Sentinel of the shore

August 20, 2017


Where has the summer gone? Doesn’t it seem like Memorial Weekend was just yesterday and here we are in late August already? There are still plenty of people enjoying their summer vacations here in Cape May, however, and that makes me reminisce about those days when I, too, was a tourist.


I feel badly for some of our visitors and wish I could tell them to slow down, take a deep breath, and enjoy the view: those who arrive cranky because they were stuck in traffic and then spend a hectic span of days trying to cram everything in and have a good time, even if it kills them, or they kill each other. Our days here were much more laid back, most of them centered on the beach. Like most visitors, however, we made side trips, saved for days when Mother Nature decided the flowers needed watering.

One was always to Cape May Point to see the landmarks: the sunken ship (when you could still tell it really was a ship), the bunker on the beach and, of course, the Cape May Lighthouse.


Back then, the Lighthouse was a forlorn-looking sentinel… a classy lady a little down on her luck. This was in the days before MAC undertook restoration of the lighthouse, and it was not open to visitors. It really didn’t look like anything you’d want to go into. Even then, however, despite its peeling paint and air of neglect, the Lighthouse inspired a sense of awe. It stood proud, albeit shabby, and did its job as a beacon to mariners.

By the time MAC began restoration, I had left my tourist status behind and become a local and, like so many others, kind of took the Lighthouse for granted. Our annual trips to the Point dwindled as we acclimated to our new South Jersey lifestyle. It was not until I began working here at MAC that the Lighthouse once again became a part of my life. Now it was open to the public, polished and primped and looking like a grand lady again. Well it should, since the restoration took more than 15 years, and today the Lighthouse entertains lots and lots of visitors every year, for whom it has become a vacation tradition, just as it was ours.


The Lighthouse also shines in a special way each summer with a variety of special events aimed at giving families something special to do. But it’s not all over as summer draws to a close, because we still have the annual Lighthouse Challenge of New Jersey, coming up this year on Oct. 21-22.  This is a chance to see all the state’s lighthouses, as well as museums and life-saving stations, from Cape May to Sandy Hook and up the Delaware River side, too.


The Cape May Lighthouse is everywhere you look: on signs, on trucks, on buses, on banks. It’s a popular Cape May County trademark, one that symbolizes strength and integrity. For good reason: It’s been around since 1859 and still working. Not many of us can claim that.


-- Jean Barraclough is manager of Publications & Web Site at MAC

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