Brandywine Shoals Light

July 10, 2019

Brandywine Shoals Light, New Jersey


Location: Delaware Bay, ten miles from the mouth of the bay
Station established: 1823 with a lightship, first lighthouse was completed in 1850.
Year lighthouse light first lit: 1850.
Year current tower first lit: 1914.
Operational? Yes.
Automated? Yes, in 1974.
Foundation Materials: First lighthouse: Iron pilings forming a screwpile foundation. Second lighthouse: Reinforced concrete pier filled with sand, stone and concrete.
Construction Materials: First lighthouse: Cast iron plates lined with wood.
Second lighthouse: Reinforced concrete.
Tower shape: Existing lighthouse caisson architectural style.
Tower height: Existing lighthouse height is 45 feet.
Height of Focal Plane: 60 feet.
Markings/Pattern: White with red top.
Relationship to other structure: Integral.
Lighthouse original Lens: Third Order Fresnel.
Present Optic: solar powered.
Range: 13 nautical miles.
Characteristic: 10 second flash.
Current use: active aid to navigation.
Owner: U. S. Coast Guard, declared excess in June 2011.
Open to the public? No.

Historical Information:

  • Brandywine Shoal is located in the Delaware Bay adjacent to the main shipping channel for ships going to and from ports such as Philadelphia.
  • In 1823 lightship “N” was located near the shoal and operated until 1850.
  • The lightship was anchored about one mile west of the shoal and marked the eastern edge of the channel.
  • The lightship was built in 1823 with two masts and displayed a fixed white light on the foremast at 42 feet.
  • In 1850 the first screwpile lighthouse in the country was placed into operation on the shoal. A wooden platform was laid across the piles for the location of the first lighthouse.
  • In 1851 the lighthouse became the third one in the United States to be equipped with a Fresnel lens. This was a Third Order lens manufactured in Paris by Henry Lepaute.
  • The station had a house in the shape of a cone made of cast iron plates and lined with wood. The first floor contained a kitchen and store room, the second floor had sleeping rooms and an oil room. The lantern was on top of the house. The lighthouse was painted red and displayed a fixed white light. A fog bell was at the lighthouse.
  • By 1858 a network of 68 interconnected iron piles encircled the lighthouse to provide as an ice breaker for additional protection for the screwpiles.
  • A fog signal building was located on the platform of the first lighthouse.
  • In 1911 construction of a new lighthouse adjacent to the existing lighthouse was initiated. The foundation of this lighthouse consisted of a reinforced concrete pier filled with sand, stone and concrete with a concrete deck on top. A circular three-story dwelling of reinforced concrete was constructed on the deck. A circular watch room is on top of the dwelling and supports a cylindrical helical-bar lantern.
  • In 1914 the third-order Fresnel lens was transferred from the old lighthouse to this new lighthouse and first lit in the new location on October 20, 1914.
  • The two towers stood together until the superstructure of the screwpile light was torn down. The platform of second lighthouse was retained and used by the U. S. Navy for several structures during the 1940s and 1950s.
  • A wall of riprap surrounds most of the lighthouse to form a protective harbor.
  • In 1974 the light was automated, at which time it was the last manned station in the Delaware Bay.
  • In 1997, due to solarization of the lighthouse, the Fresnel lens was removed and given to the Tuckerton Seaport Museum.
  • In 2006 the lighthouse was designated to the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places – Cape May County.
  • In 2007 the lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • In June 2011 the lighthouse was declared excess to the needs of the U. S. Coast Guard and offered to eligible organizations under the provisions of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000.

Researched and written by Ed Shaw, a volunteer through the Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society.