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History was made here: Fenwick Island Lighthouse


A spotlight on one of the more than 40 historic properties owned by the state of Delaware and administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.

Fenwick Island Lighthouse
Fenwick Island Lighthouse

One of southern Delaware’s most iconic structures, the Fenwick Island Lighthouse, will commemorate two anniversaries during August 2014—Friday, Aug. 1, will mark the 155th anniversary of the official lighting of the historic beacon; while National Lighthouse Day will be celebrated on Thursday, Aug. 7. The lighthouse, located at the intersection of 146th St. and Lighthouse Lane in Fenwick Island, Del., is open from 9 a.m. to Noon, Fridays to Mondays, during July and August; and 9 a.m. to Noon on Saturdays and Sundays from Sept. 1 to 22. The property is cared for and operated for public visitation by the New Friends of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse. For additional information, call 443-235-8521.

Fenwick Island Lighthouse in 1913. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Fenwick Island Lighthouse in 1913. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard.

About the Fenwick Island Lighthouse …

Completed in 1858, the 87-foot-tall Fenwick Island Lighthouse was built to help mariners avoid the treacherous Fenwick Shoals which are located six miles off the coast of Fenwick Island. Erected during a period of rapid expansion and improvement in the nation’s system of aids to navigation, the structure is the only brick, conical-type lighthouse ever built in the state. After completion, a third-order Fresnel lens of French manufacture was installed and the light was turned on for the first time on Aug. 1, 1859. The lighthouse continued in operation without interruption for nearly 120 years until Dec. 13, 1978, when it was decommissioned by the U. S. Coast Guard. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Due to a grassroots effort, ownership of the property was transferred to the state of Delaware in 1981, and the lighthouse was re-lit in 1982 as an unofficial, private aid to navigation.

Spiral staircase inside the Fenwick Island Lighthouse.
Spiral staircase inside the Fenwick Island Lighthouse.

The lighthouse’s grounds contain the Transpeninsular Line marker, erected on April 26, 1751, which indicates the eastern end of the line surveyed by John Watson and William Parsons of Pennsylvania and John Emory and Thomas Jones of Maryland. This line established the east-west boundary between Pennsylvania’s three lower counties (now Delaware) and the colony of Maryland. It also established the middle point of the peninsula, 35 miles to the west. The stone marker bears the coat of arms of the Calvert family on the south side and the Penn family on the north. It was accepted in 1760 and finally ratified in 1769 by King George III.

Transpeninsular-line marker
Transpeninsular Line marker

 


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