In 1797, the ship John was returning from Germany to Philadelphia
when it wrecked on a shoal located off the mouth of the Cohansey River.
Fortunately, all the passengars and crew made it safely to shore, but the
vessel sank and was broken up by ice floes. The shoal was afterward known
as the Ship John Shoal - the name given to the lighthouses that began
operaating there eighty years later.
The water at this site measures a mere eight feet deep, but it wasn't until
the 1870s that a lighthouse marked this danger. Originally, the builders
considered a screwpile structure because of the shoaling bottom, but they
eventually chose a cast iron cassion filled with concrete for a foundation.
Construction began in 1874, and in 1877, the permanent light was lit.
Built in the Second Empire Victorian style, this new lighthouse had a focal
point of fifty feet.
Over the following years, hundreds of tons of rip-rap were placed around the
cassion to protect it from scouring currents and ice flows (which
continually washed away the stones). In 1894, heavier stones ranging
in weight from two to six tons each were placed around the lighthouse,
with openings for boats. These stones are still in place today.
Now automated, Ship John Shoal Light is still in operation. In 1989 a
construction firm began major repairs on this magnificent lighthouse
to save it from the harsh elements, and it has since been restored.
Location: About 10 miles northwest of Fortescue, NJ, in Delaware Bay
Visiting Status: Interior closed to public; Maintained by Coast Guard.
Light Operational: Yes
Date Deactivated: N/A
Tower Height: 50 feet
Original Optic: Fourth Order
Present Optic: Solar Powered