The New Jersey Brandywine Shoal Lighthouse is located west of Cape Cod on the United States’ eastern coast, north of the Delaware Bay on North Cape Bay. The first lighthouse on this site was actually a lightship and was anchored near the shoal in 1823. The vessel eventually rotted because of lack of proper care and ventilation and was retired in 1849. October 28, 1850 was first day of operation for the new screw pile style lighthouse. Screw-pile lighthouses are supported by metal or wood reinforced concrete piles that are screwed into the sea or river bottom.
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This lighthouse served ships in the harbor until October 18, 1920 when it was replaced by a cone-shaped structure built on a caisson, or steel reinforced concrete foundation requiring less maintenance. The concrete pier was built on shore and then launched to the site where it was sunk and placed on its pile platform.
The lighthouse employed a 3rd order Fresnel lens and the original is on display at the Tuckerton Seaport. This lens was invented by the French physicist Augustine Fresnel and its light was seen twenty or more miles in the horizon. With a special act of Congress in 1851 the lighthouse became the third structure equipped with the lens. After conducting an experiment which transported members of the lighthouse board fifteen miles east of Brandywine shoal, it was determined that the Fresnel lens in the Brandywine Lighthouse shone brighter than both the Cape Henlopen and Cape May lighthouses. Soon after, the board began placing Fresnel lenses in all United States lighthouses.
The Brandywine Shoal Lighthouse was automated in 1974 and in June 2011 was decommissioned by the U.S. Coast guard and offered to eligible organizations by the National Historic Lighthouse Act of 2000. There are about 250 decommissioned lighthouses owned by the U.S. government. These structures were replaced by satellite navigational systems. Prices range from $10,000 to $260,000 but the Brandywine Shoal is offered for free to a new steward dedicated to preserving its historical significance. The U.S. General Services Commission hopes to find a caretaker agency or buyer for the New Jersey Brandywine Shoal Lighthouse rather than allowing it to be demolished or crumble from neglect.