Delaware Cape Henlopen Lighthouse

The Delaware Cape Henlopen Lighthouse is one of most iconic lighthouses that ever stood on American soil. Lighthouses create not only a sense of safety, but also a sense of adventure. Being constructed to guide ships safely back to shore as they returned home from adventures at sea makes the lighthouse itself seem to stand for adventure. The lighthouse has always been a structure of beauty and considered majestic.


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Leftons Cape Henlopen Lighthouse Delware 1767

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History of the Delaware Cape Henlopen Lighthouse

The Delaware Cape Henlopen Lighthouse was built in 1767, funded by a chain of lotteries in Philadelphia. It became the sixth lighthouse established in America during the colonial period. The total cost of the Cape Henlopen Lighthouse was 7,674 pounds. The Lighthouse was constructed of stone brought down from the Brandywine River, which is located close to the Pennsylvania border, North of Wilmington Delaware.

Constructed along the Great Dune's North side, Cape Henlopen Lighthouse’s tower measured 26 feet in diameter and 6 feet at its base. The tower stood at an impressive 69 feet tall and consisted of eight levels with windows placed at each level. Allowing access to the Lantern Room, located at the top of the tower, was a spiral stairway constructed of wood. When the lighthouse was illuminated, its light would be visible from 17 miles away.

After construction, the Delaware Cape Henlopen Lighthouse was primarily used to guide colonial British ships into the port of Philadelphia. However, while in the midst of the Revolutionary War, the lighthouse played its part as a watchtower for British navy vessels.

In the year 1777, the lighthouse’s woodwork was gutted by way of fire after a disagreement between Hedgecock and a party from a British warship. After the Peace Treaty of 1783, the lighthouse was repaired and was once again put to use in 1784. The Lighthouse served as a guiding light for returning American ships as they returned with British treasure acquired during the War of 1812.

Unfortunately, the mighty Atlantic Ocean was constantly reshaping the Cape and caused it to recede; many measures were taken to preserve the lighthouse. However, after many years of beach erosion, all efforts to save the lighthouse were abandoned and on September 20th in the year 1924, the Cape Henlopen Lighthouse was decommissioned and subsequently abandoned. The Delaware Cape Henlopen Lighthouse served faithfully for more than 150 years as a beacon to ships at sea before its decommission.

On April 13, 1926, a powerful northeastern storm caused the Tower to fall and disintegrate. Local tradition states that after the Tower’s collapse many locals were searching the beach for pieces of stone that made up the beautiful lighthouse to take home as a souvenir, or to place in a stone fireplace or chimney.

Lighthouses serve as both a welcoming site to sailors and as a hope to all those who love sailors gone to sea. Lighthouses insure that loved ones  will return home, no matter what the waters are like. The light they project guides countless sea vessels to safety as they return home from their sea voyage. All generally admire lighthouses but perhaps one of the most majestic and admirable lighthouses ever constructed was the Delaware Cape Henlopen Lighthouse.