Posted/Updated by Bryan Penberthy on 2011-05-10.
A Quaker by the name of Reuben Tucker purchased the 607 acre island at the south end of Long Beach Island in 1765 from Ephraim Morse. Mr. Tucker would build a house on the hill where he and his wife would rent out rooms to visitors becoming one of the first inns on the New Jersey Shore. It remained in service until 1845 when it burned down.
On March 3, 1847, Congress set aside $6,000 for a lighthouse on what would become known as Tucker's Beach. The lighthouse was constructed on the site of the old Tucker's Inn in 1848 and was sometimes known as the Little Egg Harbor Beacon. For this reason, some people would call the tower, the Tucker's Beach Lighthouse. The lighthouse consisted of a brick conical tower which was a short distance from the keeper's dwelling. The lighthouse would only be used for eleven years before it was abandoned in 1859. Although it is not clear as to the reason, many people postulate it was the inlet, which was subject to shifting sands. The inlet would open and close without warning, leaving mariners unsure of the safety of the inlet. At times, Tucker's Island was actually connected to Long Beach Island. Because of this, many mariners despised the lighthouse. The other reason, as some speculate, was the construction of the Absecon Lighthouse twelve miles to the south in 1857.
The lighthouse would only stay dark until 1867 when the Lighthouse Board decided to reinstate the tower. The book, Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress dated 1967, had this to say about the Tucker's Beach Lighthouse:
Tucker's Beach.- Congress having made an appropriation of five thousand dollars for repairing and relighting this station, a party of workmen, with building materials, were on the 15th of April sent there. New floors were placed in the dwelling, and the building thoroughly repaired, a new brick water cistern built, new spouts and conductors, and a new pump supplied to the cistern. A new fourth-order lantern was placed upon the tower, the walls repointed inside and out, new window frames and sash, and a new granite sill to the door were provided. Both dwelling and tower received two coats of cement wash on the outside. A sand fence was constructed along the sea front of the light-house lot and the buildings enclosed by a cedar post and rail fence. A fourth-order lens, fixed varied by flashes, was placed in the lantern, and the light re-exhibited on the evening of June 20, 1867. The station is now in good order.
Since the Barnegat Lighthouse was 20 miles north and the Absecon Lighthouse was 12 miles to the south, the Lighthouse Board assigned a unique light pattern of a fixed white light varied by six consecutive red flashes at a ten second interval. Captain Eber Rider would serve as the station's first keeper. The revamped lighthouse would serve until 1879 when the Lighthouse Board built a new two-story keeper's quarters. They would top the keeper's house with a lantern room thus creating a new lighthouse. The old lighthouse would then be converted to a storage shed for oil.
The island, like most of the Jersey coastline was subject to erosion. When Reuben Tucker purchased the island in 1765, it was 607 acres. When it was sold in 1845, it was down to around 500 acres. Over the years, the island would change shapes and sizes many times. In 1900, the island took a direct hit by a hurricane. Another storm would hit the island in 1918, taking a popular place called "Skeeters" with it.
The turning point was a fierce Nor'easter which struck on the night of February 4, 1920. The storm cut a new inlet, which became known as the Beach Haven Inlet. Although this new inlet was no threat to the lighthouse, the jetties that were installed in 1924 to protect the inlet would be. They stopped the Beach Haven Inlet from filling in, but caused the erosion to move towards the lighthouse.
By February of 1927, the ocean was at the front door of the lighthouse and had already undermined the foundation of the porch. The keeper, Arthur Rider, son of Captain Eber Rider, contacted the Lighthouse Service to advise them of the situation, and recommend moving the lighthouse before it would be destroyed. August 26, 1927 would bring another storm that took a swipe at the lighthouse, taking the porch with it leaving the roof hanging in the air. Keeper Rider asked the Lighthouse Service if he could abandon his post fearing the lighthouse being lost to the sea, but to dismay he was advised to keep his post as the lighthouse was scheduled for decommission on September 30, 1927. Two days later the porch's roof was washed into the sea. Keeper Rider stayed on post until the lighthouse was decommissioned, after which he retired from the Service.
It wasn't long after the decommissioning that the lighthouse would topple into the sea. Keeper Rider stayed near the lighthouse to report on the destruction. On October 10 he reported that much of the foundation was undermined, so much so that the tower leaned toward the ocean. Three days later on the 13th of October he reported that most of the dwelling except the dining room and kitchen was broken off and washed away. The rest of the structure that was still standing was set on fire on October 14, 1927 and burned to the ground. This was done as a precaution so as to not leave a hazard on the beach.
Once the lighthouse was gone, the erosion didn't stop. By World War II, the island was almost completely gone, and by 1952, the island was no more. In July of 1993, a museum called the Barnegat Bay Decoy and Baymen's Museum opened up along a section of the Tuckerton Creek. Plans for additional development unfolded, and the site eventually morphed into the Tuckerton Seaport. One of the eleven buildings on site is a complete reproduction of the Tucker's Beach Lighthouse which is open for climbing. One of the walls inside shows the sequence of the lighthouse toppling into the sea.
Directions: The lighthouse sits on the grounds of the Tuckerton Seaport. This is along Route 9 in downtown Tuckerton.
Access: The lighthouse and grounds are open. Check the Seaport's website for hours.View more Tuckerton Seaport (Tucker's Beach Replica) Lighthouse pictures