Harbor of Refuge

Harbor of Refuge Breakwater Light is the third lighthouse to be built on this site. In 1825 Congress authorized construction of a breakwater at Lewes to meet the demands for a place where ships could seek shelter behind Cape Henlopen, Delaware. The Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse sits at the end of a breakwater on the ocean side of Cape Henlopen. It marks the entrance to Delaware Bay.
The first light was a temporary white frame tower structure built in 1902 with a five-day lens lantern.

In 1908 a permanent lighthouse that was a white, hexagonal, three-story, frame structure, with lead-colored trim and a black lantern atop a brown, cylindrical, iron foundation was built. The light had a fourth order Fresnel lens and a compressed-air siren for the foghorn. After a series of storms from 1918 into the early 1920s, the tower was no longer inhabitable. The US Lighthouse Service had the structure demolished.

In 1926 a white, conical, metal tower lighthouse topped by a black lantern was constructed. The superstructure rests on a black, trumpet-shaped, iron caisson built into the breakwater. The pier was lined inside with reinforced concrete and the tower with brick. The whole structure was supported upon a heavy block of concrete lying within the breakwater. The light had a fourth order Fresnel lens. The lens revolved on ball bearings and was driven by a clockwork mechanism activated by weights within a hollow central iron column. The current light is now a Vega VRB-25 operated by solar power. This lighthouse now stands as the only active light at Cape Henlopen as the Delaware Breakwater Light was deactivated in 1996.

In April 2002, the United States Coast Guard leased Harbor of Refuge Breakwater Light to the Delaware River and Bay Lighthouse Foundation, Inc. Visit their web site for the latest tour information. The lighthouse is visible from the Cape May-Lewes Ferry and from Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes, Delaware.

Head Keepers:  Charles E. Marshall (1903), Thomas Hasting (1903 – 1906), Carl Steele (1906), Thomas T. Moore (1906 – 1910), Joseph M. Harrison (1910 – 1914), William H. Schellenger (1914 – 1919), Robert C. Taylor (1919 – at least 1940)

First Assistant: John H. Millis (1903 – 1905), Earvin Carter (1905), John Johnson (1905), John S. Pusey (1905 – 1908), Oather F. Kirby (1908), George H. Buchanan (1909), William H. Schellenger (1909 – 1913), Archibald G. Lynch (1913 – 1914), Clarence E. Rickard (1915), Robert C. Taylor (1916 –1919), George W. Shockley (1919 – ), George Hickman (at least 1920 – at least 1921), Virgil L. Dennis (1926 – 1942)

Second Assistant:  George H. Buchanan (1906 – 1908), William H. Schellenger (1909), A.W. Hopkins (1909), Orrie B. Magee (1909 – 1910), Thomas W. Magee (1910 – at least 1912), Lawrence J. Farley (at least 1913), Chester P. Joseph (at least 1915), Raymond E. Wilson (1915 – ), Robert C. Taylor (1916), Clinton H. Hickman (1916 – at least 1917), Floyd K. Schmierer (1920 – 1921), Theodore W. Simpler (1923 – at least 1941)

Updated 6/20/2019




GPS: 38.819214, -75.105028

Permanent link to this article: https://cheslights.org/harbor-of-refuge/