Historic and picturesque Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, a beacon of safety and assurance to the 19th century mariners, has become a focal point for residents and visitors of this seashore resort community.
The lighthouse is situated on the south side of the Hereford Inlet, which leads from the Atlantic Ocean to the famed Intra-Coastal Waterway linking Maine to Florida. First used by the 17th century whalers to haul in and butcher their catches, the Inlet’s use as a haven to mariners greatly increased as travel and shipping along the coast increased. By the mid 1800’s the small fishing village of “Anglesea” arose along the banks of the Inlet.
Strong currents and shifting sandbars near the entrance to the Inlet caused frequent groundings and shipwrecks. Because of this, the United States Lifesaving Service in 1849 established a small station along the south bank of the Hereford Inlet. In 1871 this was replaced by a larger, Bibb Style #2 Station. As the inlet’s use kept increasing resulting in more shipwrecks, it soon became obvious that a Lighthouse was needed to mark the mouth of the Inlet.
On June 10, 1872 Congress enacted legislation to finance the purchase of land and the construction of a fourth order Lighthouse. The site chosen held a prominent position on the Dune area overlooking the approach to the Inlet. The Lighthouse was a wood frame residential style designed by the Lighthouse Board’s Chief Draftsman, Paul J. Pelz. Pelz would later go on to design the Library of Congress. His eclectic Victorian design can be called “Carpenter Gothic” or “Stick Style” making for a very picturesque but also a very substantially built structure.
On May 11, 1874 a “Notice to Mariners” formally announced the start of operation of the Light. The light is located at latitude 39 degrees and longitude 74 degrees, 47 minutes. The tower height is 49 ˝ feet with the light elevation rising to 57 feet above sea level. The light is visible at a distance of 13 nautical miles.
John Marche was the first Lighthouse Keeper. He was in the post less than three months when he drowned as his boat capsized while returning from the mainland.
John Nickerson was temporary keeper for several months until Freeling Hewitt arrived. Freeling (shown left), a civil war veteran, stayed as guardian of the light for the next 45 years.
It was under the auspices of Freeling or “Captain” Hewitt, as he was known, that local families gathered for a Baptist ceremony at the Lighthouse. This was the first formal religious service conducted on the island and would be repeated until the first church was built.
The Lighthouse stood firm against the onslaught of the winds, rains and tides for 40 years at its original location. A severe storm in August of 1913 significantly damaged the foundation, requiring it to be moved westward about 150 feet to where it sits today. This task was completed by 1914.
For the next 50 years the Lighthouse continued in operation, but in 1964 an iron light tower, fitted with a modern automatic marine beacon was erected behind the Lighthouse. The Lighthouse was closed and the entire property including the old Coast Guard Station was transferred to the control of the New Jersey Marine Police. The Lighthouse was boarded up and left to deteriorate for the next 18 years. (circa 1979)
In 1982 through the long and painstaking efforts of Mayor and Mrs. Anthony Catanoso, a lease was signed “Whereby the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection turns over the stewardship of the Lighthouse to the City of North Wildwood”.
Restoration of the historic yet neglected building was immediately begun. After only 10 months of intense work, on July 1, 1983, a portion of the restored building was opened to the public. Hundreds of public-spirited citizens who helped raise funds for the restoration and contributed time, talent, energy and materials were on hand to celebrate the official re-opening of the historic landmark for public use. In 1986 the modern marine beacon was removed from the iron light tower and placed inside the Lighthouse lantern making it a fully functional aid to navigation once again.
Finally, a project to improve the sandy, barren grounds into a park was undertaken by the City’s Parks Department resulting in what you see today with its many garden areas. The Hereford Lighthouse is listed on both the National and State Registers of Historic Places. It is operated and maintained by the Hereford Lighthouse Commission. The Commission is comprised of local citizens appointed by Mayor and Council and serve voluntarily. Its purpose is to generate funds by various ways for the restoration of the Lighthouse. It is also charged with the duty to provide information to the public about the Lighthouse history through tours and other means of historical interpretation.
The Lighthouse and its grounds are settings for many activities throughout the year including guided tours, craft shows, art exhibits, butterfly watching and the town’s annual Christmas Celebration.
Please Note: This is an archived file from Hereford Lighthouse, visit HerefordInletLighthouse.com for current hours of operation.