New Jersey’s Cumberland County Improvement Authority has announced that they have begun a $852,000 restoration and construction project at the 1849 East Point Lighthouse in Maurice River, New Jersey. It was stated that the work will include roof replacement, installation of a new barrier-free ramp, interior renovations, and brick pointing of the exterior of the lighthouse.
Originally known as the Maurice River Lighthouse, the distinctive Cape Cod design structure was built in 1849 to serve as a navigational aid for Delaware Bay commercial oyster schooners headed for ports in Norris and Elizabeth, New Jersey. In 1912 the name of the lighthouse was officially changed to East Point Lighthouse.
After the light was turned off at the onset of World War II, the lighthouse was discontinued and it soon suffered from neglect. Eventually, ownership of the lighthouse was transferred to the State of New Jersey, but very little, if anything, was done to care for the historic property.
In 1970 the Maurice River Historical Society stepped forward to try and save the lighthouse. However, before they had a chance to get started, on July 15, 1971 moronic vandals set fire to the lighthouse and heavily damaged the structure.
The group was able to rebuild the roof and the lantern room, and in a ceremony on July 2, 1980, the U.S. Coast Guard installed a light in the lantern and it became the only on-shore functioning lighthouse on the Delaware Bay. It was a joyous occasion for those involved.
However, as with any small nonprofit, raising money and obtaining grants is a long and tedious process, which was hindered when it was discovered in the late 1990s that the lantern was leaking and water had rotted the support beams, so work had to start all over again. In July of 1998, a new lantern was again hoisted atop the lighthouse and numerous other restoration projects were completed
Although the current restoration work is good news, the lighthouse is still in extreme danger from erosion. They have been waiting for some time for the Army Corps of Engineers to arrive and to restore the eroded beach, work that has been promised for years. Locals have dumped sand onto the beach, but it is only a temporary fix and it usually washes away in a few weeks. It is not unusual during storms to see water right up to the front porch of the lighthouse. The point that protects the lighthouse from the bay is now just about gone and the tree line on the west side is just about gone, leaving little protection for the lighthouse.
During its lifetime, the East Point Lighthouse has suffered from neglect, vandalism, and even apathy. But thanks to a few dedicated people who have worked tirelessly over the years, the day may come when East Point Lighthouse will again, in more ways than one, serve the public better than the day it was built, but only if erosion controls are put into place.
This story appeared in the
Jul/Aug 2016 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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