Original Brandywine Shoal Lighthouse
Part of the Lost Lighthouses of New Jersey Series
As early as 1823, a lightship was placed on the trecherous Brandywine Shoals to warn ships away from the deadly shoal. During the late 1820s, the government attempted to place a pile light over the shoal, but stormy seas soon washed it away. Following this unsuccessful experiment, the lightship resumed its vigil, keeping watch over the shoal until 1850. That year, government engineers employed a radical new technique that allowed them to build a durable lighthouse in open water. A forest of special piles with screw-shaped blades at the end were twisted deep into the muddy bottom of the bay. These provided a stable platform for a light tower.
Completed in October of 1850, the Brandywine Shoal Lighthouse stod 46 feet above sea level and guided mariners with a third-order light. To protect the structure from destructive ice floes, construction crews dumped broken stone around the foundation and added an outer "fence" of piles. This concept proved a success, and the building stood up to storms and ice for more than sixty years. It was replaced by a cassion-type tower in 1914. Screw-pile technology would later be used in construction of numerous lighthouses in the muddy Chesapeake Bay and along the Gulf Coast.