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.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Colonial Era • Industry & Commerce. In addition, it is included in the Lighthouses series list. A significant historical date for this entry is April 13, 1926.
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 walking distance of this marker. The Great Dune (here, next to this marker); 16-inch Gun (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Proof Steel 8-inch Gun (about 500 feet away); 6-inch Gun (about 500 feet away); 155mm Gun (about 600 feet away); Fort Miles Artillery Park (about 700 feet away); Aircraft Warning System (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Lewes.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on November 26, 2014, by Nathan Davidson of Salisbury, Maryland. This page has been viewed 480 times since then and 51 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on November 26, 2014, by Nathan Davidson of Salisbury, Maryland. 3, 4. submitted on November 29, 2014. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.