Texas Tower (lighthouse)

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Ambrose Light

A Texas Tower lighthouse is a structure, similar to an off-shore oil platform, used as a platform for a lighthouse.


The first example in the United States was the Buzzards Bay Light, located in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, and commissioned on November 1, 1961. Six other Texas tower lights were constructed:

Rhode Island
New York
North Carolina

Design and construction[edit]

These lights were all constructed at offshore stations previously served by lightships.[1] An attempt to set a caisson light at Diamond Shoals off the North Carolina coast in the late 1880s showed that the techniques of the day were not adequate, and it was not until the 1960s that the Coast Guard attempted to replace the lightships with permanent structures. By that point, experience with offshore oil drilling platforms provided a model.

The six lights were similar in form and, excepting the first, nearly identical in construction. Each consisted of a framework of four steel, concrete-filled piles driven deep into the ocean floor, upon which a square platform was set. This platform contained the living quarters and was assembled from a set of modules. A tower was attached to one corner and housed the light. The roof of the living quarters formed a helipad; a dock was also provided low on the framework. The name of the station was displayed on a large sign on each side of the light, on the side of or just below the platform.

The quarters provided living space for six regular crewmen plus three transients. Normally, four crewmembers were on duty at a time, with regular rotation to shore. In addition to monitoring and maintaining the beacon, the crew also operated weather reporting equipment.

Automation and decommissioning[edit]

While these towers have stood against any storms thus far, two of them have fallen victim to ship collisions. In 1996, Ambrose Light was struck by a Greek oil tanker, damaging it severely enough that it was replaced in 1999 by a new, smaller tower (which itself was struck twice before being demolished by the Coast Guard in 2008). A month after the Ambrose accident, Savannah Light was completely demolished when a container ship struck it.

By that time all of these stations had been automated, beginning with the Diamond Shoals Light in 1977. Inspection of the (then) survivors revealed that four out of five showed substantial deterioration. Brenton Reef Light was demolished in 1992 and replaced with a buoy. The Buzzard Bay Light was demolished and replaced with a smaller tower in 1996; the Diamond Shoals and Frying Pan Shoals lights have been extinguished; both towers still stand and are now privately owned. Chesapeake Light was retrofitted with solar panels and is the only Texas Tower that is an active navigational aid. In conjunction to being a navigational aid, Chesapeake Light is also a NOAA weather station.

The design of the lights is considered obsolete since there is no longer a need for the structure to house the keepers. In 2002-2003, the Chesapeake light tower was used by University of Maryland students for research assignments.


  1. ^ "Texas Towers Replace Lightships in Guarding Shoals." Popular Science, September 1966, p. 123.