State Rep. Ronald Gray recently visited the Fenwick Island Lighthouse, located at the intersection of 146th St. and Lighthouse Lane in Fenwick Island, Del., to celebrate the accreditation of the museum system of the State of Delaware by the American Alliance of Museums, the highest recognition afforded to museums in the United States. Administered by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, the system includes five state museums, over 40 historic properties and the state’s archaeological and historic-objects collections.
Developed and sustained by museum professionals for over 45 years, the alliance’s accreditation program is the field’s primary vehicle for quality assurance, self-regulation and public accountability. It strengthens the museum profession by promoting practices that enable leaders to make informed decisions, allocate resources wisely and remain financially and ethically accountable in order to provide the best possible service to the public.
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.
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.
The lighthouse complex is managed by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs which leases it to the New Friends of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse. For visitor information, go to the Fenwick Island Lighthouse webpage.