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The New Twin Lights at Navesink

On May 1, 1862, the lamps of the new lighthouse, Twin Lights at Navesink, were lit for the first time. 

The original Twin Lights of Navesink were first lit in 1828. By 1857, the original structure had fallen into disrepair. That year, the Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board stated:

The two light-house towers at Navesink, N. J., marking the approach to the bay of New York, are in a dilapidated condition, the consequence of original bad materials and workmanship, and it has been represented that there is apprehension that they are not capable of standing much longer the heavy winter storms of the coast. The position is one of great exposure, the lights of much importance, and it is believed it will not be safe to trust to the stability of the present towers much longer.

Congress appropriated $72,941 on June 20, 1860, for a new lighthouse at Navesink, and Joseph Lederle was selected as the architect. Lederle’s plans called for a castle-like structure, built of brownstone, with an octagonal tower on its north end and a square tower, 228 feet away, on the opposite end. A two-story residence for the principal keeper and his first assistant was centered between the two towers, while the living space for the second and third assistant keepers, along with workshops and oil rooms, were located in the wings that attached the towers to the two-story dwelling.

Each tower was outfitted with a first-order Fresnel lens capable of producing 8,000 candlepower, making Twin Lights the most powerful lighthouse in the United States at the time. When first lit, the lamps inside the giant lenses burned lard oil. This changed in 1883, when, after experimenting for several weeks, the Lighthouse Board installed a mineral-oil lamp in the south tower, making Navesink Lighthouse the first in the country to use a first-order lamp fueled with mineral oil.

Today, the Twin Lights State Historic Site is owned and operated by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Parks & Forestry. The Twin Lights Historical Society assists NJ Parks in helping to make the Twin Lights Historic Site one of the best small museums in New Jersey. The grounds of Twin Lights are now open to visitors, with COVID-19 precautions in place. 


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