This beacon of safety and assurance to 19th-century mariners is unique among East Coast lighthouses and is now a cherished landmark.
Hereford is the only lighthouse like it on the East Coast--of the original six built in the same style nationwide only three remain. It is situated on the south side of the Hereford Inlet, which leads from the Atlantic Ocean to the famed Intra-Coastal Waterway linking Maine to Florida. The tower height is 49 1/2 feet with the light elevation rising to 57 feet above sea level. The light is visible at a distance of 13 nautical miles.
The Hereford inlet had been used from the 17th century into the height of shipping, thus needing a state of the art lighthouse. It had been first used by whalers to haul in and butcher their catches. As the use of the inlet and nearby coastal shipping continued to increase over the years, so did the number of shipwrecks, due to strong currents and shifting sandbars near the entrance to the inlet. As a result, on June 10, 1872, Congress enacted legislation to finance the purchase of land and the construction of a lighthouse. The site chosen held a prominent position on the dune area overlooking the approach to the inlet. This wood-frame residential-style lighthouse was designed by the Lighthouse Board’s chief draftsman, Paul J. Pelz and was completed in 1864. The design is referred to as “Swiss Carpenter Gothic” and also “Stick Style”. The Hereford Inlet Lighthouse was constructed to mark the mouth of the Inlet, which would help prevent shipwrecks.
On May 11, 1874 a “Notice to Mariners” formally announced the start of operation of the light. The fixed white light was located at latitude 39 degrees and longitude 74 degrees, 47 minutes.
Hereford Inlet Lighthouse stood firm against the onslaught of the winds, rains, and tides for 40 years at its original location. A severe storm in August of 1913 significantly damaged the foundation, requiring it to be moved westward 150 feet to where it sits today. For its first 50 years, the light in the tower was a stationary, fixed light. A rotating beacon was installed in 1924. In 1964 a metal tower was built in the backyard of the lighthouse, a rotating beacon was placed on top and the light in the lighthouse tower was turned off.
Through the efforts of Mayor Anthony Catanoso and his wife Phyllis, the City of North Wildwood obtained a lease to the lighthouse from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in 1982. Restoration efforts began, backed by donations, grants and the work of volunteers. The light from the metal tower was placed in the lighthouse tower in 1986 and Hereford Inlet Lighthouse shone again, its original Fresnel lens being left on display on the lower level of the lighthouse. Grants awarded by the New Jersey Historic Trust and the N.J. Department of Transportation have helped finance maintenance, repairs and upkeep over the years.
In 2018 the beacon became inoperable and a flashing LED lamp was installed in the tower. The mayor and city clerk of North Wildwood have been in discussions with the US Coast Guard, who continues to maintain the light as an active aid to navigation for mariners, about the possibility of placing a new rotating beacon in the lighthouse in the future.
A historical marker was installed at the original location of Hereford Inlet Lighthouse on Anglesea Day – Friday, June 1st, 2018.
Keepers of The Hereford Inlet Lighthouse
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111 N. Central Avenue
Wildwood, NJ 08260
Please Call the Lighthouse for hours of operations.
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