Puerto Plata Lighthouse
Built in 1879 by R. Deeley & Co., a New York firm, the Puerto Plata Lighthouse once served as a beacon for ships traversing the Atlantic. First lit on September 9, 1879, the cast iron lighthouse functioned through a system of revolving light and shadows given off by a kerosene lamp. Puerto Plata Lighthouse stands alongside sixteenth-century city walls, illustrating the maritime and fortification history of the island. The surrounding land is a national park and is home to the San Felipe Fortress-Museum. The lighthouse battles continuous exposure to environmental threats because of its position along the coastline: hurricanes and cyclones have caused structural damage; daily exposure to salty sea air has led to cast iron erosion. Although the beacon was restored by the Cultural Heritage Office in 1979, the original spiral staircase eventually fell into ruin due to lack of consistent maintenance.
How We Helped
With funding from American Express, WMF aided the Cultural Heritage Office of Puerto Plata to preserve the lighthouse. Metaldom, a local metalwork firm, used plans from the 1870s as their guide through the restoration process. Although many of the original parts had deteriorated, collapsed, or had been removed from the structure, workers were able to reuse much of the remaining fabric, including the original Doric columns that supported the iron structure. Restoration of missing elements like the spiral staircase and the reconstruction of an electric signaling system were necessary. Additional architectural lighting was added to enhance the view of the monument. Long-term plans involve the inclusion of the beacon in guided tours of the San Felipe Fortress-Museum. Funds generated by tourism would ensure continuing conservation of the monument.
Why It Matters
The structure stands out among other iron beacons in its monumental size: at 24.38 meters high, on a 6.20 meter base, the lighthouse rises 41.75 meters above sea level. It is also different from a majority of lighthouses constructed in the area because of its original, innovative use of kerosene for illumination. Until the 1960s, it guided ships through their Atlantic Ocean navigations. It is the only work of its kind in the Dominican Republic, and one of the few cast iron lighthouses still standing in the Americas. The Cultural Heritage Office of Puerto Plata has called it a symbol of the values of the city of Puerto Plata, illuminating the pathways of progress.