Sea Girt Lighthouse News Story

Published by Admin at 12:03 PM under

The Sea Girt Lighthouse in the local news:

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Night Climb 2017

Published by Admin at 9:42 AM under

We will be hosting another night climb! Saturday, Dec 2nd from 6:00pm – 9:30pm. See you there.

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Signing of the Lease Lawn Party

Published by Admin at 12:24 AM under

The Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee is proud to host the 37th annual Signing of the Lease Lawn Party. The party will be August 5, 2017 from 6-8pm. Enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvers, and support our worthy cause! Tickets are $75 per person, and checks can be made out to Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee. No tickets will be sold at the door, and as always we have a limited number of tickets to offer the public. Please send checks with your contact information (name, address, telephone, number of tickets) to:

Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee
PO Box 83
Sea Girt, NJ 08750

or call us: 732.974.0514

See you at the party!

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Military History Attracts Veterans to Lighthouse

Published by Admin at 11:50 PM under

USCG_ENSIGN_PRESENTATIONMost every Sunday, there are a few military veterans and the occasional merchant mariner visiting the lighthouse, which extends a welcome to all service members, active duty and retired, and their families.

In addition to the compelling history of Sea Girt Lighthouse as an important East Coast light that made sea travel safer, and was the first land-based station in the world equipped with a radio fog beacon transmitter to enable mariners to navigate in fog, there are numerous exhibits and many artifacts that would be of special interest to mariners and military members.

From its activation in 1896 through mid-1939, Sea Girt Lighthouse was under the command of the U.S. Lighthouse Service. While a civilian service, the USLHS borrowed from the military, having a command structure, ranks and uniformed personnel, whose dress uniforms and fatigues were actually U.S. Navy uniforms but with Lighthouse Service markings.

COASTIE_WAPELHORST_RETURNSThen, by executive order of President Franklin Roosevelt, the U.S. Lighthouse Service was dissolved July 1, 1939 and all lighthouses were put under the command of the U.S. Coast Guard in anticipation of America’s going to war. During World War II, the beacons at Sea Girt and other U.S. lighthouses were extinguished. Men at Seat Girt and other lighthouses stood watch in the towers, looking for enemy ships as well as Allied ships in trouble.

In addition to its lighthouse duties, Sea Girt was also a weather station and a signal station. Keepers took weather readings at Sea Girt and other lighthouses, which they submitted to central regional offices that then made weather forecasts. This was the precursor of the National Weather Service. Also, in 1898, lighthouses, including Sea Girt, were issued signal flags, enabling keepers to communicate with passing passenger and cargo ships, as well as U.S. Navy vessels sailing to and from Cuba during that year’s Spanish-American War.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Among the displayed artifacts of special interest to mariners and military would the manuals, maps and tools used by keepers, merchant mariners and military personnel to fulfill their duties, including an 1898 navigational map identifying Sea Girt Lighthouse as a signal station, volumes of U.S. Coast Pilot listing lighthouses and other aids to navigation and the latitude and longitude of each, a U.S. Life-Saving Service surfman’s brass candle lamp, circa 1910, USLHS binoculars, circa 1910, a Coast Guard binnacle compass and U.S. Navy long lens, both circa 1917, monthly U.S. Lighthouse Service Bulletins, 1920-30s, a 1927 edition of Instructions To Employees of the United States Lighthouse Service, Bluejacket’s Manual, 1940, issued to all U.S Navy and U.S. Coast Guard recruits, signal flags from the World War II era, and the very first edition of the U.S. Coast Guardman’s Manual, 1952.

Official Sea Girt documents from the Lighthouse Service and then the Coast Guard are organized chronically and organized by decade in folders that can viewed by visitors. Displayed documents includes the keeper logbook 1903-06, announcements from the USLHS Commissioner of the top-rated keepers who have been awarded Efficiency Stars, which Sea Girt keepers won numerous times, the carbon of a keeper’s vacation request listing his itinerary as “automobiling to Long Island,” President Roosevelt’s 1939 Reorganization Plan No. 2, dissolving the USLHS and transferring command to the U.S. Coast Guard, the alert from the Coast Guard’s Intelligence Office, December 8, 1941, advising all units “a state of war now existing. …” Historic photos capture the lighthouse and the people stationed there from the earliest days of the Lighthouse Service command through the Coast Guard years.


Among the members and benefactors of Sea Girt Lighthouse are veterans of all the military services. Among the docents are two retired colonels, one from the Army National Guard and the other from the U.S. Marine Corps. Among the founding members and a past president of the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee, which maintains and operates the lighthouse, was the late Bill MacInnes, a retired general in the U.S. Air Force.

While many active duty and retired military and merchant mariners and their families have visited the lighthouse during public tours on Sundays from mid-April through mid-November, except holiday weeks, others have come for special events and on groups tours.

OP_BEACHHEAD_VISITORS2Hank Wapelhorst, who was a 19-year-old Seaman 1st Class and one of the last two Coast Guardsmen at Sea Girt Lighthouse in 1954 on the decommissioning detail, has returned numerous times since. Hank has donated several photographs from his active duty at Sea Girt that are on display. He has attended trustee meetings and other lighthouse events, recalling his assignment there. And, in 2007, Hank was the featured speaker at a special event recalling and celebrating the Coast Guard era at the lighthouse. Also speaking was the commanding officer from Coast Guard Station Shark River, in nearby Belmar. At the conclusion of the program, the lighthouse was presented with a Coast Guard ensign, which is proudly displayed in the lighthouse’s Coast Guard exhibit.

In July 2010, some two dozen children of military servicemen and women took time out of a fun week of summer camp at the National Guard Training Center in Sea Girt to themselves provide selfless service, undertaking a cleanup project at Sea Girt Lighthouse.

The children, ages 13 and 14, were escorted into the first-floor meeting room, where they were seated at three long tables and spent a few hours cleaning glass and brass, including the Life-Saving Service lantern, the keeper’s oil lamp and an historic ship lantern, as well as a door knocker, a coal scuttle, several lamps and trays.

Having successfully completed their mission, the campers were guided throughout the lighthouse from the keeper’s office and into every room of the family quarters. Before they were finished, each child made it into the lantern room at the very top of the tower. [Read the full story of their visit here:].


One Sunday in August 2016, lighthouse docents, including Marty Brueckner, a Marine veteran who served in Vietnam, welcomed a half-dozen visitors who were participating that weekend in Operation Beachhead.

A volunteer program, Operation Beachhead offers active duty personnel, veterans, including disabled veterans, and their families recreational, sports and social opportunities. In winter, they go skiing and sledding. And twice a summer participants visit the shore, staying with host families. The hosts and other volunteers take their guests to the beach, where they can sun or relax in the shade under umbrellas. There are picnics and the opportunity to sail, kayak, even surf under the supervision of experienced boaters and surfers. In the evenings, hosts might have a barbecue or take their guests to a local restaurant.

CAMPERS2There’s also opportunities to go amusement parks, sightseeing, and/or visit historic sites in the area, for example the Squan Beach Life-Saving Station in Manasquan, Camp Evans in Wall, the National Guard Militia Museum at Camp Sea Girt and, of course, Sea Girt Lighthouse. Operation Beachhead volunteer Mary Dougherty, of Sea Girt, arranged a special tour of Sea Girt Lighthouse for her half-dozen houseguests.

Among the visitors that day was New Yorker John Devine, a Marine veteran who served in Vietnam where he lost his leg in combat. After his recovery and rehabilitation, John had a long and successful career in sales. He and his wife live on Long Island. John is a mentor to younger wounded veterans and an encouraging example of success through determination, hard work and a positive attitude.

John, who grew up in Brooklyn and was known to his childhood friends as J.J., was making a return visit to Sea Girt and the lighthouse. As a youngster, some 50 years ago, he spent a week with family friends at their summer home in Sea Girt. He and the children he was visiting would take breaks from the beach and go to the lighthouse, which was then the recreation center where they played ping pong and Monopoly and watched movies.

See the homepage for the schedule of Sunday tours and check the website for upcoming special events that may be of interest. To arrange a special group tour, submit a request from the Contact Us page or leave a message on the phone line, 732-974-0514.

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Lots To See At Sea Girt Lighthouse On Guided Sunday Tours

Published by Admin at 2:35 AM under

Visitors to Sea Girt Lighthouse are guided by knowledgeable and friendly docents from the keeper’s office, throughout the living quarters and up into the tower’s lantern room. A docent in each room welcomes visitors, explains the original purpose of the room and points out the historic artifacts on display and their relevance to the operation of the lighthouse.131

Tours are conducted most Sundays, from 2-4 p.m., except holiday weekends now through November 19, 2017. [See tour schedule on homepage]. Tours are free of charge but donations are appreciated.

Sea Girt Lighthouse was built in 1896 and activated December 10 of that year, as a midpoint light to illuminate a dark space that mariners previously encountered in this area, especially in fog and in storms when they could not see the beacons of Twin Lighthouse to the north and Barnegat Lighthouse to the south. Sea Girt Lighthouse was equipped with a 4th order Fresnel lens, which could be seen at a distance of 15 miles.

The jewel of the lighthouse exhibits is an authentic Fresnel lens. While not the original Sea Girt lens that was removed during World War II, the displayed lens is also a 4th order lens and has a very interesting history. Lighthouse trustees in 2001 spotted the lens being offered for sale on eBay, the online auction site, and decided to submit a bid. They submitted the winning bid, with the generous help of a grant from the New Jersey Lighthouse Society.

The lens, which is believed to date from the 1870s, had long been in service at the Crowdy Head Lighthouse, New South Wales, Australia, before being decommissioned and acquired by the seller. The lens travelled 10,000 miles by sea and remarkably arrived in one piece. It is the most photographed artifact in the Sea Girt Lighthouse collection and the one that visitors like to be photographed standing beside it.


Sea Girt Lighthouse was operated by the U.S. Lighthouse Service from its activation through June 30, 1939. In addition to the Keepers Gallery, which features photos of Sea Girt’s keepers and their families, three items recently added to the display are exact replicas of a keeper’s double-breasted dress blue uniform, circa 1900, which would have been worn during inspections and other official business, a fatigue uniform for daily wear, a double-breasted woolen overcoat, and a regulation blue cap, which was worn at all times.

012The uniforms were made by Jim Newberry, a history buff from Burlington County who participates in re-enactments of Revolutionary War and Civil War battles. He makes his own uniforms so expertly that he has made replica uniforms for other re-enactors and was hired by Hollywood to make the French and British uniforms for the 1992 film The Last of the Mohicans, starring Daniel Day Lewis.

Jude Meehan, president of the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee, who wears a size 40 suit, served as the model for the dress uniform, fatigues, overcoat, as well as the cap, size 7¼. He has worn the dress uniform and cap for special occasions at the lighthouse, including the annual summer lawn party and the annual Lighthouse Challenge of New Jersey, the third weekend of October. On Sundays, the uniforms usually hang on a coat rack between the Fresnel lens and a period desk on which are displayed official correspondence from headquarters received by Sea Girt keepers as well as carbon copies and some drafts of their outgoing letters and reports.

Mr. Meehan, who is a collector of navigational and military artifacts, has generously donated items to the lighthouse collection that have gone on display, including a Lighthouse Service first-aid kit. Another addition, on extended loan from his collection, is a set of signal flags, like the ones issued to Sea Girt and all other U.S. lighthouses in 1898 for communicating with the crews of passenger and cargo ships, as well as sailors aboard U.S. Navy ships going to and from Cuba that year of the Spanish-American War.

The signal flags went on display in 2016, and can be seen in the upper watch rooms of the tower, along with a framed 1898 nautical map that identifies Sea Girt Lighthouse as a Coast Signal Station and a framed International Code of Signals handbook, issued by the U.S. Navy. The map was acquired by the lighthouse board from a dealer in nautical antiques, while the handbook was apparently issued to Sea Girt Lighthouse and was discovered in the lighthouse archives.


Exhibits are constantly being tweaked with the addition of new items, donated or purchased. On the first floor in the east side cabinets are two complementary displays of items acquired over the years. In one cabinet are items the keepers used in their daily duties, including: the 1903 daily logbook of Keeper Abram Yates, donated by Sea Girt historian and former lighthouse trustee Richard Venino, an oil lamp used by Keeper Bill Lake (1917-31), donated by his great-grandson and lighthouse trustee Bill Mountford and his family, and a 1927 edition of Instructions to Employees of the U.S. Lighthouse Service. The manual, which details keeper duties in operating the lighthouse and what to do in emergencies, was left behind by one of the keepers and discovered by trustees in the attic. 021

In the other cabinet are the tools that mariners used to find and identify Sea Girt Light and other aids to navigation, including: a telescope, circa 1917, and a U.S. Navy quartermaster’s long lens, circa 1920, both donated by career mariner George Kimmel, who had captained freighters and tugboats and served as a harbor master. Also a U.S. Life-Saving Service brass lantern, circa 1890, a Coast Guard binnacle compass, circa 1925, and U.S. Coast Pilot, the navigational reference books found on the bridge of most every ship listing all lighthouses and lightships, the latitude and longitude of each, its beacon’s beacon flash sequence and distance to neighboring lights, all donated by Robert Bossett.


Several children lived at Sea Girt Lighthouse. They and their mothers played important roles in the operation of the lighthouse, which is documented in the exhibits. Families knew how to run the lighthouse by observing the keeper and pitching in as needed in ways big and small. Two women actually ran Sea Girt Lighthouse under very different circumstances.

003Harriet Yates was married to Abram Yates, the second keeper. They had four children, the first children to live at the station. On May 29, 1910, Keeper Yates died of a heart attack. Mrs. Yates took charge, becoming acting keeper for two months. In those cases where a keeper was injured, fell ill or died, the Lighthouse Service required families to step in and keep the light burning bright, because lives depended on it.

Alice Thomas, daughter of Keeper George Thomas took command of the lighthouse for one spring day in 1936. Her father had to go to Brooklyn on family business. Before a keeper could leave his post, he or she had to nominate a replacement, who was usually a retired keeper or Navy or Coast Guard veteran. But Thomas nominated his 20-year-old daughter Alice, who was approved by the Lighthouse Service, on one condition, that the father – not the Lighthouse Service – pay her the daily wage of $5.

Alice and her older sister Lucy were the first keeper children at Sea Girt to continue their education beyond high school. Alice enrolled at the Ann May School of Nursing, which is now a part of Jersey Shore University Medical Center. She graduated in June of 1941 and that fall enlisted in the U.S. Army Nurses Corps. During World War II, she nursed wounded Allied troops in Australia and toward the end of the war was attached to General Douglas MacArthur’s troops in the Philippines. She would rise to the rank of captain and was awarded the Bronze Star. A photo of Alice, in her nurse’s uniform was added to exhibit in 2015 after its discovery in the archives of Jersey Shore University Medical Center.


In 1920 Sea Girt Lighthouse became the first land-based station in the world equipped with a radio-fog beacon transmitter, which broadcast its signal from an antenna held aloft by two truss towers taller than the lighthouse itself, as seen in two displayed photos. Two other transmitters were installed on Ambrose Lightship and Fire Island Lightship. Each of the three stations transmitted a unique signal that identified the sending station.

The Lighthouse Service was experimenting to see if mariners, who could not see the beacons of lighthouses and lightships in thick fog, could be able to navigate safely by radio signals. The experiment over several months involved Lighthouse Service tenders, including Tulip that delivered supplies to Sea Girt. The tenders were able to navigate safely in and out of New York harbor by triangulation – picking up the identifying signals of the three transmitting stations, which enabled the navigators to fix the positions of their ships. Having been proven effective in 1920, the system was activated May 1, 1921 and extended to other stations.

The keeper at Sea Girt then was William “Pappy” Lake, whose wife Edith was the first woman elected to the town council, a co-founder of the Sea Girt Women’s Club and the first woman realtor in town. Their son, Elvin, was known to all as “Toots”. His parents welcomed his friends to the lighthouse, one of whom later recalled the lighthouse became “more or less a headquarters for all the kids of the area.” When the keeper and Mrs. Lake weren’t looking, the story goes that Toots and his playmates used to have races, climbing the truss towers.

The radio fog beacon system was big news in its day, a breakthrough in navigation that was reported in the major newspapers and scientific journals and in the books by George Rockwell Putnam, U.S. Lighthouse Commissioner, all mentioning Sea Girt’s contribution. The transmitter operated at Sea Girt into 1928 and was then shut down, replaced by a more powerful transmitter at another station. The truss towers were eventually disassembled.


The cruise ship Morro Castle was on its 174th return voyage from Havana to New York only hours from its scheduled arrival in Manhattan Saturday, September 8, 1934, but never reached her destination. The ship was ravaged by fire of suspicious origin, which was discovered in the reading room in the early morning hours Saturday and was out of control within 45 minutes.

The Morro Castle fire and rescue is a part of the lighthouse story, because the beacon of Sea Girt Lighthouse enabled the crew to fix their position before they dropped anchor three miles offshore. Keeper George Thomas kept the beacon flashing, well past sunrise when it was normally extinguished, to guide rescue ships, including Coast Guard ships, and the freighter R. F. Luckenbach and the Furness liner Monarch of Bermuda.

The beacon was also kept lighted to help passengers and crew, who went overboard, to orient themselves and direct them to shore. One survivor, who was exhausted and on the verge of giving up, credits the beacon with saving her life. It pointed her to shore and gave her hope as the light got bigger as the wind and waves pushed her to the beach.mc_rescuers_sg_lifeguards6

The Morro Castle is well documented at the lighthouse with displays upstairs and down that include: two lifejackets, a lifeboat oar, historic photos, newspaper front pages, private and official correspondence, donated to the lighthouse collection by rescuers, a crew member, descendants of another crew member and witnesses. Among the rescuers were six Sea Girt lifeguards who saved a dozen or more people. Among the lifeguards was Toots Lake, who grew up at the lighthouse. Many more people were saved the crews of responding ships and by fishermen who went out in their boats and pulled people from the water.

The cause of the fire has never been determined, and will never be, because all the evidence was incinerated. While arson is suspected, there are other plausible theories, including an electrical short, a carelessly discarded cigarette or cigar, lightning, improperly stored cargo. While a mystery and a tragedy that claimed 137 lives, the Morro Castle remains to this day a gripping and inspiring story of heroism – the heroism of people who risked their own lives to save others. In all, more than 400 people survived.


In addition to the Morro Castle exhibit, there is much else to see at Sea Girt Lighthouse that would be of particular interest to merchant mariners as well as active duty and retired military, which is why so many visit the lighthouse and several have donated historic photos and other artifacts.

Among items of particular interest to merchant mariners, Navy and Coast Guard veterans would be the navigational charts and maps, volumes of U.S. Coast Pilot, early navigational tools and dramatic historic photos documenting 19th shipwrecks, rescue efforts by volunteers of the U.S. Life-Saving Service, founded in New Jersey because of all the shipwrecks here in the days of sail, and predecessor of the U.S. Coast Guard.

During World War II, Sea Girt Light was under Coast Guard command. The light was extinguished, so as not to give direction to enemy ships, which were definitely in local waters. The Fresnel lens was removed to enable men to stand watch in the tower. They also patrolled Sea Girt’s mile of beachfront from Wreck Pond to the edge of the Army National Guard Camp, whose beachfront was patrolled by Army troops with guard dogs.

048In the lighthouse tower and other towers, and on foot patrol, armed troops were looking for enemy ships and planes and landed saboteurs (there is a documented case of German saboteurs landing on Long Island). The Coast Guardsmen and soldiers were also looking for Allied ships, planes and servicemen needing assistance. Late evening February 16, 1942 the men standing watch in Sea Girt Lighthouse tower reported an explosion several miles offshore. The Standard Oil tanker R.P. Risor afire had been struck by torpedoes fired by the German U-boat 578. Only two Resor crewmen survived, 47 perished.

By August 1943, there were 28 Coast Guardsmen at Sea Girt Lighthouse, with four Army troops camped on the lawn. A block south, the Hotel Tremont had been requisitioned by the Coast Guard. Recruits were billeted there and trained on the beach and at the Army Camp, before being assigned elsewhere. During the war, the Coast Guardsmen at the lighthouse were rotated, and almost all were reassigned to sea duty. The commanding officer, BSM1 Irvie Camburn, from an old seafaring family in Waretown, was brought out of retirement to take command of Sea Girt. During his first tour in the Coast Guard, he served aboard Coast Guard ships and at lighthouses.

Sea Girt Lighthouse during the war years is thoroughly documented in photos, official alerts of the Coast Guard Intelligence Office and in artifacts, which combine to make a most powerful display. Among the most striking are: the cryptic alerts from the Intelligence Office detailing the worsening situation in Europe, and the alert December 8, 1941 to all Coast Guard units, including Sea Girt, advising “a state of war now existing,” a color photo of the lighthouse painted brown by the Coast Guard to camouflage it, the photo of the doomed R.P. Resor afire after being torpedoed, a new electric light installed atop the tower and activated in September 1944, as the Allies were then in control of the North Atlantic, as well as America’s East Coast.

After the war, the automatic light continued to operate. The building no longer needed to be regularly staffed, except for occasional inspections and maintenance work. In spring of 1954, the last Coast Guardsmen arrived to oversee construction of a metal tower, taller than the lighthouse, on the northeast corner of the property. When it was completed, it became the new platform for the automatic beacon that was moved there from the top of lighthouse lantern room. That beacon operated into 1977, when it was extinguished and the tower removed, replaced by a brighter light at Manasquan Inlet.


In 1956 the federal government sold the lighthouse to the Borough of Sea Girt, which reopened it as the town library and recreation center. Some two decades later, the heavily-used building was in need of major repairs. The town council considered all options, including selling the property. In 1981, concerned citizens formed the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee, a non-profit preservation and educational organization to “save our lighthouse.”

It has. SGLCC leases the building from the town for $1 a year, and is responsible for all expenses related to maintenance and operations as a museum and community center. In addition to tours and special events, community groups meet there regularly. The lighthouse is in use some 180 days a year.

While Sunday tours, are conducted through mid-November, group tours are conducted year-round by prior arrangement. To arrange a group tour, please submit your request through the website's Contact Us page, or call us 732-974-0514, or write Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee, P.O. Box 83, Sea Girt, NJ 08750.

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Horseless Carriages at Sea Girt Lighthouse

Published by admin at 1:02 AM under

Lighthouse visitors and passersby were recently taken back in time more than a century to the earliest days of Sea Girt Lighthouse as members of the North Jersey Chapter of the Horseless Carriage Club of America parked their very early, classic cars by the lighthouse, their first stop on a four-day tour of the Shore.

05052016AntiqueCar (93)bC Rolling relics of automotive history, built between 1902 and 1907 at the dawn of automobile era, parked on Ocean Avenue in front of the shore landmark of navigational history, which was activated only a few years before these hand-built cars began their long journeys over America’s expanding road network.

05052016AntiqueCar (11)bCATwo Seats, Two Cylinders, No Doors

Most of the vintage cars were two seaters and propelled by two-cylinder engines. The fleet included: a Buick, two examples of Henry Ford’s very first model car, the Ford Model A, also a Maxwell, a fire-engine red Reo and a maroon Reo, an Oldsmobile, a Yale and a four-seat Franklin touring car. Typical of the era, they were equipped with hand-crank ignitions, running boards, spoke wheels, kerosene-burning headlamps and rubber bulb brass air horns but no doors. Instead of steering wheels, a few of the automobiles had tillers. Top speeds averaged around 20 m.p.h. Windshields had two panes of framed glass, the top frame could be raised or lowered. Half of the cars were open touring cars, the others had canvas tops that could be manually raised or lowered. Some had wicker baskets and spare tires secured by leather straps to the running boards. None had storage trunks.

The majority of the cars were made in the Michigan, which in time would emerge as America’s Motor Capital. Ford’s Model A’s were built in the Mack Avenue plant in Detroit, which would become known worldwide as Motor City. But the early Michigan car makers, like Buick and Oldsmobile as well as Ford, did have some out-of-state rivals. The Maxwell was made by the Maxwell-Briscoe Motor Co., of Tarrytown, New York. The Kirk Manufacturing Company, of Toledo, Ohio, produced their Yale touring cars in Toledo, Ohio from 1901-05. The Franklin Automobile Company produced its high-end cars in Syracuse, New York. When these cars were new, their price tags ranged from $800 for a 1903 Ford Model A to $3,000 for the four-seat 1904 Franklin. The equivalent amounts, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator, in 2016 dollars would be $20,952.97 for the Model A and $78,573.64 for the Franklin.

Seen and Heard, While Seeing the Sights

This is the club’s 24th Annual North Jersey Region Shore Tour, which is an opportunity for members to see historic sites and for their historic 05052016AntiqueCar (42)b horseless carriages to be seen. The drivers and their passengers, who doubled as a navigators and mechanics, met up that Thursday morning, parking their classic attention-grabbing machines along Ocean Pathway by the Great Auditorium in the beachfront town of Ocean Grove, eight miles north of Sea Girt. Several participants in the four-day tour trailered their cars to Ocean Grove to save on the wear and tear.

Around 1:45 p.m., they cranked up their engines and the caravan headed south along Ocean Avenue for the 20 minute drive to the lighthouse. Once they had parked their cars, they were greeted by lighthouse docents Conrad and Harriet Yauch and Jim Sandford, who gave the visitors guided tours that took them from the keeper’s office, through the house, and into the tower’s lantern room at the top.

05052016AntiqueCar (53)bThe chance sightings of the vintage automobiles attracted pedestrians, including those walking the boardwalk, and motorists who pulled into the nearest available parking spaces and ambled over for a closer look. The event also attracted photographers and reporters. Covering the event for the lighthouse website was Henry Bossett, whose photographs accompany this article. Reporter MaryAnn Spoto’s news article, photographs and video can be seen at ( Reporter Matt Conte and photographer Ryan Welsh covered the event for The Coast Star.

The lighthouse tour had been requested and club arrangements made by John Rendemonti, of the local chapter of the Horseless Carriage Club and the man behind the wheel of the 1904 Franklin. After their hour-long lighthouse tour, John and other club members proudly stood by their cars and answered questions from those who had gathered around. Then it was time to motor off, back to Ocean Grove. In the coming days their annual tour would take them to Sandy Hook Lighthouse and Navesink Twin Lights and other historic sites, traveling 30-40 miles a day in Monmouth County.

Contacting Sea Girt Lighthouse

Sea Girt Lighthouse is maintained and operated by the all-volunteer Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee, Inc. The building is in use some 180 days a year and visited by several thousand people annuallay. Several community groups meet there regularly. Recurring events include a summer art show, October’s Lighthouse Challenge and a twice-yearly night climb. Docents conduct Sunday tours, 2-4 p.m. mid-April through mid-November, except holiday weekends. Group tours are conducted year-round by prior arrangement. Volunteers and visitors are always welcome.

To volunteer, ask a question, offer a comment or inquire about arranging a group tour, call the lighthouse at 732-974-0514 and leave a message, or email from the lighthouse website’s Contact Us page (, or write us at Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee, P.O. Box 83, Sea Girt, NJ 08750. For the latest news and photos of Sea Girt Lighthouse, visit our website.

Photographs by Henry Bossett

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Lighthouse Photo History Published

Published by admin at 11:44 PM under

Sea Girt Lighthouse, activated in 1896 and today a popular museum and community center busy with events and club meetings, is captured in a photographic history just published by Arcadia Publishing in its Images of America series. 001

The book contains a 1,500-word essay by Bill Dunn, a lighthouse docent and the historian who spent almost a year doing research and gathering the 230 featured images from dozens of sources across the country and as far away as Alaska. There are historic photos of the lighthouse down through the years and the keepers and Coast Guardsmen assigned there as well as contemporary pictures of the events that keep the landmark alive with activity.

Bill explained the origin of the book: “Arcadia contacted us about doing a book on Sea Girt Lighthouse. I told them that History Press beat them to it, publishing my lighthouse book in 2014. ‘We know. We bought the company,’ the editor informed me. I then wondered if two books on the same lighthouse wouldn’t compete with one another. She responded, ‘The books would complement one another.’ And they do.”

The just-published pictorial book is a companion volume to Sea Girt Lighthouse: The Community Beacon. The latter is a 50,000-word historical narrative by Bill, illustrated with 110 photos. Fewer than 10 photos appear in both books. The books are for sale at the lighthouse, and through retail outlets, at $21.99 each. All author royalties go to the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee, Inc., the non-profit, volunteer organization that operates and maintains the lighthouse and preserves its history through tours, special events and now books.

Quest for More Photos and Facts

003In researching the second book, Bill widened his search. “I started in the lighthouse archives, then did online searches of the National Archives, the U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office as well as regional and local archives and far beyond to new sources.

“Uncovered and appearing in the pictorial history are photos of two people who were put in charge of Sea Girt Lighthouse eight years apart under unusual circumstances. In 1936, 20-year-old Alice Thomas, daughter of keeper George Thomas, took command of the lighthouse for 24 hours, while her father was away on family business. The keeper had nominated his daughter as his replacement, which was approved by the district superintendent of the U.S. Lighthouse Service “with the understanding the substitute is to be furnished at your own expense.”

Alice attended the local Ann May School of Nursing from which she graduated in 1941. In October of that year she enlisted in the U.S. Army Nurses Corps. During World War II, she nursed wounded Allied troops in Australia and later in the Philippines. Mr. Dunn got in touch with Darlene Robertelli, archivist of the Medical and Nursing Archives Collection of Jersey Shore University Medical Center, which includes the archives of the Ann May School of Nursing. Ms. Robertelli enthusiastically undertook an extensive search of the archives, uncovering three photos of Alice, including the one that appears in the book, her senior yearbook photo showing a pretty and confident Alice in her nurse’s starched white uniform and cap.

The other photo discovery of a lighthouse commander came from Jean Weaver, who lives in Alaska and is the grand-daughter of Irvie S. Camburn, the Coast Guardsman who was the commanding officer at Sea Girt Lighthouse during World War II. Camburn was from an old sea-faring family from Waretown, N.J., with roots that go back to Colonial times. Bill contacted the Waretown Historical Society which put him in touch with two direct descendants, including Mrs. Weaver, who lives in a village of fewer than 500 people some 180 miles north of Anchorage. She promptly responded to Bill’s email query, sending a photo of her grandfather and providing details about his life, which all went in the book.

After a 33-year career in the Coast Guard, including a hitch at Montauk Lighthouse, BSM1 Camburn retired. During World War II, he was called back to active duty and was assigned as the commanding officer at Sea Girt. Last August, while Bill was in the final stages of gathering photos and writing captions and the 1,500-word essay, Mrs. Weaver was back in New Jersey to visit family and came to Sea Girt Lighthouse and was given a private tour.

History Captured in Postcards

“What I did differently this time was I focused more attention on private collectors of local maps, photos and postcards,” he explained. “Antique postcards provided many of the most interesting and important images to be found in the new book.”058

William “Biff” Joule, Sea Girt’s retired police chief, has an extensive collection of Sea Girt photos, maps and postcards, which date back to the earliest days of the village that took its name from the 800-acre estate of Commodore Richard Stockton he named Seagirt, meaning land surrounded by sea.

Appearing in the book and coming from Mr. Joule’s collection are images of the first map of Sea Girt printed in 1890, Sea Girt Inlet, which no longer exists but featured prominently in early lighthouse history, the lighthouse at different stages, the lighthouse neighborhood including the house next door that first keeper built, the beach by the lighthouse covered with beach grass and sand dunes long before there was a boardwalk or pavilion.

These and other images show how the lighthouse, the immediate area and the town of Sea Girt changed over time. The earliest photo of the lighthouse, from 1900, shows a windmill nearby, which pumped water from a well into the house. Beacon Boulevard, then called Bellevue Place, was a sandy lane. A horse-drawn carriage is parked nearby. Photos from the mid-1920s show cars parked eastward along a paved and one-way Beacon Boulevard. The windmill is long gone. But towering over the lighthouse are the freestanding metal towers and a broadcast antenna of the world’s first land-based radio fog beacon transmitter, also known as a radio compass.

093 The transmitter was installed at Sea Girt in 1920. Transmitters were also installed at Ambrose Lightship and Fire Island Lightship. Each station broadcast a unique signal that identified the sending station. This enabled mariners to navigate in dense fog when they could not see the beacons but could accurately fix their position by triangulating the radio signals.

Also in the book are photos of other Sea Girt landmarks, including Commodore Richard Stockton’s 35-room Beach House, the Stockton Hotel that was a greatly expanded version of the Beach House, the Governor’s Summer Cottage at the National Guard camp nicknamed the Little White House. The Stockton was destroyed by fire in 1965. The Little White House, in need of major repairs, was instead demolished in 1971.

The lighthouse, decommissioned after World War II and acquired by the Borough in 1956, became the town library and recreation center. But after more than two decades of heavy use, the lighthouse was in need of major repairs. Growing concern over the future of the lighthouse in the wake of the loss of the other town landmarks prompted concerned citizens in 1981 to form the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee to “save our lighthouse.” After signing a lease with the Borough, the volunteer committee of preservationists assumed responsibility for the restoration, maintenance and operation of the lighthouse and the preservation of its history through tours and special events. All are captured in photos in the book.

Meet Keepers, Coasties, Volunteers and Visitors

Some 600 images were gathered and submitted to the publisher, a mix of very old, rare photographs, pictures from the last few decades and more recent photos that capture the preservationists, docents and members of the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee and the many visitors 006attracted to the lighthouse by the activities held there. Bill, who had been a reporter for The Detroit News and later USA Today and has taken photos that have appeared in newspapers, magazines and books, took many of the contemporary photos. From the 600 photos submitted the editor and Bill selected the final 230 that best tell the lighthouse story.

“It amazed and pleased me to discover how many photos there are out there of Sea Girt Lighthouse, smaller than its neighboring stations, but with a rich and colorful history of distinction and accomplishment,” said Bill. “No matter the mission, Sea Girt Lighthouse not only survived but thrived, due to the dedicated and hard-working keepers, Coast Guardsmen, the Borough and a few generations of committed volunteers. You’ll meet them in the book.”

Sea Girt Lighthouse is open for tours Sundays through mid-November, from 2-4 p.m., except holiday weekends. In addition being available at the lighthouse, copies of each book may be purchased by mail. To order by mail, please specify the title desired, and send a check for $26.99 per copy for purchase, postage and handling, to Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee, P.O. Box 83, Sea Girt, NJ 08750. The books can also be purchased from the publisher’s website ( or at online bookshops such as

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Expanded Lighthouse Tours: What’s New That’s Very Old

Published by admin at 11:03 AM under

Sunday tours of Sea Girt Lighthouse are underway. And there are more historic artifacts to see than ever before. Several exhibits have been expanded with the addition of important lighthouse artifacts that offer new insight into the lighthouse story.

Knowledgeable and friendly docents, who were busy during the off-season fine-tuning exhibits and expanding the tour narrative, guide visitors through every room in the lighthouse, explaining the purpose of each room and the artifacts on display, which include rare documents and photos and tools used by keepers and Coast Guardsmen.

Visitors will explore the changing missions of the lighthouse from its years under the command of the U.S. Light-House Board and then the U.S. Lighthouse Service, through the Coast Guard era that extended from mid-1939 to mid-1956, followed by the years it was the Borough library and recreation center. And since 1981, the volunteers of the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee have maintained the shore landmark as the community beacon, preserving its rich history through tours and special programs, and making it available to community groups who meet there. The lighthouse is in use some 180 days a year.

Tours are conducted Sundays 2-4 p.m. through November 20, except holiday weekends. Tours are free of charge. Donations are encouraged, appreciated and help the volunteers maintain the lighthouse and keep it open to the public. Please note there will be no tours on these Sundays: May 8 (Mother’s Day), May 29 (Memorial Day weekend), June 19 (Father’s Day), July 3 (Independence Day weekend), September 4 (Labor Day weekend) and October 9 (Columbus Day weekend).

Recent Discoveries of Old Photos

The parlor, furnished with period pieces, transports visitors back in time to the early days of the lighthouse a century ago. On the mantel of the soapstone fireplace surround are photos of the keeper families that called Sea Girt Lighthouse home. Recent discoveries that have been added to the photo collection include:

001o Elvin (Toots) Lake, who grew up at Sea Girt Lighthouse as the son of the longest-serving keeper William (Pappy) Lake, who served from 1917-31. Toots was an adventurous boy who fished, swam, rowed his boat on Wreck Pond and kept rabbits in the backyard hutch. A photo, circa 1917, captures Toots in a sailor suit, holding a pair of binoculars he used to scan the waters, just like his dad did every day.

o George Thomas, assistant keeper at Fire Island Light, is seen standing on the deck of a listing wrecked ship, stranded off the island, circa 1910. Another photo shows Thomas and his wife Minnie, with daughter Lucy, at a family gathering, circa 1915. In 1931 George Thomas, recently widowed, requested transfer to Sea Girt Light and arrived in October, with daughters Alice and Lucy.

003 o Alice Thomas became acting keeper for one day in 1936, taking charge while her father was away on family business. She would go on to attend the local Ann May School of Nursing. Her photo appears in the 1941 yearbook and identifies her as the class president. In October of that year she enlisted in the U.S. Army Nurses Corps, served during World War II in Australia and later the Philippines, nursing wounded Allied troops. She would rise to the rank of captain and was awarded the Bronze Star.

o Irvie S. Camburn, from an old seafaring family from Waretown, N.J., had retired from the U.S. Coast Guard after a 33-year hitch. (BoaHe was called back to duty during World War II, and was given command of Sea Girt Light. Here he is seen after World War II in his second retirement.

The photo of Alice Thomas was uncovered in the Medical and Nursing Archives Collection of Jersey Shore University Medical Center by archivist Darlene Robertelli, who conducted her search at the request of lighthouse historian Bill Dunn. She sent a copy of the photo to the lighthouse. The other photos were donated to the lighthouse collection by descendants of the keepers and the Camburn family, who were contacted by Dunn during his year-long research for the pictorial history of Sea Girt Lighthouse, published April 25, 2016 by Arcadia Press in its Images of America series.

The photo book, with a 1,500-word introductory essay followed by some 230 captioned pictures including many images never before published, is a companion book to Dunn’s Sea Girt Lighthouse: The Community Beacon. The latter is a 50,000-word historical narrative with over 100 different photos, published by The History Press in 2014. Both books are for sale at the lighthouse, at $21.99 each, or through the publishers. All author royalties go to lighthouse.

Artifact Additions to Expanded Displays

Lighthouse trustees are ever on the lookout for appropriate artifacts to add to the collection to help tell the lighthouse story. One such recent acquisition is a pair of U.S. Signal Service binoculars, manufactured circa 1895 by Audemair of Paris and used by keepers at a Long Island lighthouse. Signal Service binoculars of this type were routinely issued by the U.S. Lighthouse Service to its light keepers and by the U.S. Life-Saving Service to its station keepers.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The binoculars are exhibited in northeast cabinet of the first-floor community room, beside artifacts used by various Sea Girt  keepers, including a 1903-06 lighthouse journal, a 1927 edition of Instructions to Employees of the United States Lighthouse Service, and a brass oil lamp that belonged to Sea Girt’s longest serving keeper, Pappy Lake. The oil lamp was donated by the family of SGLCC trustee Bill Mountford, the keeper’s great-grandson. Bill has served as lighthouse president for two years.

Also, exhibited in the cabinet are two Lighthouse Service artifacts acquired last season:

o Harden Star Hand Grenade Fire Extinguisher, circa 1890, which is a thin glass globe filled with brine water that breaks on impact, spilling its contents. Each lighthouse would be issued many grenades of this type that would be stored throughout the building, which was lighted by oil lamps, including the Fresnel lens. In the event of a fire, the keeper and family would throw as many grenades as necessary to extinguish the fire.

o U.S. Lighthouse Service first-aid kit, circa 1900, that includes: needles and thread for suturing a wound, cloth compress and gauze bandage. The artifact was donated to the collection by Jude Meehan, an SGLCC trustee who collects Coast Guard, Navy and other nautical artifacts and has shared several artifacts with the lighthouse. Jude succeeds Bill Mountford as SGLCC president and will serve a two-year term, beginning May 2016.

Maps and Signal Flags

Exhibits at Sea Girt Lighthouse, which are organized by theme in each room, are works in progress. As artifacts are donated or purchased, they are put into the appropriate exhibit, strengthening that exhibit with new visual elements to be viewed by visitors and explained by docents. And occasionally an entirely new exhibit is added, as was the case last year with the addition of signal flags, now hanging in the tower’s supply room and watch room. The signal flags also come from the nautical collection of Mr. Meehan.

009 The International Code of Signals, drafted by the British Board of Trade in 1855 to enable ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore communications in the days before radio, was eventually adopted by most seafaring nations, including the United States. There is a flag for each letter. When flown alone, each flag conveyed a message, e.g. danger ahead, stop your vessel, communicate with me, etc. The Light-House Board adopted the International Code of Signals in 1898 to improve communications with all vessels and assist U.S. Navy ships in the Spanish-America War.

Also displayed at Sea Girt Lighthouse on the south wall by the second-floor entrance to the tower is an 1898 Light-House Board map, one of the 008 earliest maps showing Sea Girt Light. A red flag beside the notation Sea Girt Light identifies the lighthouse as also being a Coast Signal Station, gathering weather data. That year the Light-House Board installed phones to enable stations to call each other and report weather conditions to the U.S. Weather Bureau, which issued forecasts based on incoming reports.

In the days of sail, long before satellite navigation by GPS (global positioning system), maps that identified shore landmarks, harbors, inlets with latitude and longitude and distances between lighthouses were essential to dead reckoning, plotting an accurate course and avoiding hazards, such as sandbars, rocks and wrecks. An essential reference series, identifying lighthouses, buoys and other daymarks along with hazards, is U.S. Coast Pilot, published annually by the U.S. Coast Guard in regional volumes. A set of U.S. Coast Pilot is on display at Sea Girt Lighthouse.

The most recently added exhibit is a collection of early New Jersey maps and atlases that pre-date Sea Girt Lighthouse yet are an integral part of the lighthouse story. These early maps and atlases, displayed in the upstairs meeting room on the south wall, illustrate features of the northern New Jersey coastline that presented problems to mariners in the 19th century and finally led the U.S. Light-House Board to build Sea Girt Light, activated December 9, 1896.

The centerpiece of the map collection is an 1877 map that details New Jersey’s 135-mile coast along the Atlantic and up the Delaware. From Navesink Twin Lights to Barnegat Lighthouse is 44½ (land) miles. In fog and storms, mariners often encountered a dark space at the midpoint. Beside the map is an 1879 print of Squan Village, the next town south. In 1888, the Light-House Board was considering the village as the location for a lighthouse to illuminate the dark space. The map and print were donated to the lighthouse collection by trustee Jack Ohweiler.

The Light-House Board’s first choice for a mid-point light was near the navigable Manasquan Inlet, which is seen in an 1879 map photocopy donated by Jeff Heim. But the selected parcel, upon inspection, proved problematic. The Light-House Board then bought another parcel, a mile north, in Sea Girt near the shallow Sea Girt Inlet and Wreck Pond, illustrated in an 1877 map. Sea Girt Inlet was occasionally mistaken for Squan Inlet by sailors seeking a spot to drop anchor and ride out a storm. Sea Girt Lighthouse was built near Sea Girt Inlet to illuminate the dark space midway between Navesink Twin Lights and Barnegat Light and to serve as an identifier of Sea Girt Inlet and a warning to mariners to avoid it and the risk of beaching.

In a display box nearby is Historical & Biographical Atlas of New Jersey Coast (New York: Woolman & Rose, 1878) containing a few hundred plates and maps, some are hand-colored. The volume is opened to the Sea Girt pages. The atlas, which is in excellent condition, was also donated to the lighthouse collection by trustee Ohlweiler. The display box was donated by trustee Bob Varcoe.

At the center of the map room is a ship’s wheel, five feet in diameter, mounted on a pedestal to create a nautical table, which was donated by Don and Cindy Burke. Atop the table is the blowup of an 1890s New Jersey map on which have been placed scale models of New Jersey’s lighthouses, each one at its appropriate location. The exhibit has proven very popular, especially with children.

Keeper’s Dress Blues

In what was the bedroom of the keeper and later the Coast Guard commanding officer is the jewel of the lighthouse collection, a 4th order Fresnel lens that had long been in service at Crowdy Head Lighthouse, New South Wales, Australia and is believed to be the original lens there from 1878. Sea Girt’s 4th order Fresnel lens was removed by the Coast Guard during World War II, so as not to give direction to enemy ships. SGLCC trustees, unable to locate the original lens and wanting to add a lens to the collection, found the Australian lens being offered on eBay in 2001.

012When not tending the Fresnel lens, keepers were often immersed in writing reports, completing requisitions for supplies, updating the daily logbook with details of station and ship activity and weather conditions, and responding to queries from the district superintendent. This routine but essential work is captured in a new display. By the Keepers Gallery of photo portraits of Sea Girt’s keepers, trustees Meehan, Catherine Schwier and Peter Halas have recreated a keeper’s office with period items they donated, including a fold-down secretary desk, a 1920s L.C. Smith typewriter and a silver pen tray, circa 1900, with two ink bottles and a dipping pen. Neatly arranged on the table are stacks of actual USLHS-Sea Girt Lighthouse correspondence and various official forms including a leave-of-absence application and a completed station inventory and accounts booklet. Inserted into the typewriter is a USLHS form, just waiting for the keeper to complete.

Beside the desk is a clothes tree on which hangs a replica of a keeper’s 1900 Lighthouse Service dress blue uniform, expertly tailored by Jim Newberry, who makes his own uniforms for Revolutionary War re-enactments and made the military uniforms for the 1992 Hollywood film Last of the Mohicans. Seen wearing the uniform as he stands by the Fresnel lens is Jude Meehan.


Volunteers of all ages are welcome. For students, volunteering as a docent qualifies as community service, which many schools now require students to do. It also is an opportunity for young people to develop confidence and poise as well as public speaking ability. Scripts are provided to all docent recruits who are teamed with an experienced docent in the beginning.

Anyone interested in volunteering to be a docent or to donate artifacts or to help in other ways is asked to send an email to, or call the lighthouse at 732-974-0514 and leave a message on the answering machine. All emails and messages are promptly answered by a trustee.

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Join Us For a Moonlight Climb October 27

Published by admin at 12:21 AM under

Attention Sea Girt Lighthouse website visitors.

Please join us on Tuesday, October 27 from 6:30 to 9 PM at the lighthouse for which should be a spectacular moonlight tower climb and tour of the lighthouse.

The moon will be full, the weather should be cooperating and the views could be spectacular.

Bring your cameras.

Refreshments will be plentiful.

Join the lighthouse trustees, your friends and neighbors in a celebration of the fall season, a beautiful moon and our treasured lighthouse.

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SGLCC To Be Honored For Preservation Efforts

Published by admin at 10:27 PM under

Sea Girt Mayor Ken Farrell will preside at ceremonies Saturday, May 16 at 2 p.m. at the community service monument by MacInnes Plaza to which the name of the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee is being added "for preserving the community beacon and its history." The monument stands in recognition of "Sea Girt men and women who have provided exemplary service to the community."

"This honor is deeply appreciated and recognizes the contributions of our many members and trustees over three-and-a-half decades," noted Bill Mountford, president of the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee. "I thank Mayor Farrell and the Borough Council for their longstanding support and this acknowledgment." Mr. Mountford encourages members, including past trustees, to join current trustees at the ceremony. In celebration and to spotlight the landmark, Sea Girt Lighthouse will be open from 2:30 p.m. that Saturday for exploration and tours. "All are welcome," said Mr. Mountford.

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