Finns Point Lighthouse

Pennsville, New Jersey - 1876 (1876**)

Lighthouse Picture
 
   

Posted/Updated by Bryan Penberthy on 2011-03-18.

The lighthouse was one of a several range lighthouses built to guide ships from Delaware Bay up into the Delaware River. The tower was manufactured by the Kellogg Bridge Company of Buffalo, New York at a cost of $1200.00. Once the components were complete, they were shipped by rail to Salem, New Jersey, and then hauled by soldiers on mules to the construction site, where it was erected.

In an Annual Report by The Lighthouse Board dating to September of 1877, it states that the front range lights of the Listen's Tree and Finn's Point were completed in December of 1876, however, cold weather delayed the completion of the rear range lights, and that both sets of range lights were first exhibited on April 2, 1877.

252, 253, 254, and 255. Listen's Tree range-lights, Delaware Bay, Port Penn, Delaware, and Finn's Point, New Jersey. - At the date of the last annual reports the erection of these lights was in progress. The front structures and keepers' dwellings were completed by the middle of December. The completion of the iron towers for the rear-lights was greatly delayed by the cold weather, and they were not finished until near the end of March. The lights were first exhibited on the night of April 2, 1877. Both the front lights are on land reclaimed from the tide, the one below Port Penn being upon the upper portion of a large reclaimed tract. A short lateral bank has been built to render the site independent of the long bank inclosing the entire marsh.

U.S. Coast Guard Archive Photo Finns Point Front Range.

The report also states that the front range lights of both sets of towers, which consisted of a keeper's dwelling with a lantern room on the roof, were constructed on land reclaimed from the tide. The Coast Guard has a great archive photo of the front range here. This will cause problems in later years as the area was prone to flooding. This is evidenced in the Annual Report of The Lighthouse Board to the Secretary of the Treasury dated June 30, 1879:

260. Finn's Point Range-beacon (front), Delaware River, New Jersey.-A ditch was opened for draining the light house site, the grounds were graded, the structure was painted inside and out, and four hundred perches of banking-stone were placed on the earth-bank to protect it from the wash of the sea.

and the following entry:

256. Finn's Point Range-beacon (front), Delaware River, New Jersey. - The damages due to the storm of October 23, 1878, were repaired. The building was raised nearly 3 feet and a large quantity of stone placed about it to protect it from storms.

After dealing with this recurring problem, the U.S. Lighthouse Board eventually removed the light from the tower, and placed it on a new skeletal tower in 1938. By 1939, the front range was torn down.

The rear range tower was not prone to these problems as it was constructed one and a half miles inland from the front range light. In addition to the wrought-iron tower, a keeper's dwelling, an outhouse, and an oil house were also constructed on site. Keeper's served at both the front and rear range lighthouses until they were discontinued in 1933. Complaints from ship's captains got the lights re-instated in 1939; however, they were automated, so no keepers returned.

The lights would serve in an automated capacity until March 22, 1950 when extensive work was done on the shipping channel. The Army Corps of Engineers widened the channel to 800 feet and increased its depth to 40 feet. This changed the shipping channel so much that it made the Finn's Point Range Lights obsolete. In 1952, the lighthouse and grounds were transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. After the site went dark and sat abandoned for many years, vandals started leaving their marks. The tower first experienced graffiti then multiple fires were set in the keeper's dwelling. Finally in 1977, the dwelling was demolished due to the extensive damage it sustained.

U.S. Coast Guard Archive Photo Finns Point Front Range.

After the keeper's dwelling was demolished, locals concerned about tower's future banded together. The group was successful in getting the tower added to the National Register of Historic Sites, being added August 30, 1978.

In 1983, the tower underwent restoration and painting, mostly due to the community activism of Mrs. Betty Husarik and her "Save The Lighthouse Committee" which formed two years prior. The group successfully petitioned and lobbied Congress to secure the funds necessary to rehabilitate the tower. An open house took place October 14, 1984 to showcase the work that took place.

The lighthouse was open to the public in the past, however due to budget cuts at the Supawna Meadows Wildlife Refuge in 2008, the tower was closed. However, funding was been restored in 2013, and the tower was open once again for climbing.

Reference:

  1. New Jersey Lighthouse Society website.
  2. "Finns Point lighthouse closed due to lack of funding," Jim Six, South Jersey Times, June 27, 2008.
  3. "Historic Finn's Point Lighthouse in Pennsville opens to visitors," Staff, South Jersey Times, March 16, 2013.
  4. Annual Report of the Light House Board, U.S. Lighthouse Service, Various years.
  5. Great Outdoor Recreation Pages website.

Directions: The lighthouse sits near the intersection of Fort Mott and Lighthouse Roads near the Town of Pennsville.

Accesss: Grounds open. Tower open.

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