By Chris Rotolo |
SANDY HOOK –After nine months of renovations, the Sandy Hook Lighthouse reopened to the public June 24 for an afternoon’s worth of tales about its place in history and free tours of its freshly renewed interior.
The 254-year-old beacon drew a crowd of visitors for its grand reopening, including a couple posing for engagement photos and tour groups that wound their way up the 95-step spiral staircase and nine-rung ladder to the snug lantern gallery. Their reward was a sweeping view of the barrier island, the Bayshore and the New York City skyline.
“The lighthouse has always drawn a diverse crowd. Older folks, younger people, as well as international guests, and couples who are here to explore the beauty and history of the grounds and capture a memory,” said Jennifer Cox, supervisory park ranger. “The renovation and reopening of our lighthouse is really a breath of fresh air for Sandy Hook.”
As well as fresh coats of paint, restored windows and new metal roofing on its exterior, the lighthouse’s interior has also been refurbished, with new masonry work, drainage systems and metal lantern walls. The stairs and inner walls received a paint job and the upper hatch that grants access to the outer cat walk of the lantern gallery was replaced.
“In this location, surrounded by water with harsh summers and winters, nature can take its toll,” Cox said. “Those who visited the lighthouse before the renovations, they’ll remember that there was some discoloring and actually a red ring toward the top of it, which was a stain. The windows needed work. Elements of it needed to be refurbished. Looking at it now, this lighthouse is a beacon for our park in more ways than one.”
Jackie Piano of Dunellen ventured to Sandy Hook Sunday to observe its historic grounds and natural beauty, before stumbling upon the lighthouse’s reopening and joining a tour.
“I’ve been bringing my kids to Sandy Hook for years, but now they’re all grown, so I get to do the things that I would like to do that they would never want to do, like taking a tour of this lighthouse,” Piano said in jest. “It was a wonderful tour led by incredibly informative park rangers. It was an education for sure.”
Piano knew the lighthouse was historically significant but was taken aback by its links to Colonial America.
Constructed in 1764, the Sandy Hook Lighthouse predates the birth of the country and even withstood an attempt at destruction when Continental Army Officer Benjamin Tupper sought to dismantle the structure to hinder British naval navigation during the Revolutionary War. The lighthouse was eventually occupied by British soldiers and not officially returned to the United States and President George Washington until the spring of 1790.
Manalapan resident Anthony Cione, 26, was also interested to find the lighthouse’s location on Sandy Hook spoke to the evolving landscape of the Jersey Shore.
“They told us that when the lighthouse was first built it was only 500 feet from the tip of Sandy Hook, but over 250-plus years the currents carried sand up from Sea Bright and Asbury Park and expanded the Hook, which is amazing to think about,” Cione said.
The effect is called littoral drift and refers to the tidal transport of sediments along the coast parallel to the shoreline. The lighthouse once stood just a short walk from the barrier island’s edge; it is now located nearly 1½-miles from that point.The Sandy Hook Lighthouse is now open daily to the public with half hour tower tours running from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Tour groups are kept small due to spatial constraints inside the tower and tour patrons must be at least 4 feet tall to ascend the tower. Guests may preregister for the tours in the lighthouse visitors center.
This article first appeared in the June 28 – July 5, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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