Sandy Hook Lighthouse

Sandy Hook, NJ

Click here for a shot of the tower decked out for the holidays

The Sandy Hook lighthouse has a special appeal to me for two reasons. One, it is right in my backyard which enables me to visit whenever is convienient for me. And two, through the New Jersey Lighthouse Society, I am one of the tour guides for the lighthouse. Because of this, I'll be able to present a lot of information.

The lighthouse was first lit on June 11, 1764, which makes it the oldest active lighthouse in the United States. The lighthouse was previously owned by the Coast Guard and has been transferred to the National Parks Service. It is still operated by the Coast Guard.

This is the original tower, although in 1863 the federal government added a red brick lining to the inside to strengthen and reinforce the the orginal stone tower. It was at this time that the iron spiral staircase was added. Believe it or not, this 73 foot lighthouse is at its original location, 1.5 miles from the tip of Sandy Hook. What makes this interesting is that back in 1764 the tip of Sandy Hook was 500 feet from the lighthouse, placing the lighthouse virtually on the coast. Strong currents from the south have washed sand north, lengthing Sandy Hook and "moving" the lighthouse inland. The walls are 10 feet thick at the base and two feet thick at the top of the 95 steps.

The light in the lantern is a 1000 watt bulb that sits inside a third order Fresnel Lens. The light stays on all day and all night, with no blinks or flashes. On clear nights the light from the lighthouse can be seen from 19 miles away.

There is a story that bones were found in a "dungeon" in the bottom of the tower. Two sources are given for this story and research suggests that while something may have been found, inventive minds have enbelished the story. Apparently, when the government was adding the red brick lining, the floor of the tower was excavated. While doing this, the workmen came across an iron door in the flooring of the base. When they entered, a small room was found containg a fireplace with ashes in it. No mention was made what the room was used for. Succesive stories suggest that the room was used by British Loyalist during the revolutionary war as a prison and that human remains were found. There is no concrete evidence to support that human remains were found. The basement was probably used at one time for storage especially due to the isolation of the lighthouse at the time it was built.

The keepers quarters next to the lighthouse was built in 1883. The structure now is a duplex, where the original keeper and the assistant lived. The south side of the house is used by the NJLHS and the north side is a dormitory for the Sandy Hook ranger staff since 1976.

Greg's Tours