Harbor of Refuge Light

Lewes, Delaware | C.1907

Photo Credit: Evan Lober

Guiding ships at sea is one thing, but enduring hurricane force winds while doing so is a whole ‘nother level of lighthouse badassery. According to a logbook entry in 1929 by lightkeeper Robert C. Taylor, the Harbor of Refuge Light once braved such a gale in the dead of night and somehow managed to see the light of day.

“It was blowing about 78 mph… The lighthouse shook bad… What we need is stone put on the northeast side to break the sea up before it hits the house for we know what the sea does around here.” (Aka: This wasn’t the first time this has happened)

Originally built in 1907, the first lighthouse was constantly pummeled by such tall violent waves that it was dislodged from its foundation and the top of its tower was lost to the sea. Deemed uninhabitable, the light was later dismantled.

So when it came time to design a replacement, the Lighthouse Service was prepared. The new three-story structure was created to withstand the most intense violent storms with an outer shell and pier constructed of cast iron plates, reinforced concrete, and brick. This nearly ‘storm-proof’ design kept light keepers out of the log books as they manned the Light for nearly fifty more years until it was automated.

In 2010, the Light encountered rough conditions yet again, this time thanks to winter storms knocking at its docks. Thanks to a $1 million grant, a new custom dock was installed and the Light was restored and reopened — simply another chapter in its story of enduring harsh conditions to reemerge as a stronghold of safety along the Delaware Bay.

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