Historic Absecon Lighthouse

Directions to the Historic Absecon Lighthouse

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HISTORY OF ABSECON LIGHTHOUSE

The Inlet Public/Private Association was established in 1988 by a coalition of community, civic, business and government interests whose shared purpose was to promote the successful redevelopment of the Inlet section of Atlantic City.  In 1993, IPPA adopted Atlantic City’s Absecon Lighthouse and began planning its restoration.

The Association states that its mission is to improve and maintain the quality of life in the inlet section of Atlantic City by preserving the rich history of the Inlet through the care and interpretation of Absecon Lighthouse and other historic resources, while advocating the completion of Inlet development plans.

1854  After a decade of prompting from Jonathan Pitney, considered by most to be the “father” of Atlantic City, the U.S. Lighthouse Service requested and received a $35,000 appropriation from Congress for a lighthouse on Absecon Island.

1854 December 5.  The Camden and Atlantic Land Co. transferred the land for a lighthouse to the U.S. government for the sum of $520.

1855 Construction began under the direction of Major Hartman Bache.  Bache was replaced by Lieutenant George Meade, who would later command the Union Army at Gettysburg.

1856 An additional $17,436 was appropriated to finish the project by the Army Corps of Engineers under the direction of Lt. Col. William Reynolds.  The final cost was $52,436.62.

1857 January 15.  The first lighting occurred with a mineral oil (kerosene) flame focusing through a huge 36-plate, First-Order Fresnel lens made in Paris especially for Absecon Lighthouse.  The white light shone 19.5 nautical miles out to sea.

1876 The Lighthouse was constructed on the high dune line of the island.  The water rose to within 75 feet of the tower (the approximate current location of Pacific Avenue) due to beach erosion.  Four wood and stone jetties were constructed near the base of the tower to build up the beach.

1880s The jetties were finally covered by sand and the shoreline was restored to its previous configuration.  Elsewhere in the City construction began on homes, shops and a modest elevated boardwalk.

1910 June 6.  The first incandescent oil vapor (i.o.v.) lamps were used in the Lighthouse.

1925  July 1.  Electricity was first used for the light.

1933 July 11.  Absecon Lighthouse was decommissioned and the light was extinguished.

1954 The lantern was lit for a brief period for Atlantic City’s centennial celebration.

1962 A small visitor’s center was constructed at the base of the tower.

1963  December 31.  Governor Richard Hughes pressed a button in the New Jersey State House, relighting the lens for the first time
in 25 years for the State of New Jersey’s Tercentenary year.

1970 September 11.  Absecon Lighthouse was placed on New Jersey’s Register of Historic Places.

1971  January 25.  The Absecon Lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

1988  The Inlet Public/Private Association (IPPA) was formed and adopted Absecon Lighthouse as its logo, signifying the rebirth of
the Inlet section of Atlantic City.

1994 IPPA formally adopted Absecon Lighthouse and pursued various funding options for a Historic Structure Report (HSR), leading to the tower’s ultimate restoration. IPPA received a $50,000 grant from the City of Atlantic City for the HSR.

1995 IPPA hired the architectural firm of Watson & Henry Associates to prepare the HSR.  Watson & Henry previously designed restorations of the Lighthouse’s “sister” towers in Cape May and Barnegat.  The HSR was completed in December 1995.  

IPPA received a $100,000 grant from the City of Atlantic City to support the restoration process.

IPPA received a $500,000 grant from the federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) for preservation of
the Lighthouse Tower.

IPPA hired Sara Cureton as executive director for the Lighthouse, thus filling the position of Lightkeeper for the first time since 1933.

1996  IPPA received a commitment for a $970,000 grant from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority for the restoration of Absecon Lighthouse, including the reconstruction of the Lightkeeper’s House.

IPPA hired Watson & Henry Associates to prepare designs for the tower restoration.

IPPA hires the architectural firm of Westfield Architects and Preservation Consultants to prepare plans for the Keeper’s House portion of the project.

IPPA received a commitment for $1,000,922 from the New Jersey Historic Trust for tower restoration.

IPPA received local approval from the Atlantic City Planning Board for the reconstruction of the Keeper’s House portion of the Lighthouse.

1997 May.  Restoration of the tower began.  Reconstruction of the Keeper’s House began shortly thereafter.

1998  Restoration of the tower reached substantial completion.  The reconstructed Lightkeeper’s House was lost in a tragic fire on July 6th, just weeks away from completion.  Miraculously, the tower portion of the structure escaped substantial injury.

1999  IPPA opened the historic tower to visitors, while continuing efforts to rebuild the lost Keeper’s House.

2001  October.  IPPA opens the reconstructed Keeper’s House to visitors.

2005  IPPA hires a new Executive Director, Jean Muchanic.

2007  Absecon Lighthouse celebrates its 150th anniversary on January 15, 2007.

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