Chesapeake Bay Lighthouse Project

Other Area Lights and Lightships


Delaware Breakwater & Harbor of Refuge (South) Breakwater Lighthouses

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 in 1999.

Lightship Overfalls

Lightship Overfalls, LV 118 / WAL 539
(moved to) Lewes, DE
cir. 1938

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 Lighthouse
Fenwick Island, DE
cir. 1858

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.

Assateague Lighthouse

Assateague Lighthouse
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Assateague Island, VA
cir. 1867

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

Lightship Portsmouth, LV 101 / WAL 524
(moved to) The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum, Portsmouth, VA
cir. 1916

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 Lighthouse

Replica - Lazaretto Point Lighthouse
Baltimore, MD
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.

(U.S. Coast Guard Historian's page - Lazaretto Point Light)


Copyright © 2001, Matthew B. Jenkins