CAPE MAY LIGHTHOUSE: IMPORTANT HISTORICAL DATES

Scaffolding surrounds the lantern at the top of the tower during painting or renovation work.
  • 1823: First known lighthouse constructed, although there is some evidence that there was a beacon built  here in the late 18th century.  The 1823 tower was 68 feet tall, and its location is now underwater due to erosion.

  • 1847: The second lighthouse was built.  It was a 78 foot tower located directly in front of the present tower, just beyond the present shoreline.  It was replaced by the present lighthouse because it was poorly constructed.

  • 1857: The Army Corps of Engineers began construction on the present tower, which cost $40,000 to build.  The 1st order Fresnel lens, which is now in the Cape May County Museum, probably cost about $15,000.

  • 1859: The Lighthouse was first lighted on October 31.  The next year, two lighthouse keepers’ dwellings were built.  The one remaining is now used by the State Park Service.

  • 1893: The oil house was constructed.

  • 1902: One of the keepers’ dwellings was enlarged to provide more space for the housing the keepers’ families.  Three keepers and their families lived at the Lighthouse site.

  • 1902: An incandescent oil vapor lamp was installed and replaced the Funck multiple wick first order hydraulic float lamp that dated back to 1878.

  • 1933: The light apparatus was electrified.

  • 1936: The light apparatus was automated, which eliminated the need for lighthouse keepers being permanently stationed at the tower.

  • 1939: The United States Lighthouse Service was discontinued and its equipment and personnel transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard.

  • 1941: The Lighthouse was darkened until 1945 because of World War II.  The Atlantic coast was on blackout due to the presence of enemy submarines.

  • 1946: A DCB-36 rotating light (like an airport beacon) was installed.  The original first order Fresnel lens was placed in the Cape May County Museum.

  • 1986: The Lighthouse was leased to MAC by the State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Parks and Forestry, who in turn leased the structure from the Coast Guard.

  • 1988: MAC undertook public safety improvements that allowed the public to climb to the top.

  • 1989: A grant from the Bicentennial Lighthouse Fund underwrote the restoration of the Lighthouse’s windows and doors.

  • 1990: The oil house was restored and adapted for use as an orientation center and museum shop, with funding from the Bicentennial Lighthouse Fund and the New Jersey Historic Trust.

  • 1992: The ownership of the Lighthouse was transferred from the Coast Guard to the State of New Jersey.

  • 1994: Grants from the New Jersey Historic Trust and the federal ISTEA program administered by the State DOT funded painting of the tower and restoration of the lantern and roof.

  • 1998: Grants from the same agencies funded all remaining restoration on the lighthouse structure.

  • 2000-2001: A grant from the New Jersey Historic Trust funded the grounds restoration project.

  • 2002: The Coast Guard installed a modern light known as a DCB-224.  It uses parabolic mirrors to focus the beams rather than lenses.

  • 2017: The Coast Guard installs a VRB-25 (Variable Rotating Beacon) with a circular assembly of acrylic  focusing panels around a tungsten/halogen bulb creating a flash that can be seen 22 miles out to sea.

  • 2017:  Grants from the Cape May County Open Space Board and the National Maritime Heritage program of the National Park Service  funded the repainting of the Lighthouse  Tower. 

  • 2018:  Grants from the Cape May County Open Space  Board and the 1772  Foundation funded the repainting of the Lighthouse roof, lantern and watch gallery.