New Jersey January 06, 2017
The Oldest Working Lighthouse In America Is Right Here In New Jersey And It’s Amazing
New Jersey has a number of unique lighthouses, but only one has the distinct honor of being the oldest working lighthouse in America.
Sandy Hook Lighthouse was built in 1764 by Issac Conro.
It was erected to aid mariners entering the southern end of the New York Harbor. It was originally called New York Lighthouse and was funded by a New York Assembly lottery. It also taxed all ships entering the Port of New York.
There was a failed attempt to destroy the lighthouse during the Revolutionary War.
At one point, it was occupied by British troops. Several years after New York ratified the US constitution, the lighthouse was transferred to the federal government.
In 1883, the adjacent Lighthouse Keeper's Quarters were built.
The building currently serves as the Sandy Hook visitor's center. It houses several interesting exhibits and a gift shop. The quarters are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily and park rangers are available to answer questions. Lighthouse tours are offered from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on a first come, first served basis. Visitors over 48" can climb all the way to the top of the 103' tower.
The lighthouse has actually moved over the years... sort of.
When the lighthouse was built 250 years ago, it was just 150 meters from the tip of Sandy Hook. Now, it sits nearly 2.5 kilometers inland. How? The peninsula has grown significantly over the centuries due to a phenomenon called littoral drift. In fact, the entirety of Sandy Hook was likely created by the movement of sand and sediment along a small shoal.
There are a few other interesting facts about Sandy Hook Light that you may be interested in. It was featured on a 1990 postage stamp and was filmed as a fictional backdrop for the final episode of the longest running soap opera, Guiding Light.
Sandy Hook Light is part of the Fort Hancock Historic District.
It is also part of the Gateway National Recreation Area and there is plenty to do nearby. See historic batteries and officer's homes as you stroll the grounds, but be sure not to miss the Nike Missile Radar Site for a unique experience. Take a guided tour with an actual Nike Veteran and learn what life was like on Sandy Hook during some tumultuous times. There is no charge other than beach parking in season.
For more New Jersey history, visit the Garden State’s
oldest building in Trenton or our oldest general store in Schooleys Mountain.