Sea Girt Lighthouse
Protecting the Shore Since 1896
Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee
Maintaining the Lighthouse, Preserving Its History
Official Site of the Sea Girt Lighthouse©
– Sea Girt Lighthouse was built, on the orders of the U.S. Light-House Board, in 1896 to illuminate a dark spot midway in the 38½-mile stretch between the Navesink and Barnegat Lighthouses.
Last Live-in Lighthouse
– Sea Girt Lighthouse is the last live-in lighthouse built on the Atlantic Coast. A live-in lighthouse has the tower attached to the home. The more typical design is to be found at Sandy Hook and Cape May Lighthouses where the keeper’s quarters are separate from the towers.
– The light from Sea Girt’s fourth order Fresnel (pronounced
) lens could be seen 15 miles at sea. That means it could be seen 15 miles inland, which townsfolk didn’t appreciate, especially when they were trying to get some sleep. So the lighthouse keeper put up blackout curtains on the west side to block the light going inland.
– The blinking beacon that mariners saw was an illusion. The light source was the flame created by a wick burning fuel. The light from the flame would be constant. The multi-sided conical Fresnel lens – with a bulls-eye prism in the middle of each side – revolved on a pedestal. The light was projected out to sea through each prism. But the light appeared to blink off as the lens revolved and the light was between prisms.
Winding the Clock
– What caused the Fresnel lens to revolve was an ingenious mechanical solution in the age before electric power. A weight – like the weights in a grandfather clock – dropped 17 feet through a shaft called the channel located in the northeast corner of the lighthouse tower. The channel extended from under the floor of the lantern room down to the first-floor keeper’s office. The weight powered a clock in the lantern room that regulated the rotation of the lens. It took 7½ hours for the weight to complete its descent. The keeper would climb into the tower to rewind the clock by using a hand crank to pull the weight back up to the top of the channel to start a new descent and keep the lens revolving and the light blinking.
Watch Your Step
– The keeper had to climb 42 steps from his first-floor office into the lantern room several times a day to inspect the Fresnel lens and replenish the oil supply to keep the light burning bright.
Top to Bottom
– The top of the lantern room measures 44 feet to the ground. However, as the lighthouse stands on a small hill, the top of the lighthouse is actually 60 feet above the ocean’s high-water mark.
Dollar a Day
– The first keeper, Major Abraham Wolf, earned $1.10 a day. During the Civil War he was a spy in the Union Army, who could convincingly mimic a southern accent. So, he would don a Confederate uniform, mingle among captured Confederates being held in a Delaware prison camp, talking to them in his southern drawl, extracting valuable information from them on troop strength and encampments and battle plans.
– Early publications and correspondence of the U.S. Light-House Board mistakenly referred to the new lighthouse as Squan Inlet Lighthouse. Squan Inlet was the first location chosen for the lighthouse but later rejected in favor of Sea Girt. The lighthouse briefly became known as Sea Girt Inlet Lighthouse because of its proximity to Sea Girt Inlet. By March 1897 the official name was changed to Sea Girt Lighthouse.
Pioneering Woman Keeper
– Sea Girt Lighthouse had one of the first woman keepers in the U.S. Lighthouse Service, Harriet Yates. She took command as acting keeper upon the death May 29, 1910 of her husband, Abram, Sea Girt’s second keeper. The tradition of the Light-House Board, later known as the Lighthouse Service, was that when a keeper died, the family despite their grief was expected to keep the light burning bright. Harriet conscientiously and capably ran the lighthouse for two months. She applied for a permanent appointment but was turned down by the Lighthouse Service. The reason given: She didn’t belong to the Civil Service.
– In late summer 1912, keeper John Hawkey, wanting a steady supply of eggs for breakfast, requested permission to build a hen house on the north lawn. There came a response from the Office of the Inspector, dated September 13. It read: “You are directed to take this matter up with the Inspecting Officer when the station is next inspected, at which time the Inspecting Officer will make report and recommendation to this office. Show this letter to the Inspecting Officer.” Apparently permission was never granted. There is no evidence a hen house was built, nor further correspondence on the matter.
– A telephone was first installed in the lighthouse in 1920. The lighthouse number: 937, Party, West Spring Lake. The current phone number: 732-974-0514.
– While the beacon was electrified in 1924 when the lens was changed from an oil vapor lamp to a 300 watt Ps35 lamp, the living quarters were not electrified until 1932 when steam heating was also installed. Before that the keepers and their families used kerosene lamps for light at night. A fireplace in the parlor, another in the dining and coal stoves in the kitchen and three bedrooms provided warmth during the winter.
Contribute To Historic Preservation
Ladies of the Lighthouse
Lighthouse Terminology Part 1
Lighthouse Terminology Part 2
The Morro Castle
Researchers Explore Lighthouse Archives
Guided Sunday Lighthouse Tours Offer More To See and Learn
Lighthouse Survives Sandy, Helps in Recovery Effort
Include comments in search
Sea Girt Borough Website
Lighthouse Challenge of NJ
Sea Girt Lighthouse
© 2013 All rights reserved.