The days of Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse looking uninhabited are over. After nearly three decades of having the windows of the structure boarded up due to the removal of resident lightkeepers, its new “keepers” are slowly bringing the stalwart lighthouse back to life.
Gone is the dark and musty climb up the center-column staircase where you were once forced to grope for rusted handrails or obligated to follow the singular white beams emitting from hand-held flashlights. Today, thanks to the enthusiastic efforts of dedicated volunteers from the Delaware River & Bay Lighthouse Foundation, sunlight is once more able to radiate through the windows of the lighthouse and splash its orange hues against the aged hardwood floors that the keepers once walked upon. The uncovered windows have recreated a brilliant illumination of the interior levels of the lighthouse while showcasing a panoramic view of the Delaware Bay and sandy coastline of Cape Henlopen.
Beginning on August 24, 2002, unbridled passion for the lighthouse could be heard monthly in a variety of forms that ranged from the rugged scraping of loose paint on window sashes to the rhythmic hum of power drills being used to prep Plexiglas. By November 9, 2002, the exciting result of teamwork by DRBLHF lighthouse preservationists was proudly on display upon the south end of the historic National Harbor of Refuge stone breakwater wall. The organization’s labor of love enabled Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse to once more display an invigorating appearance of being “livable,” while conjuring up memories of bygone days when the sentinel’s lightkeepers maintained a watchful eye on the bustling waterborne activity at the mouth of the Delaware Bay.
The sun’s natural light shining forth from a high sky was not the only light being shed in every dark corner of the lighthouse. After tinkering with electrical boxes and tracing hundreds of yards of conduit, the ingenuity and determination of DRBLHF volunteers proved successful in reactivating the generator-powered flourescent light fixtures left behind from the years when the lighthouse utilized electricity. The combination of the structure’s window coverings being removed and electrical lighting system working on the interior now uniquely compliment the guiding beam emitting from the lantern room high above the lighthouse as Harbor of Refuge no longer simply sends out the light - but also lets it in too.
This story appeared in the
February 2003 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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