Digest>Archives> June 2004

Delaware Nonprofit takes over Liston Range Rear Light

By Bob Trapani, Jr.


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Signing of the lease for Liston Range Rear Light. ...
Photo by: Ann-Marie Trapani

Liston Range Rear Light’s historical impact on Delaware’s lighthouse heritage is as far-reaching as its guiding light. The towering 127-foot wrought iron structure has the distinction of being the First State’s tallest lighthouse, and is also part of the longest navigational range in the United States. Its powerful second order Fresnel range lens continues to shine a piercing white light 19 miles down the Delaware River to help safely guide ships through the long stretch of water between Ship John Shoal Light in Delaware Bay and Liston Point, Delaware, along the river.

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Liston Range Rear Light.
Photo by: Ann-Marie Trapani

On May 3, 2004, the Delaware River & Bay Lighthouse Foundation (DRBLHF) and the United States Coast Guard forged a new page in the history of Liston Range Rear Light by entering into a thirty-year historic lease agreement for the lighthouse, which is located near Port Penn, Delaware.

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The Liston Range Rear Light’s second order ...
Photo by: Ann-Marie Trapani

The historical significance of the lease agreement has not been lost on BMC Michael Baroco, officer-in-charge of USCG Aids to Navigation Team Philadelphia. “Having served at the USCG aids to navigation team responsible for Liston Range Rear Light, I have always had a particular fondness for the lighthouse. This is not just a light or a structure made of wood and iron - it is a monument to the great men and women who kept these lights burning through many difficult times throughout our nation’s history,” says BMC Baroco. “I take great pride in having been able to play a role, albeit a minor one, in this historic lease process. This lighthouse has allowed me to meet people I may have never known and forge friendships that I hope to keep for a lifetime. Like I said, it’s not just a light.”

Liston Range Rear Light was constructed in 1876 and originally served as the rear light for the Port Penn Range. By 1904, changes in the Delaware River shipping channel forced the United States Lighthouse Service to decommission the Port Penn Range and establish a new range to guide ships along the most southern reaches of the river called the Liston Range. The wrought iron tower was disassembled and reestablished three miles back from the riverbanks of the Delaware at Liston Range in 1906. Originally, Liston Range Rear Light was lit from sundown to sunrise, but after a severe ice season removed the buoys from the Delaware River in 1936, the U.S. Lighthouse Service gave the order to keep the light burning bright 24 hours a day until further notice. The order was never rescinded and 68 years later, the lighthouse continues to shine its white light 24 hours a day.

The historic lease for Liston Range Rear Light also holds a very special meaning for DRBLHF honorary board member Harry Spencer. Harry was born at the lighthouse in 1920 during his father’s (Harry, Sr.) tenure as the lightkeeper of the station. “I was born there, I lived there and Dad was the keeper there for fourteen years (1913- 1927), so just to just have the privilege of going back there now as a member of the DRBLHF is quite satisfying and appealing,” says Spencer. “

The DRBLHF, which also holds a historic lease with the U.S. Coast Guard on Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse, will be responsible for the maintenance and preservation of the 128-year-old Liston Range Rear Light. And also serve as caretakers of the adjacent enameled brick oil house. The DRBLHF plans to open Liston Range Rear Light to the general public in the future.

This story appeared in the June 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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