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A Brief History Of The Cape May Lighthouses

A Brief History Of The Cape May Lighthouses

Cape May, New Jersey is one of the country’s oldest vacation destinations. As the entire city is a designated historic district, the area has plenty of historical sights.

On the Cape May Grand Lighthouse Tour, you will get a chance to see some of the historical sites up close. Seven local lighthouses can be viewed during the trip, while our amazing staff gives those onboard a history lesson on each of these beacons.


Brandywine Shoal Light is located on the north side of the Delaware Bay and just west of Cape May. The lightship was situated on the shoal in 1823. It is known for being the first screw-pile lighthouse in the U.S., meaning it stands on piles that are screwed into the sandy sea bottom.


The 14-foot bank light is located just northwest of Cape May and was constructed in 1886. The lighthouse is 40 feet tall and at the top of the base is a house-like structure. The structure was created for two keepers who would manage a makeshift beacon during the winter of 1885.


Located on the north side of the Delaware Bay and just off Cumberland County, New Jersey, this is the last offshore lighthouse erected in Delaware Bay. The light was first constructed in 1913 and is a caisson style, which means its structure rests on a concrete foundation.


The Crossledge Shoal was constructed in 1875 and sits atop a hexagonal base. Atop the lighthouse was a two-story dwelling that served as the living quarters for those manning the light. Ice in the Delaware Bay often caused damage, however, didn’t lead to its demise. It was the construction of the Miah Maull Shoal and Elbow of Crossledge that led to the lighthouse being discontinued just 35 years after it was built.


The Elbow of Crossledge was built to replace the Crossledge Shoal in 1910. The lightship was popular when it first opened and many visitors went to visit the station. In 1951, a terrible storm caused serious damage, which led to the lighthouse becoming automated. Just two years later, the lighthouse was struck by the S.S. Steel Apprentice which toppled two-thirds of the lighthouse and damaged the caisson. A skeleton tower was later built on the remaining caisson.


This lighthouse’s name comes from a 1797 incident in which the ship “John” ran aground while on the way to Pennsylvania. Although passengers and cargo escaped unscathed, the vessel was completely lost. In 1877, the lighthouse was completed despite some setbacks during the construction process. In order to protect the lighthouse from ice, several piles of loose stones that formed as a foundation for a breakwater were placed around the shoal light.


The Cape May lighthouse was first lit in 1859 and eventually automated in 1946. The tower is 157 feet tall and there are 217 steps from the ground to the top. Since being open to the public after restoration efforts in 1988, more than 2 million people have climbed to the top. In 1994, the lighthouse was restored to its historic coloring of light beige with a red top.

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