National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior

National Register of Historic Places Program

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.


Maritime Heritage Month 2012

NPS Cultural Resource Programs and National Parks

Maritime Program
Grants and Preservation
Travel Itineraries and Lesson Plans
Visit National Parks with Maritime Theme



Explore maritime history through the National Park Service's Maritime Heritage Program:

[photo] Maritime Heritage Program

America's maritime heritage...

• is about the people and communities that built ships, shipped goods, sailed ships, kept lights, rescued wrecks, fished waters, and kept the sea lanes open
• is about the use of waterways for commerce, transportation, defense, and recreation
• is about the traditions and skills, arts and crafts, artifacts and documents, and buildings, structures, and vessels that reflect our past maritime endeavors what we help to interpret and preserve.


National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act
(NHLPA) Program

NHLPA recognizes the cultural, recreational, and educational value associated with historic light station properties by allowing these to be transferred at no cost to federal agencies, state and local governments, nonprofit corporations, educational agencies, and community development organizations. Learn More about the NHLPA

Since the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act (NHLPA) program was implemented in 2001, nearly 50 historic light stations have been transferred at no cost to qualified stewards. An additional 20 lights have been sold, with preservation covenants, at public auction. Five light stations were transferred in 2009, while three were sold at auction. For the 2011 program year, ten historic light stations have been offered for no-cost conveyance through NHLPA.

Punta Tuna Light House, Puerto Rico

Punta Tuna Lighthouse was constructed in 1893 as a 3rd order lighthouse that showed a white light with a group of two flashes. It served as the most eastern primary light that terminated Puerto Rico’s southern light belt, and at the same time, was the southern light that formed the Island's eastern light belt. This was formed by another primary light, Cabo San Juan, and 3 minor lights (Puerto Ferro, Punta Mulas, and Isla Culebrita). The structure, built around the tower, was the dwelling for one 1st class and a 3rd class keeper.

The octagonal tower's base is a square 3.9 mts. It spans to a 2.5 mts in diameter cast-iron winding stairway that goes 14.5 mts. up to a cast-iron, copper, and glass 3rd order lantern. The tower has a cement gallery with a cast-iron balustrade. The original illuminating lenticular lens, still in use, is a Barbier, Bernard & Cie. 1891 3rd order flashing instrument with 1 mt. in diameter. The lens has 6 flashing panels. Each panel in the central drum has 7 elements. Each panel above the central drum has 11 prisms and 4 below. The flashes are produced by the entire revolving lens.

The original clock work was a revolving mechanism in use until 1939. The original ball bearing mechanism was changed in 1927 for a semicircular groove raceway. The clock cord descended through the iron column in the center of the tower's stairway. Surprisingly, the original lantern and cast-iron balustrade, lens, parts of the revolving mechanism, clock work and cord, clock weight are in situ (remain intact in their original position).


Faro de Punta Tuna, Puerto Rico
courtesy of Javier Vazquez via Flickr
Furthermore, the clock work is in working condition including the ball and friction governor. Also, most of the original wood work in the interior of structure, excluding beams and windows, are the original ones. The decorative elements in the gray and white structure once more respond to neo-classicism: proportionate, unelaborated cornice, and a plain pediment. The most striking decoration is the tower's bracketed cornice. Architecturally and mechanically it almost remains as originally built.

The stark building dramatically contrasts with its lush tropical surrounding. The lighthouse is positioned in the tip of a rock which cliffs plunge into the sea from 22 mts. The Caribbean Sea embraces the rock and its structure at west, south, and east. And, considering its natural multi-faceted scenario makes it a unique site within the actual system.

Grants and Preservation

Overfalls Lightship Receives Preserve America and Save America's Treasures Grants

Overfalls Lightship by M Mahffie via Flickr 


Lightships were essential partners with America's lighthouses as part of the federal government's commitment to safe navigation on the nation's coasts and on the Great Lakes. While the first American lighthouse dates to the colonial era, the use of lightships in the United States did not begin until 1819 with Congressional authorization for the construction of three light vessels. Britian had been employing lightships since 1731 and by the early 1800's their use had been established throughout Europe; light ships even had a prototype in the ancient world. Moored over treacherous reefs, or marking the narrow approaches to a channel or harbor entrance, lightships were placed where lighthouses could not be built or placed in areas too far offshore for a lighthouse's lens to reach. Between 1820 and 1983, the U.S. government established 116 lightship stations on three coasts and on the Great Lakes - a significantly lower number than the estimated 1,500 lighthouses built in the United States. In all, 179 lightships were built between 1820 and the 1952 and in 1909, the heyday of the United States Lighthouse Service, there were 51 lightships (46 on the eastern seaboard and five on the Pacific Coast) on station in the United States.

Lewes, Delaware Maritime Heritage Trail Signage
courtesy of Save America's Treasures
The City of Lewes’s downtown historic district, with nearly four centuries of maritime history, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The city contains an impressive number of historic places including the historic Overfalls Lightship, one of only 17 remaining lightships in the country. The Lightship Overfalls, featured in the Maritime Trail, also received a Save America’s Treasures grant in 2003 awarding $275,000. The Preserve America grant funded heritage tourism planning to create sustainability for the community by offering unique visitor experience year-round. They developed an integrated multi-media approach that includes audio tours, brochures with detailed maps, interpretative signage, and radio broadcasts.

Lightships, which served as floating lighthouses in areas where lighthouses could not be built, made critical contributions to the country in the days before high-tech navigational aids were available. Only about 17 of the original 179 U.S. lightships still survive. Built in 1938, the Overfalls Lightship, was the last lightship built for the U.S. Lighthouse Service and served most of its life in the Coast Guard. In 2005 the Overfalls Maritime Museum Foundation applied for a Save America’s Treasure grant, through the National Park Service, and received a grant of $275,000 to support their efforts to clean, repair and restore it to its original condition. The full $1.2 million restoration was completed in 2010 and the ship was moved to its new home by Canalfront Park in Lewes, DE, where it is currently open to the public.

Read more about Lightships of the US.

Heritage Education Services (Travel Itineraries and Teaching with Historic Places Lesson Plans)

Teaching With Historic Places

This program offers a series of award-winning lesson plans that use places listed in the National Register to enliven the study of history, social studies, and geography. TwHP has ten ready-to-use lesson plans, available for free downloading, that examine different aspects of maritime history. Titles include:

TwHP Maritime History Feature

Forts of Old San Juan: Guardians of the Caribbean
Discover how Spanish fortifications on the island of Puerto Rico helped protect Spain's expanding interests in the New World.

La versión en español Los Castillos del Viejo San Juan: Guardianes del Caribe

Liberty Ships and Victory Ships, America's Lifeline in War
Learn how the United States mobilized a massive construction effort to build a large merchant fleet to serve in war and peace.

Life on an Island: Early Settlers Off the Rock-Bound Coast of Maine
Discover how early settlers survived on Maine's coastal islands despite harsh living conditions.

Little Kinnakeet Lifesaving Station: Home to Unsung Heroes
Learn about the United States Lifesaving Service daring rescues to save imperiled lives from the "Graveyard of the Atlantic."

Navesink Lighthouse and Robbins Reef Lighthouse: Lighting the Way through New York Bay
Learn about two historic lighthouses that illustrate how technological advancements contributed to maritime safety and about the isolated, often routine, but sometimes heroic lives led by their keepers.

Travel Itineraries

Travel to historic places that convey the rich cultural heritage of our American Indian population with inspiring stories of their perseverance across America.

Maritime History of Massachusetts Travel Itinerary

Florida Shipwrecks

Along the Georgia-Florida Coast (OR order printed brochure)

James River Plantations, VA

Cane River National Heritage Area (Louisiana)

Ohio and Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor

National Parks with a Maritime Theme or Components

Featured Park: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

Ships, Lighthouses, Life-Saving Stations, Coastal Fortifications, Canals
and other Maritime Resources within the National Park System
Listed by State
Alaska | California | District of Columbia | Florida | Georgia | Guam |
Hawaii | Illinois | Indiana | Maine | Maryland | Massachusetts|
Michigan | Mississippi | Multi-State | New Jersey | New York |
North Carolina | Ohio | Puerto Rico | South Carolina |
Tennessee | Texas | Virgin Islands | Virginia | Washington | Wisconsin

Aleutian World War II National Historic Area

Cabrillo National Monument Channel Islands National Park

Fort Point National Historic Site

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Point Reyes National Seashore Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial

San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park

District of Columbia
John Ericsson Memorial (National Capital Parks - Central)


Biscayne National Park

Canaveral National Seashore

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument

De Soto National Memorial

Dry Tortugas National Park Fort Caroline National Memorial

Cumberland Island National Seashore

Fort Frederica National Monument

Fort Pulaski National Monument

War in the Pacific National Memorial


Kalaupapa National Historical Park

USS Arizona Memorial

Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore


Acadia National Park

St. Croix Island International Historic Site

Assateague Island National Seashore

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

Fort Washington Park (National Capital Parks - East)


Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area

Boston National Historic Park

Cape Cod National Seashore

Essex National Heritage Area

New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park

Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Isle Royale National Park Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Vicksburg National Military Park

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park - Potomac River, DC, MD, WV

Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network - Chesapeake Bay Watershed, DC, MD, NY, PA, VA, WV

Gulf Islands National Seashore - FL & MS

New Jersey
Gateway National Recreation Area, Sandy Hook Unit

New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail Route

New York
Castle Clinton National Monument

Fire Island National Seashore

Gateway National Recreation Area, Staten Island Unit

Statue of Liberty National Monument

North Carolina
Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Lookout National Seashore

Also within park boundaries, but not accessible to the public, is the Portsmouth Lifesaving Station

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial

Puerto Rico
San Juan National Historic Site

South Carolina
Fort Moultrie National Monument

Fort Sumter National Monument

Fort Donelson National Battlefield

Padre Island National Seashore

Virgin Islands
Christiansted National Historic Site

Assateague Island National Seashore Assateague Island National Seashore also includes the relocated Pope Island Boathouse; the site of the North Beach Lifesaving Station; the site of the Green Run Inlet Lifesaving Station; and ruins of the Seaboard Oil and Guano Company fish factory.

Colonial National Historical Park

George Washington Memorial Parkway

Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore


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