but they have deliberately neglected the tower, which is hard to understand, especially during a time when the government of the United States was trying to work so closely with the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands, during their ongoing self-governing constitutional issues. It also seems that the U.S. Navy could have come to the aid of the lighthouse, but they did not.
Our letters to the Secretary of the Navy and the Commandant of the Coast Guard about Hams Bluff Lighthouse went unanswered. Surprisingly, a letter to Lighthouse Digest, from the Member of Congress of the U.S. Virgin Islands did not address the issue of restoration, other than giving an indication that she felt it was the Coast Guard’s responsibility.
Today the 35-foot cast iron tower is a rusting hulk that may beyond a state of restoration. We cannot understand why such a popular tourist destination territory has allowed the situation to deteriorate to the state that it is in today.
The Hams Bluff Lighthouse has been on the Lighthouse Digest Doomsday List of Endangered lighthouses for many years. The day may soon come when it will be removed from the list, not because it has been saved, but because it has collapsed.
This story appeared in the
May/Jun 2015 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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