locations of lighthouses were chosen because of a specific
need in that area, usually to guide ships to a particular
harbor or warn them of local hazards. More specifically, site
location was based on the type of lighthouse that was required
and the type of lighthouse was often determined by its location.
For example, lighthouses on the east coast of the United States
were built well over 100 feet tall because the locations where
they needed to be built were primarily flat with low elevations.
On the other hand, lighthouses on the west coast of the United
States were often not built to be very tall, because the sites
chosen for their construction were already well above sea-level,
giving them an overall height that sometimes reached hundreds
Another common factor in determining lighthouse
sites was poor visibility attributed to foggy conditions.
The Point Reyes Lighthouse in California, built on what is
considered by many to be the foggiest place on Earth, was
constructed down the side of a perilous rock peninsula to
help guide passing ships safely by the cliffs. Similarly,
the Sambro Island Lighthouse site was chosen to help warn
mariners of the nearby dangerous shoals draped in heavy Nova
Scotia fog, as well as to guide ships into the second-largest
ice-free harbor in the world.
Frequent shipwrecks and the loss of lives
such as those that occurred off the Northern California coast
in the 19th and early 20th century were also a common factor
in determining appropriate sites for lighthouses. The Punta
Gorda Lighthouse, on the Northern California coast, was established
in the early 20th century for no other reason than this, though
today is stands hollow and alone, abandoned since the 1950s.