Hereford Lighthouse, North Wildwood New Jersey
When the Life Saving Serivce was started in 1849, installing men and boats on the county beaches, Hereford Inlet, Station #36, was one of the most active. The dangerous waters and shoals between Seven Mile Beach and Five Mile Beach were the scene of many tragic and costly wrecks.
This service developed a hardy breed of men, some of whom made their homes in Anglesea. In 1874 the Hereford Lighthouse was built.
The history of Anglesea (North Wildwood) has always been tied closely with to that of Hereford Inlet. In its early days, traffic through this Inlet was its principal source of economic existence. Lighthouses of the area were serviced from this point, a job that required weekly trips transporting personnel and supplies.
The Hereford Inlet Lighthouse is located on Central Avenue, between First and Chestnut Avenues in North Wildwood. The Lighthouse is 55 feet high, and the light is 53 feet above water. The light with a one million candlepower (white) and 320,00 (red sector), is visable 13 miles at sea. The characteristic flashes are flash 0.3 seconds, eclipse 3.4 seconds, flash 0.3 seconds, eclipse 11 seconds, red west of 266 degrees.
Its light list number is 1476. The structure is of wood and placed in a grove, the tower surmounts the dwelling. The lighthouse is located 10 3/4 nautical miles north of Cape May Point Lighthouse.
The white water off the inlet makes the need of the lighthouse and lifeboat station obvious. There are sections of the inlet that are only two feet deep. It was hard to bring in the old sailing vessels against the wind. There is a record of one that was driven off 15 times between December 25, 1787 and February 6, 1788, before it was able to get into Hereford Inlet safely.
The Hereford Lighthouse was part of a nationwide system of aids to navigation, which grew out of the era of transport by sailing ships and steamboats. The building is a fine example of a mid 19th Century lighthouse, and stands as a visually evocative reminder of this much romanticized era.
The need for aids to navigation has long been recognized. At the beginning of the 19th century, the principles of lighthouse illumination were in an undeveloped condition, and it was not until the investigations of Fresnel and Arago, in France, and the labors of Smeaton and the elder Stephenson, in Great Britain, that they were brought into a strictly scientific condition.
Wood and coal were at first used as fuel for lights. They were burned as beacon-fires on headlands, and afterward, as the necessity for increased elevation was felt, they were placed on the tops of towers.
In the United States, the first lighthouses were illuminated by tallow candles and solid-wick lamps suspended by iron chains from the dome of the lantern. The Argand burners and reflectors were adopted in 1812, and were used until the organization of the Lighthouse Board, shortly after which they were superseded by the Fresnel apparatus.
Prior to 1851 lighthouses and other aids to navigation of the United States were under the charge of one of the Auditors of "the Treasurer Department, and the furnishing of plans and the constructing of lighthouses were intrusted to temporary agents.
In 1845, a commission was sent to Europe to inquire into the most improved lighthouse system; the chairman of which, Lieutenant Jenkins of the United States Navy, made an exhaustive report on the subject, which was the basis of an improved system later introduced.
In 1851, a provisional board was appointed by the Government to investigate the condition of the American lighthouse system. In accordance with this organization, the whole coast of the United States was divided into districts, to each of which was assigned an officer of the Navy and an officer of Engineers. The duty of the first was to inspect, at stated periods, the conditions of the lights, buoys, ect, to furnish supplies, and to give information as to the necessity for repairs. The duty of the second, was to make repairs, and to furnish information as to new sites and designs for new structures.
By the 1870*s the Lighthouse Board had jurisdiction over some 608 lighthouses and beacons, nationwide. In 1871 the Report of the Lighthouse Board recommended that a relatively small lighthouse, "of the fourth order" be built at the entrance to Hereford Inlet, "a good harbor of refuge for small coasting vessels". It was felt that this would be important to the coal trade, as well as small steamers navigating the Delaware River Bay. The following year Congress appropriated the necessary $25,000 for acquisition of the property and construction. In 1873 the location was selected and the New Jersey Legislature granted jurisdiction of the property to the Federal Government. The lighthouse was actually built in 1874 along with facilities for a boat. In 1875 the lighthouse keeper John March drowned when his boat capsized.
Most of the major changes, over the years, involved ground regrading. There were however a few changes to the building itself. In 1897 the fixed white light was changed to a flashing red and white light. In 1899 a flagstaff was erected, and a telephone was installed.