Posted/Updated by Bryan Penberthy on 2011-03-15.
The Senate and the General Assembly approved the construction of the lighthouse at East Point on February 20, 1849. Land was purchased from Joshua Brick on April 11, 1849 in the sum of $250 for the establishment of a lighthouse to mark the entrance to the Maurice River. The lighthouse, a two-story Cape Cod style with an octagonal lantern appearing on the roof was constructed later that year by contractors Samuel and Nathan Middleton, which had completed the Cape May Lighthouse several years prior. The lighthouse, using a sixth order Fresnel lens and Franklin lamps, first broadcast its light from the tower on September 10, 1849.
The federal government automated the lighthouse in 1911. After automation, the government employed custodians to watch over the place, and keep the grounds. In exchange for essentially free living, they were paid $1.00 year.
In 1898, a new light, created at the entrance of the Maurice River was built, called the Maurice River Cove Light. This light acted as a range light. It was unique in that it was a two story building, with two poles separate from the dwelling. The front pole, or front range was 8 feet tall, with the rear being 16 feet tall. From documentation that I found, it was rebuilt in 1912. A year later, the 1849 Maurice River Lighthouse had its name changed to the East Point Lighthouse to avoid confusion among mariners. The Maurice River Cove Light no longer exists, it burned on April 27, 1958.
At the start of World War II, the light was extinguished, and the custodian removed. With no custodian on site, the site started to deteriorate. The federal government put the lighthouse up for auction in 1955, and sold it to a Long Island Company. However, the sale was nullified after it the state learned that the government hadn't notified them first of the sale, which was required. The state was interested in the site, mostly due to its access to Delaware Bay, and not necessarily for the lighthouse. In 1956, the title to the property was transferred to the New Jersey Division of Fish, Game, and Wildlife.
After sitting for nearly thirty years, the state was planning on having the structure torn down. However, locals took notice of the dilapidated structure and took action to stop that plan. The locals formed a group in February of 1971 called the Maurice River Historical Society, and started working with the state to get access to the lighthouse. While this was taking place, vandals broke in and set the place on fire. Lost in the fire were the roof, lantern room, and the interior. With an even larger task ahead of them now, they set about to raise the necessary funds to restore the lighthouse. Less than ten years, on July 2, 1980, a new light was lit in the restored lantern room.
The East Point Lighthouse is the second oldest lighthouse in the state of New Jersey, second only to Sandy Hook which dates to 1764.
While researching this lighthouse, I found an interesting entry in a book called Report of the Secretary of the Treasury on the state of the finances by the United States Dept. of the Treasury dated 1870. The entry is as follows:
197. Maurice River, New Jersey, Haystack Island, Delaware Bay. - The work of placing the new parapet and fourth-order regulation lantern on the light-house at this station is now in progress, and it is expected, will be completed in a few days. - 1870
I believe that this pertains to the Maurice River Lighthouse (East Point Lighthouse) and not the Maurice River Cove Light which wasn't built until 1898. However, I couldn't find any other reference to this work that may have taken place on the tower. However, from the looks of this entry, it appears that the tower may have received a fourth order Fresnel lens in 1870. If you have documentation either confirming for refuting this, please contact me.
Directions: From Route 47 in Delmont, follow County Route 616 (Glade Road) west. This will turn into East Point Road. Follow this until you see Lighthouse Road. Turn right, onto Lighthouse Road, and the tower will be on your left.
For more information: Maurice River Historical Society
Access: Grounds open. Tower open during tours.View more East Point Lighthouse pictures