The Cape Henlopen Lighthouse
Beacon in the Night
The Cape Henlopen Lighthouse had its beginnings in 1761. Philadelphia merchants and ship owners were concerned by the frequent loss of lives, ships, and cargos in the treacherous waters at the mouth of Delaware Bay. They started a lottery to raise funds to build a lighthouse at Cape Henlopen. Later, the Pennsylvania General Assembly authorized a tax on Philadelphia-bound cargos to finance the project. Completed in 1765, the Cape Henlopen Lighthouse stood for 161 years.
Until it closure in 1924, the beacon atop the stone tower was the main navigational guide for this busy waterway. The lighthouse was abandoned after shoreline erosion undermined its foundation. On April 13, 1926, the lighthouse collapsed into the sea.
Things to know about the Cape Henlopen Lighthouse
• The lighthouse was a 69-foot tall whitewashed stone tower standing on a 46-foot high sand hill, one-quarter of a mile from the Atlantic shore.
• It was built of granite brought from Wilmington.
• The walls were six feet thick at the base, tapering to just over 3 feet at the top.
• Inside, a spiral stairway led to the light.
• The lamps first used whale oil, then mineral oil, and finally, vaporized kerosene.
• Originally a single lamp, by 1840 the light was a cluster of 18 lamps, each backed with a 21-inch reflector. This created very bright light, but it could not cast a beam of light out in any direction, as lighthouses do today.
• After the lighthouse was fitted with a new lens in 1855, its central reflector was surrounded by prisms and glass rings to boost the output of light. This addition made the lighthouses capable of aiming a single column of light in any direction.
Location. 38° 46.633′ N, 75° 5.2′ W. Marker is near Lewes, Delaware, in Sussex County. Marker can be reached from Dune Road. Located within Cape Henlopen State Park. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Lewes DE 19958, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. The Great Dune (here, next to this marker); Standing Guard (approx. 0.3 miles away); The U.S. Navy at Cape Henlopen (approx. 0.4 miles away); Delaware Breakwater Quarantine Station (approx. one mile away); Quarantine Station (approx. one mile away); German Submarine at Cape Henlopen (approx. one mile away); The Ever Changing Cape Henlopen (approx. 1.3 miles away); Delaware’s Beachnesters (approx. 1.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Lewes.
Categories. • Colonial Era • Industry & Commerce •
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Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on November 26, 2014, by Nate Davidson of Salisbury, Maryland. This page has been viewed 352 times since then and 28 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on November 26, 2014, by Nate Davidson of Salisbury, Maryland. 3, 4. submitted on November 29, 2014. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.