Delaware Breakwater & Harbor of Refuge (South) Breakwater Lighthouses
Off Cape Henlopen State Park, Lewes, DE
cir. 1885 and 1926
Construction of the breakwater at Cape Henlopen in Lewes, Delaware was authorized
by Congress in 1825. This provided a place where ships could run for shelter and soon
came to be known as "Harbor of Refuge". The second breakwater wall was built in 1892 to
expand the harbor. An earlier tower lighthouse, the Cape
Henlopen Light, had been built on shore in 1767. However, erosion took its toll
and it had to be to be condemned, eventually collapsing in 1926.
Given the commercial importance of the Delaware River and the exposed location
of the Cape, a caisson light was selected to mark the the breakwater.
The reddy-brown "Delaware Breakwater Light" was completed in 1885
and a fourth order Fresnel lens was exhibited. The tower
stands 49 feet high. This light was deactivated in 1996.
An earlier tower had originally been built in 1886 as the Southern Breakwater Light.
However it was badly damaged by a storm in 1920 and had to be re-built.
The white, iron plate, tower of the Harbor of Refuge (South) Breakwater Light that we
see today was completed in 1926. This light stands 76 feet high and is still
an active navigational aid. The Coast Guard restored the exterior of both lights
This 115 foot ship was built in 1938 by Rice Brothers in East Boothbay, Maine
for the contract price of $223,900. She was powered by a Cooper-Bessemer, 8 cylinder,
400 BHP, diesel engine and was capable of 9 knots. She was assigned to several
stations throughout her career, bearing the name of each station during the assignment:
1938 - 1957: Cornfield Point (CT);
1958 - 1962: Cross Rip (MA);
1962 - 1972: Boston (MA);
This was the last lightship built by the Lighthouse Service before it
was merged with the U.S. Coast Guard.
Like other lightships, during Word War II she remained on station with no
armament. After 34 years of service she was retired in 1972. The following
year she was donated to the Lewes Historical Society in Delaware and put on
display with the name "Overfalls" even though she had never been assigned to that
station. She is now located off Front Street, west of the Cape May Ferry Terminal in
Lewes, Delaware. Volunteers are working to preserve the vessel.
(It is interesting to note that the lightship "Portsmouth", now on display in VA,
bears the name of a station that never existed, while it had actually served at
the Overfalls station.)
Fenwick Island Lighthouse
Fenwick Island, DE
This 87 foot tower was completed in August 1858 and fitted with a
third order Fresnel lens. Two keepers dwellings stand next to the tower, as
the duties were shared.
The lamp underwent a conversion from lard oil to kerosene in 1879.
In 1940 it was automated and both keepers houses were sold. The Coast Guard
deactivated the light in 1978 and turned it over to the State of Delaware. It is now
maintained by the Friends of Fenwick Island Lighthouse who restored the
third order lens and relit the lamp in 1982.
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Assateague Island, VA
The first lighthouse built atop this 22 foot bluff, was a 45
foot stone tower completed in 1833. However, in light of growing commerce
and the number of shipwrecks, it proved inadequate and was replaced
by the current 142 foot brick structure in 1867. Assateague, as a barrier island,
is constantly changing and southward growth of the island in the intervening century
and a half have left the light stranded 5 miles from Chincoteague Inlet. As an Eastern
seaboard lighthouse it's unique red and white striping distinguish it as a day marker.
In 1963 the original Fresnel Lens was replaced by a rotating beacon. The lighthouse is
managed by the U.S. Coast Guard and is still in use today.
Lightship Portsmouth, LV 101 / WAL 524
(moved to) The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum, Portsmouth, VA
This 102 foot ship was built in 1916 by Pusey and Jones in Wilmington, Delaware
for a contract price of $108,507. Originally, powered by a 200 HP Meitz and
Weiss 4 cylinder, direct reversing kerosene engine, she was capable 8 knots.
She was assigned to several stations throughout her career, bearing the name of
each station during her assignment:
1916 - 1924: Cape Charles (VA);
1925 - 1926: Relief / not used (VA);
1926 - 1951: Overfalls (DE);
1951 - 1963: Stonehorse Shoal (MA);
During her career she was struck numerous times by other vessels (which was fairly
common for lightships). She underwent several overhauls and in 1944 was repowered
with a Cooper-Bessemer 315 HP diesel engine. Its interesting to note that during World War II
she stayed on station with no armament. Finally, exactly 48 years to the day, after her launch,
she was decommissioned in 1964. She was donated to the City of Portsmouth, VA at their
request and given the pseudo name "Portsmouth". (While Portsmouth was her original home
port when stationed at Cape Charles, VA, there has never been an active lightship
Portsmouth.) In 1986 she was set in concrete on shore and put on display
as part of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum.
Replica - Lazaretto Point Lighthouse
Original cir. 1831, Replica 1985
The lighthouse tower at Lazaretto Point was built in 1831 by John Donahoo. It stood 31
feet high and was accompanied by a small keepers dwelling and fog bell tower.
It was once one of the main navigational aids for entering Baltimore. As construction
on the point progressed, the lighthouse became partially obscured and of limited use.
It was torn down in 1929 and replaced by a steel tower, which in its turn, was torn
down in 1954.
Lazaretto Point's significance extends beyond the lighthouse. In 1863 it became
one of the main lighthouse depots for the Bay. As such, many of the Bays screwpile
lighthouses were constructed and repaired here. Numerous lighthouse tenders docked
and resupplied here. And the yard was used for delivery and storage of caissons,
buoys, and many varied supplies. Therefore, most of the central Bay lighthouses
have some connection to Lazaretto Point. In the 1920s, as lighthouses steadily
became automated, the Lazaretto facility was cut back and much of its workload
shifted to Portsmouth. It was eventually closed down in 1958 and the land was
sold to a commercial company. The current replica of Donahoo's original
lighthouse was erected in 1985 by the owners of Rukert Terminals Corporation
in memory of their father Norman G. Rukert Sr. and as a tribute to the heritage
of the Point.