Ludlam Beach Lighthouse

Sea Isle City, New Jersey - 1885 (1885**)

Photo of the Ludlam Beach Lighthouse.
 
 
   

History of the Ludlam Beach Lighthouse

Posted/Updated by Bryan Penberthy on 2011-04-05.

Originally called Ludlam Island in 1692 after Joseph Ludlam who had purchased the land to let his sheep and cattle graze. It would be purchased almost 200 years later in 1880 by Charles K. Landis who would develop a new community called Sea Isle City.

With Absecon Lighthouse to the north and the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse to the south, there was still a dangerous section of New Jersey coastline that was unlit. With many shipwrecks occurring around the Townsend's Inlet and Sea Isle City area, there was already a U.S. Lifesaving Station on-site, but a lighthouse was needed to properly mark the area.

U.S. Coast Guard Archive Photo U.S. Coast Guard Archive Photo

The founder of Sea Isle City, Charles K. Landis, had requested a lighthouse from the federal government to help protect the area. Congress had appropriated $5000 during their 1884 session for the materials and land needed to construct the lighthouse. Lots 15 and 16 were selected from the Sea Isle City plan and purchased in June of 1885 with construction starting later that summer. The lighthouse would be a white framed dwelling with an integrated lantern room. Also built on site was an oil shed and outhouse. The lighthouse, when constructed was at the foot of 31st Street on the beach. The GPS coordinates for the original location were 39.161667 N -74.684722 W.

The Annual report of the Light-House Board of the United States to the Secretary By United States Light-House Board had this entry in their report for the fiscal year ending 1886:

261. Ludlam's Beach, Sea Isle City, New Jersey - This frame structure, light-house and keeper's dwelling combined, was completed, and on November 3, 1885, was lighted for the first time. The site was surrounded with a timber bulkhead, which was filled in with sand and gravel and graded to prevent the wash from high tides. A lightning conductor was also put up.

When the lighthouse was completed, the assistant keeper from Barnegat Lighthouse, Joshua H. Reeves, was tapped to be the head keeper. The light would utilize a revolving fourth order Fresnel lens lit by an oil lamp and would first be shown on the night of November 3, 1885.

United States coast pilot: Atlantic Coast. Sandy Hook to Cape Henry By U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey describes the lighthouse as:

Ludlam Beach lighthouse, at Sea Isle City, is a drab dwelling and is not prominent by day. The light is flashing white (light 2 seconds, eclipse 3 seconds), with a flashing red sector westward of 356° true (N % E mag.), 36 feet above the water, and visible 11 miles.

The structure would go through changes over the years. In 1888, a portion of the back porch was enclosed to create a summer kitchen. A picket fence was also added around the tower. In 1899, a full addition was added to the structure which would be a kitchen. Other additions to the site would be a telephone and a flag pole. A year later, a new concrete sea wall was constructed. The wall, extending around the rear of the lighthouse was 156 feet long. 1907 would bring city water to the lighthouse and 1913 would bring an upgrade in the illuminating apparatus. The oil wick lamp would be removed in favor of an incandescent oil vapor lamp.

Like its neighbor to the south, the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, Ludlam Beach Lighthouse has also had an ongoing battle with erosion. A tropical storm in September of 1889 would bring extensive damage to the lighthouse. As a precaution, Keeper Reeves would remove the illuminating apparatus from the tower to ensure its protection, and seek cover elsewhere. When Reeves returned he found several sections of the sea wall disrupted, with much of the gravel filling having been washed away. He would also find parts of the front and rear foundation undermined. Repairs would be made to the foundation, and a new sea wall was built to afford further protection.

On the night of November 21, 1923, the lighthouse would burn. The lighthouse keeper's pet had knocked over a kerosene lamp that was lit in the kitchen. By the time the keeper had realized what had happened, the entire kitchen was engulfed in flames. Personnel from the nearby Life Saving Station arrived to help extinguish the flames. The kitchen would suffer extensive damage as well as a third of the roof. Luckily the lantern room and lens were mostly intact. Temporary repairs were made, which included covering the damaged roof with canvas to allow the lighthouse to continue operation.

A storm would roll through Sea Isle City on March 11, 1924, and tear away the canvas covering the damaged roof. At this time, the Lighthouse Board had decided that the structure was no longer inhabitable, and would decommission the station. Taking its place would be a lamp on a 40-feet high steel skeletal tower slightly north of where the lighthouse stood. This light would be used until March of 1962 when a storm undermined its foundation. It was removed shortly after that and never replaced as most ships were using radio navigation at the time.

The Lighthouse Board ended up selling the damaged structure at an auction. It would be moved two times before ending up at 3414 Landis Ave in Sea Isle City in the 1940s. At its current location, the entire structure would be lifted up and set on top of a one story structure to become the second story. It would be a private rental unit until 2006, when the owner had announced that he would like to build a new condo on the lot. At this point, the owner offered the historic lighthouse free to someone who would move it. A group called the Friends of Ludlam Beach Lighthouse was formed to raise money to relocate and restore the lighthouse. However, the group had failed to raise the necessary funds, and on September 21, 2010 the lighthouse was demolished. Don Lary was there that day and shared this picture with the viewers of US-Lighthouses.com.

There is more information available at this NBC website.

Reference:

  1. Annual Report of the Light House Board, U.S. Lighthouse Service, Various years.
  2. Historic Lighthouse Gets Demolished Ted Greenberg, NBC 10 Philadelphia, September 22, 2010.
  3. Jersey Shore Facts & Photos, Kevin Woyce, 2007.
  4. Sea Isle City, Michael F. Stafford, 2001.
  5. The History Of Cape May County, New Jersey: From The Aboriginal Times To The Present Day, Lewis Townsend Stevens, 1897.
  6. South Jersey Towns: History and Legend, William McMahon, 1973.
  7. New Jersey Lighthouse Society website.

Directions: This lighthouse no longer exists. It was torn down September 21, 2010. The lighthouse was located at 3414 Landis Avenue in Sea Island City.

Access: This lighthouse no longer exists.

View more Ludlam Beach Lighthouse pictures
Tower Information
Tower Height: 36.00'
Focal Plane: Unknown
Active Aid to Navigation: Deactivated (1924)
*Latitude: 39.160 N
*Longitude: -74.688 W
See this lighthouse on Google Maps.

 


* Please note that all GPS coordinates are approximated and are meant to put you in the vicinity of the lighthouse, not for navigation purposes.

** This year denotes a station date. This is the year that a lighthouse was first reported in the vicinity or at that location.

All photographs and information on this site is copyright © 2016 Bryan Penberthy unless otherwise specified. No content may be used without written permission. Any questions or comments, please email me.