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Cape May Lighthouse - 1859

Cape May Lighthouse The first documented lighthouse on Cape May Point was established in 1823. The tower, a sixty-eight-foot conical, brick structure, had a focal plane of eight-eight feet. Lamps and reflectors produced the light wich revolved to create a flash. (There are references to a "flash light" during colonial times at this site, but no descriptions of a lighthouse exists.)

By 1847, erosion had endangered the lighthouse, and a new tower was built four hundred yards northeast of the original. The second tower stood seventy-eight feet tall and had the same lighting apparatus as the first lighthouse. Reports indicate that this second structure was poorly built and leaked. In addition, the light it produced was considered inferior. After a little more than ten years, the government decided to build a third light. Lieutenant George Meade, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had just completed the Absecon Lighthouse and he was placed in charge of the Cape May Light construction. Since the tower would mark the important entrance to Delaware Bay, Meade determined that a new lighthouse of no less than 150 feet needed to be built and that it would contain a first-order Fresnel lens. When completed in 1859, the new lighthouse stood 159 feet tall and its first-order lens revolved.

In 1933, the lighthouse became automated with the use of electricity. In the 1940's the lens was removed from the tower, eventually it was put on display at the Cape May County Historical Museum in Cape May Court House. Today the lighthouse contains a reflector lens and a one thousand-watt bulb and continues operation under the Coast Guard.

The oil house, at the base of the exibit, contains a fully-accessable Visitors Orientation Center with a video about the structure, a photo mural of the view from the top, and reproductions of each display in the lighthouse. The oil house also contains a museum shop carrying lighthouse souvenirs, books, videos, and other maritime items.

Location: Cape May Point, Route 109 west
Directions:Garden State Parkway south to Cape May. Follow signs to Cape May Point State Park.
Visiting Status: Open to public.
Information: (609) 884-5404 / Web Site
Architect: Lt. George G. Meade
Light Operational: Yes
Date Deactivated: Never
Automated: 1946
Tower Height: 157 feet
Original Optic: First Order Fresnel
Present Optic: DCB-36

Cape May Lighthouse Oil House
Cape May Lighthouse Oil House

Cape May Lighthouse - 1914
Cape May Lighthouse - 1914