Cape May Lighthouse


The Cape May Lighthouse was built in 1859, and is the third known lighthouse to be built at Cape May Point. The first was built in 1823, and the second in 1847. Their exact location is now underwater due to erosion.

The current lighthouse is 157’6" tall, from the ground line to the ventilator ball on top. There are 218 steps from the ground to the top, with 199 steps in the tower’s cast-iron spiral staircase. The light is visible 24 miles out to sea and flashes every 15 seconds.


1823    1st known lighthouse constructed at a height of 68-feet

1847    2nd lighthouse is built at a height of 78-feet

1857    The current lighthouse construction begins at a cost of $40,000.

1859    First lighted on October 31.

1860    Two lighthouse keeper's dwellings were built.

1893    Oil house is constructed.

1902    One of the keeper's dwellings is enlarged.

1910    An incandescent oil vapor lamp was installed to replace the Funck multiple-wick first order hydraulic float lamp that dated back to 1878.

1938    The light apparatus was electrified, which eliminated the need for lighthouse keepers being 
permanently stationed at the tower.

1939    The United States Lighthouse Establishment was discontinued, and its equipment and  personnel transferred to the United States Coast Guard.

1941    Darkened until 1945 because of World War II.  The Atlantic Coast was on blackout due to the presence of enemy submarines.

1946    Present rotating optical lens was installed and the first order classical lens was placed in the Cape May County Museum.

The current optic in the Cape May Lighthouse

The above information was taken from a pamphlet distributed by:

Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts (MAC)
1048 Washington Street
PO Box 340
Cape May, NJ 08204-0340
(609) 884-5404

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