Tucker's Island Lighthouse
Part of the Lost Lighthouses of New Jersey Series
Sometimes entire towns were swept away with the lighthouses that were built to serve them. This is what happened at Tucker's Island, an old-fashioned resort on the south Jersey Shore. Beginning in 1868 and for nearly sixty years afterward, the Tucker's Island Lighthouse guided vessels along the New Jersey Coast. Then, in 1927, it fell into the sea. The collapse of the lighthouse removed the last human hold on Tucker's Island, which had at one time nutured a small but vibrant community. Soon afterwards the Atlantic swept away the island itself.
Although few persons remember it now, Tucker's Island was one of the first resorts in America, if not the world. Ephraim Morse, who settled here in 1735, decided that he could do more with property than just raise cattle on the scrubby grass. He and his descendants operated a boardinghouse on the island, and it attracted wealthy Philadelphia sportsmen who came to the shore to hunt and fish. In time, the Morse family boardinghouse was accompanied by several well-appointed hotels and dozens of handsome cottages.
The island's first navigational beacon had been the Little Egg Harbor Light, established in 1848. Hardly more than a lantern placed on top of a large frame house; it went dark shortly before the Civil War. After the war, however, Tucker's Island would receive a full-fledged lighthouse. A fine, two-story structure, it was painted white with red trim. With a focal plane about 50 feet above the water, its red beacon could be seen for 12 miles at sea.
Tucker's Island residents were quite proud of their lighthouse just as they were of their town. But time and lack of railroad access had already begun to take their toll, and by the twentieth century, the entire community had fallen into steady decline. A disastrous nor'easter in 1920 provided the final blow. Awash in the tides and undercut by erosion, the hotels and homes were abandoned. By 1927, the lighthouse was the last prominent structure remaining on the island. Then it succumbed as well. Today, you won't find Tucker's Island on a map. Like Atlantis, it is now buried under the ocean.
The Tucker's Island Lighthouse replica was rebuilt in 1999 as part of Tuckerton Seaport in Tuckerton, New Jersey.