Sandy Hook Maritime Structures

The lighthouse was decorated for its 250th anniversary in June 2014. NPS PHOTO

The lighthouse was decorated for its 250th anniversary in June 2014. NPS PHOTO

NPS PHOTO by Allison Luchnick

Lighting the way since 1764

First lit on June 11, 1764, the Sandy Hook Light is the oldest surviving lighthouse in what is now the United States. Financed by a lottery, it was built by the Colony of New York to keep ships safe as they passed by Sandy Hook on their way to and from New York Harbor. In 2014, the lighthouse celebrated its 250th anniversary. It remains a working lighthouse today. Visitors may climb its tower, but the 1857 Fresnel (fray-NEL) lens is now electrically lit and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard.

During the American Revolution, its thick walls protected it from cannonball fire from the Continental Army. The British captured the lighthouse in 1776 and held it through the end of the war in 1783. The lighthouse itself was fortified during the War of 1812, when the shortlived Fort Gates was built here.

The Lighthouse Keeper's Quarters, built in 1883, is the fifth such quarters built on this site. It was one of two U.S. Life Saving Service (USLSS) structures on the Hook. After Hurricane Sandy, it has served as a museum and visitor center until the USLSS building at Spermaceti Cove is repaired.

The Sandy Hook Light is a National Historic Landmark within a National Historic Landmark. It has its own status as a National Historic Landmark but is also part of the Fort Hancock and Sandy Hook Proving Ground Historic District National Historic Landmark.

Dig deeper

View the Sandy Hook Light National Historic District Nomination Form.
For a slideshow history of lighthouses click here.
View Sandy Hook Lighthouse brochure.
*New Sandy Hook Lighthouse. The Facts, Mystery and History Surrounding America's Oldest Operating Lighthouse.

 
Visitors enjoy the beach on a summer day, with the former U.S. Life Saving Station in the background.  Photo by Volunteer-in-Parks Stan Kosinski.

Visitors enjoy the beach on a summer day, with the former U.S. Life Saving Station in the background.

Photo by Volunteer-in-Parks Stan Kosinski.

Saving passengers from sinking ships

Spermaceti Cove Life-Saving Station, built in 1894, housed the men who risked their lives saving shipwrecked victims. In 1915 the United States Life-Saving Service became part of the U.S. Coast Guard. The station was used by the Coast Guard until the late 1940s. The National Park Service converted it into a visitor center, which was used until it was damaged Hurricane Sandy. The NPS has plans to restore this building and reopen it to the public. This building remains closed to the public until it can be restored.

Spermaceti Cove #2 Life-Saving Service Station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also part of the Fort Hancock and Sandy Hook Proving Ground Historic District National Historic Landmark.

Dig deeper

View the Spermaceti Cove # 2 Life-Saving Service Station National Register Nomination Form.
View the Spermaceti Cove Life-Saving Station Historic Structures Report.
View Sandy Hook's Lifesavers brochure.

 

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