The 7th Annual Hereford Inlet Lighthouse Maritime Festival will take place on June 18 & 19, 2016 on the grounds and surrounding streets of the historic Hereford Inlet Lighthouse and Museum at 111 North Central Avenue in North Wildwood (old Anglesea Village), NJ 08260. The festival is a celebration of life by the sea. For two full days, artists, crafters, authors, historians, lighthouses and maritime museums join together for a weekend of fun and festivities! There are also antique boats, pirates, performers and demonstrations by men and women of the sea - plus great food! The whole event is free and open to the public. So don't miss out on one of New Jersey's Best Summer Festivals!
Come celebrate the Sea in Anglesea!
Historic and picturesque Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, a beacon of safety and assurance to the 19th century mariners, has become a cherished landmark for residents and visitors of this seashore resort community.
The Lighthouse 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. First used by the 17th century whalers to haul in and butcher their catches, the Inlet’s use as a haven to mariners greatly increased as travel and shipping along the coast became more prevalent.
Strong currents and shifting sandbars near the entrance to the Inlet caused frequent groundings and shipwrecks. Because of this, in 1849, a Life Saving Station was constructed along the south bank of the Hereford Inlet. A second, larger station replaced this in 1871, the time of the creation of the United States Life Saving Service. As the use of the Inlet and coastal shipping continued to increase, so did the number of shipwrecks. It became obvious that a Lighthouse was needed to mark the mouth of the Inlet.
On June 10, 1872 Congress enacted legislation to finance the purchase of land and the construction of a fourth order Lighthouse. The site chosen held a prominent position on the dune area overlooking the approach to the Inlet.
Construction began on the uninhabited barrier island on Nov. 8, 1873 and was completed on March 30, 1874. This wood frame residential style Lighthouse was designed by the Lighthouse Boards Chief Draftsman, Paul J. Pelz. His Victorian era design is referred to as “Swiss Carpenter Gothic” and also “Stick Style”
Hereford is the only Lighthouse like it on the East Coast although it had five “sister“ lights on the West. Pelz designed Point Fermin, East Brother, Mare Island and Point Hueneme in California and Point Adams in Washington State. All of these were almost identical to Hereford and were built about the same time. Only Point Fermin and East Brother still exist.
Paul Pelz would later garner world wide fame as the designer of the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.
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. 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.
John Marche was the first Lighthouse Keeper. He was in the post less than three months when he drowned when his boat capsized while returning from the mainland. He was replaced by a young man from Cape May Court House, Freeling Hysen Hewitt.
Freeling was a civil war veteran and a former merchant seaman. He would stay on as the keeper of the Light for the next 45 years . Freeling was considered a “Pioneer” of the island and among his many contributions, held the first formal religious services to occur in the Wildwoods, in the Lighthouse parlor.
In 1888, a third larger Bibb#2 style Life Saving Station was constructed three hundred feet Northwest of the Lighthouse. The Lighthouse Service and the Life Saving Service were both run by the Department of the Treasury but were seperate organizations. They were, however, both in the business of saving lives. The Lighthouse by warning and the Life Saving Service by rescue.
Hereford 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.
In 1915 the Coast Guard absorbed the duties of the U.S. Life Saving Service. A larger building was needed and in 1939 the modern “Roosevelt Style” Coast Guard Station was constructed. This Station also had a boathouse and a maintenance garage. These are the white buildings just north of the Lighthouse. 1939 was also the year that the Coast Guard took over control of the Lighthouse Service.
For the next 25 years the Hereford lighthouse continued in operation. By the early 1960’s the Coast Guard began to automize many of its lighthouses. In 1964 this was the fate of Hereford when an automatic rotating modern optic was placed on an iron skeletal tower behind the Lighthouse. The Lighthouse was closed as was the Coast Guard Station next door. The entire property was transferred to the control of the New Jersey State Marine Police. The Police made use of the Coast Guard Buildings but the Lighthouse was boarded up and left to deteriorate for the next 18 years.
In 1982 through the long and painstaking efforts of Mayor Anthony Catanoso and his wife Phyllis a lease was signed “Whereby the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection turns over the stewardship of the Lighthouse to the City of North Wildwood.
Restoration of the neglected building was immediately begun. After only ten months of intense work, on July 1, 1983, a portion of the restored building was opened to the public. Hundreds of public spirited citizens who helped raise funds for the restoration and contributed time, talent, energy and materials were on hand to celebrate the official reopening of the historic landmark for public use.
In 1986 the modern automated light was removed from the iron tower and placed in the Lighthouse lantern room making it a fully functional aid to navigation once again.
Efforts were then begun to also create a museum in the Lighthouse. The interior of the building was furnished with period antiques, educational displays and lighthouse memorabilia. The 4th order Fresnel Lens was also restored and placed on display on the first floor of the Lighthouse.
A project to improve the sandy, barren grounds into a park was undertaken by Superintendent of Parks Steve Murray, who designed the Park along with its many garden areas.
Finally an authentic restoration of the entire Lighthouse was begun in 1998 and as with many old, historic structures is always a work in progress. Grants awarded by the New Jersey Historic Trust and the N.J. Department of Transportation have helped finance this work.
The Hereford Lighthouse is listed on both the National and State Registers of Historic Places. It is also part of the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail. It is operated and maintained by the Hereford Lighthouse Commission with money generated by Lighthouse tours, the gift shop and various fund raising projects.
Our mission is to preserve our city’s landmark and to impress upon and educate the public of its important heritage.
For more information on becoming a "Friend of Hereford Inlet Light House"
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The Hereford Inlet Lighthouse Maritime Festival is sponsored and managed by the non profit 501 c corporation "Friends of Hereford Inlet Lighthouse."