Digest>Archives> March 2004

Liston Range Rear Light “Shows Up” in Lewes, Delaware

By Bob Trapani, Jr.


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Liston Range Rear Light.
Photo by: Bob Trapani, Jr.

Liston Range Rear Light possesses many distinctions that enable it to hold a special place in Delaware lighthouse history. The 127-foot tall tower, located near Port Penn, is equipped with a powerful second order Fresnel lens that shines a brilliant white light 19 miles down river on the Delaware to help safeguard commercial shipping traffic. Along with Liston Range Front Light, the two lights form the longest range in the United States.

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Second order Fresnel lens in Liston Range Rear ...
Photo by: Herb Von Goerres

Another distinction the Liston Range Rear Light possesses is an ability to relocate. The wrought iron, skeletal tower was originally constructed in 1876 as the rear light for the short-lived Port Penn Range. By 1904 changes in the Delaware shipping channel forced the U.S. Lighthouse Service to decommission the Port Penn Range and establish a new range known as the Liston Range. Rather than build a new structure at Liston Range Rear Light Station, the USLHS simply disassembled the Port Penn Range Rear Light and re-erected the sentinel as the rear light at Liston. By 1906, the tower’s range lens was installed and its service to the mariner has been steadfast ever since.

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Larry Spencer (L) and his father Harry Spencer ...
Photo by: Bob Trapani, Jr.

On January 7, 2004, it seems Liston Range Rear Light decided to just “show up” In Lewes - some 70 miles from its historic location. This unusual circumstance was able to occur thanks to the most unique Christmas gift Harry Spencer ever received from his son Larry this holiday season. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Larry was busy building a beautiful model of Liston Range Rear Light that stands over five feet tall for his father as a tribute to their family’s lighthouse heritage.

Harry, Jr. was born at Liston Range Rear Light in 1920 when his father was keeper at the light station. In all, Harry, Sr. was a lightkeeper from 1907 to 1943 at various light stations along the Delaware River. Harry, Jr. spent the first twenty-two years of his life living at a lighthouse, with most of his childhood and teenage years being played out in the shadows of Liston Range Front Light where his dad served the last 16 years of his career.

To say Harry was surprised to receive Liston Range Rear Light as a Christmas gift was an understatement. “Am I seeing what I’m seeing,” was Spencer’s reply when his son Larry presented him with the gift. “I couldn’t almost believe it.” True to his family heritage, “Keeper” Spencer turned the dial of a timer and illuminated the model of Liston Range Rear Light in his backyard on the evening of January 7th. Harry’s model may not guide any ships to safety but it certainly will shine in tribute to his family’s rich lighthouse history each and every night in his backyard.

This story appeared in the March 2004 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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