Although the idea to build a memorial lighthouse honoring Christopher Columbus was first written about as far back as 1852, it was not until 1923 at the Fifth International Conference on American States held at Santiago, Chile where the plan finally materialized. The resolution of that plan was finally submitted to the Pan American Union on March 2, 1927. It was decided at that time to conduct a world-wide competition open to all architects from all countries for a final design. As a result, in the preliminary competition 455 architects from 45 countries participated.
The first International Jury of Award met in Madrid, Spain in April of 1929 where all the drawings were put on exhibit for the public to view. However, the Italian government also wanted to exhibit the plans, and they were moved to an exhibit in Rome in August of that year.
Because of a combination of events, including the Great Depression followed by the outbreak of World War II and a corrupt government in the Dominican Republic, construction of the lighthouse did not start until 1948. However, almost as fast as the construction started, it slowed almost to a stop followed by years of political strife. When a new government took power in the Dominican Republic in 1966, there were high hopes when construction again resumed, but it also soon came to a halt. It wasn’t until 1986 that the first stones were laid to start construction of what would soon be the monumental lighthouse.
Finally, in 1992, the Columbus Memorial Lighthouse was dedicated. The end result does not look like the typical lighthouse that we are all familiar with, nor is it anywhere close to the many original designs, some of which we are sharing with you here, that were among those submitted during the competition in 1929. (All historic images are from the Lighthouse Digest archives.)
This story appeared in the
November 2010 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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