The Cape May Lighthouse is a historical landmark located in Cape May Point, NJ. It is one of several New Jersey lighthouses and located within a state park called the Cape May Point State Park.
The park offers a large parking area, access to the beach, and walking trails throughout the bird sanctuary.
As you stroll into beautiful Cape May Point and into the park, you'll be able to see that this lighthouse ranks up there with some of the American famous lighthouses.
The lighthouse is fun thing to do, if you have some time to spare.
You are able to walk up the entire structure. There are 199 steps to get to the top, where there is a lookout/observation deck that wraps around the entire top. You get a 360 degree view of Cape May Point. It’s a great sight!
The steps are spiral, somewhat steep, and somewhat narrow. You’ll definitely be huffing and puffing by the time you get to the top.
Along the way they have a few small platforms that you can get a rest and take a look out the window.
There is a fee to enter the lighthouse, it costs approximately $7 per person.
The photo above isn’t the first and only lighthouse to grace these parts. There have actually been 3 different structures. The first two did not fare so well and were replaced.
The 1st Cape May lighthouse was erected during 1823 and only lasted 24 years as the encroaching surf created foundation problems. It was approximately 68' in height.
The 2nd Cape May lighthouse was reportedly built during 1847 by local contractors and only lasted 12 years. The blame was put on poor construction, maintenance, and just an overall bad job.
It is said, during this time period, there were many shipwrecks along the entire easterly coast, as the entire Lighthouse Service was underfunded and could not maintain such a massive project. Thus, came an initiative to supply the Lighthouse Service with proper funding. This lighthouse was approximately 78' in height.
As more adequate funding and new technology came upon, the current Cape May Lighthouse was erected during 1859 by the Army Corps of Engineers.
At the completion, this new tower stood twice as tall, approximately 145' in height, as the previous structure. It was built using brick and could hold up to disastrous weather.
This still stands tall today in Cape May Point, NJ, but back in 1859 the town didn’t even exist.
During 1875 the creation of the town of Sea Grove came into existence, which is now Cape May Point.
Nobody is really quite sure if the first lighthouse built during 1823 was really the first lighthouse for Cape May. What do you mean? It seems as though Cape May was a bustling whaling town during the 1600's. And it is reported that some maps during the 1700's showed some type of light marker in Cape May.
Some make a good point that, if Cape May was a big whaling town during the 1600's, wouldn't the boats need some kind of indication from land during the dark hours. Probably. But, it seems nobody knows for sure. Thus, the lighthouse from 1823 is the first recorded light house.
The United States Congress was the party that funded the cost for 1st and 3rd lighthouse. It is reported that Congress gave approximately $10,000 for the 1823 lighthouse to be built. Which was plenty of money for the construction. This area was built on sandy ground, beach like ground, which has now been consumed by the ocean and lays several hundred yards off-shore.
Congress purchased additional land from locals, approximately 4 acres, and gave $40,000 to construct the 1859 lighthouse, which still stands today.
Cape May Keepers
The Cape May Keepers were the workers for the lighthouse. These keepers had the responsibility of keeping the light bright and flashing at a certain interval, approximately 30 second intervals.
These flashing intervals were unique to particular lighthouses so boaters in the dark sea could make out what lighthouse they were near.
There have been approximately eight keepers for the various lighthouses. Their annual salaries ranged during 1850 to 1925 from $400/year to $960/year.
New Jersey Lighthouses
New Jersey offers 11 total lighthouses...
1. Sandy Hook Lighthouse
2. Barnegat Lighthouse
3. East Point Lighthouse
4. Finns Point Rear Range Light
5. Hereford Inlet Lighthouse
6. Sand Hook Lighthouse
7. Sea Girt Lighthouse
8. Tinicum Rear Range Lighthouse
9. Tucker's Island Light
10. Twin Lights of Navesink