The Last Day, by Nicholas Shrady

At mid-morning on November 1st, 1755, while many of Lisbon’s citizens were in church celebrating All Saints Day, a massive earthquake struck the city.  As many of the survivors made their way to the city’s quays to escape the fires that were raging after the earthquake, three tsunamis hit the city and swept many of the survivors into the sea.  It’s estimated that between 15,000 and 60,000 people perished in the earthquake, fires and tsunamis that destroyed Lisbon on that day.

1755_Lisbon_earthquake
Unknown, 1755 Lisbon earthquake, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons

While many of the survivors were just trying to stay alive, one man, Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, a secretary of state to King José I, took charge.  The king asked Carvalho what was to be done.  Carvalho replied, “Bury the dead and feed the living.”

O_marques_de_pombal,_conde_de_Oeiras
Unidentified painter 18th-century portrait painting of men, with Unspecified, Unidentified or Unknown, artist, location and year. Anonymous portuguese school, O marques de pombal, conde de Oeiras, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons

The Last Day, by Nicholas Shrady, is an interesting look at the earthquake and how Carvalho, later appointed Marques de Pombal, took charge, not just of the recovery efforts after the earthquake, but of the country, ruling with an iron hand in the name of a weak king and saved Lisbon and, very possibly, Portugal.  Ignoring those who wanted to abandon the city and move the capital to nearby Belem while, at the same time, battling both the powerful Church and his political enemies, Carvalho oversaw the rebuilding of Lisbon, abolished slavery in Portugal, fostered commerce and rebuilt the military until his political downfall 22 years later.

The book looks at the Catholic Church’s centuries-long control of Portugal that left its citizens in the dark ages, the lopsided trade agreements with England that kept Portugal at a commercial disadvantage and how gold and slaves from Brazil and other Portuguese colonies kept the country afloat while weakening any homegrown commerce Portugal had.  Carvalho, in a frequently brutal way, fought these negative influences on his home country and helped to build it into the nation he believed it could be.  Some of his influence didn’t last; Queen Maria I, successor to Carvalho’s protector King José I, returned much of the power lost under Carvalho to the Catholic Church and the old nobility.  But much of his legacy, not the least of which can be seen in the city of Lisbon, remains.

The Last Day is a fascinating look at the earthquake and the man who saved Lisbon.

Carmo Ruins
The Carmo Convent Ruins, seen from Rossio Square, are a monument to the 1755 earthquake.

Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse, NYC, 2004

In September 2004 my wife and I spent a week on Long Island and made a couple visits to New York City.  One one of the visits we took the Circle Line tour, a boat tour around Manhattan.  One of the landmark+s we passed was Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse, a small lighthouse located along the Hudson River and under the George Washington Bridge.

Little Red Lighthouse HDR Detail and Darken

The current lighthouse was built in 1921.  The George Washington Bridge, completed in 1931, passed right over the little 40′ lighthouse.  The bridge’s navigational lights made the little lighthouse obsolete and it was decommissioned in 1948.  The Coast Guard had intended to dismantle the lighthouse and auction off the parts but public outcry saved the little light, largely due to fans of Hildegarde Swift’s children’s book, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge.

Little Red Lighthouse CFX Early Morning Light

Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and was designated a New York City Landmark in 1991.  In 2002 the lighthouse was relighted by the city.  The little red lighthouse was operational once again.