Digest>Archives> December 2007

Collecting Nautical Antiques

Lighthouse Establishment Boundary Markers

By Jim Claflin


You can see an enlarged version of this picture by clicking here.
>> Click to enlarge <<

One never knows what is around the next corner. Years ago we obtained a brass toilet paper holder, cast with the letters "USLHS" on the bracket. We wondered at the time what other types of unusual items might be out there. Last month we came across another rare and unusual piece — a U.S. Light House Establishment benchmark or boundary marker.

You can see an enlarged version of this picture by clicking here.
>> Click to enlarge <<

A bench mark is a point of reference for a measurement. Used for surveying, the bench mark was a permanent marker placed by a surveyor at a precisely known vertical elevation. These reference points were sometimes chiseled into a wall, or more typically, marked by such small brass disks, that were permanently attached to a stable foundation, such as a concrete post. These benchmarks were used in surveying for lighthouse placement and construction, and were left in place for future reference as well (much like the US Geologic Survey benchmarks one can find on mountain tops).

This benchmark dates to the 1850-1900 period and is solid brass, measuring 4" in diameter. Cast into the top are the letters "U.S.L.H.E." In the center is an inset, marking the exact height. The bottom has three 2" spines protruding down, used to anchor it into a concrete or granite base.

Though this market could also have seen use as a boundary marker (corner point), the Light House Establishment more often used a granite marker set into the ground to mark the corner. The granite marker measured about 6" square at the top, and extended four feet into the ground, leaving the top 6" or so protruding. Like the benchmark, the granite marker was engraved with the letters "U.S.L.H.E." on the top.

These markers can still be found on lighthouse property if one looks closely beneath the grass. Until two years ago when underground telephone lines were upgraded in front of Nantucket’s Brant Point Light Station, the granite marker (shown here) marked the boundary on the road at the entrance to the beach point.

A connection box was placed in the spot where the marker was.

I wonder where that marker is today.

These markers surely date to 150 years ago and we want to encourage groups that find them on their property to protect them as they are extremely rare.

You know that the Lighthouse Service has an ensign or pennant, but did you know that the Life Saving Service also had one? Next month we will discover how the Life Saving Service identified their stations along the coasts.

Like our column? Have suggestions for future subjects?

Please send in your suggestions and questions, or a photograph of an object that you need help dating or identifying. We will include the answer to a selected inquiry as a regular feature each month in our column.

Jim Claflin is a recognized authority on antiques of the U.S. Lighthouse Service, Life-Saving Service, Revenue Cutter Service and early Coast Guard. In addition to authoring and publishing a number of books on the subject, Jim is the owner of Kenrick A Claflin & Son Nautical Antiques. In business since 1956, he has specialized in antiques of this type since the early 1990s. He may be contacted by writing to him at 1227 Pleasant Street, Worcester, MA 01602, or by calling (508) 792-6627. You may also contact him by email: jclaflin@lighthouseantiques.net or visit his web site at www.lighthouseantiques.net

This story appeared in the December 2007 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.

All contents copyright © 1995-2024 by Lighthouse Digest®, Inc. No story, photograph, or any other item on this website may be reprinted or reproduced without the express permission of Lighthouse Digest. For contact information, click here.

to Lighthouse Digest

USLHS Marker Fund

Lighthouse History
Research Institute

Shop Online

Subscribe   Contact Us   About Us   Copyright Foghorn Publishing, 1994- 2024   Lighthouse Facts     Lighthouse History