The New Jersey Barnegat Lighthouse is one of the most beautiful local landmarks on Long Beach Island, New Jersey. The locals refer to the beach as Old Barney and it is located on the South Side of the Barnegat Inlet.
In the mid 1600s, local Dutch settlers in the area referred to the Barnegat Inlet as Barendegat which means Inlet of Breakers. The inlet was filled with breakers which were a dangerous hazard to oncoming ships in the area. Due to the breakers, the locals requested Congress to build a lighthouse that would prevent shipwrecks. Construction for the lighthouse started in 1834 for $6000 and the lighthouse was completed by the next year.
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The lighthouse was the biggest built at the time as it was about 40-feet-tall but schooners frequently complained that the light from the tower was too dim. The waters off the shore were also too violent and the lighthouse had to be built more than 900 feet inland and away from the shore.
By the year 1855, Lt. George Mead, an Army engineer was commissioned to rebuild the tower and increase its height. Work began in 1856 and the new New Jersey Barnegat Lighthouse was placed more than 100 feet south of the original structure. The current structure is different with an internal cone and an outer cylindrical tower.
The light from the tower was shut down in 1944 and it was handed over to the State of New Jersey. In recent years, a non-profit organization called the Friends of Barnegat Lighthouse State Park raised funds to reactivate the light on top of the tower. In the year 2009, 150 years to the day that the light was first lit, the Barnegat lighthouse was started up again.
Visitors to the area are welcome to visit the tower, as it is open daily. Visitors can catch views from the top of the tower by climbing the 127 stairs or through 4 panoramic cameras. The lighthouse also has a Barnegat Lighthouse Interpretive Center and the Barnegat Lighthouse Museum for visitors that showcase the history of the tower.
The lighthouse has been immortalized in folk art drawings, sculptures and tapestries due to its beautiful structure. Visitors can shop at the local handicraft and memorabilia stores for pictorial representations of the lighthouse. Popular folk artist Jim Shore created a special line of lighthouses that includes this wonderful New Jersey Barnegat Lighthouse as a limited edition sculpture.