A series of markers on the history of the Absecon Lighthouse, Live-Saving operations on Absecon Island, and shipwrecks are located on the grounds of the Absecon Lighthouse, at S Vermont and Pacific Avenues
The Absecon Lighthouse is Atlantic City's oldest structure. In the early 1800s, New Jersey's coastline was known as the "graveyard of the Atlantic" due to the high number of shipwrecks which occurred off it. As lighthouses began to be constructed at various points, this problem decreased, but a lighthouse on Absecon Island, where the present-day Atlantic City stands, was not approved until 1854. Despite the need for a lighthouse at the location being urged for years, it was not until the shipwreck of the Powhatan, where 311 German immigrants died only 600 yards from the shore, that opinion was finally swayed. Construction of Absecon Lighthouse began in 1855, first under Major Hartman Bache, and later George Meade, who went on to command the Union troops at the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War. The light was first lit in 1857, and could be seen for almost 20 nautical miles. It originally used kerosene fuel, but was converted to electricity in 1925. Absecon Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in New Jersey, and has 228 steps from its base to the top. Originally, it sat much closer to Atlantic City's coastline, but due to shifting tides and the filling-in of beaches over the years, the lighthouse now sits a full two blocks inland. It was decommissioned in 1933, and sat empty for many years until a restoration project began in the 1990s. The lighthouse tower was opened to visitors in 1999, and the reconstructed Keeper's House was opened in 2001. Today, the lighthouse hosts a number of community and historic-themed events, and even holds weddings. Absecon Lighthouse is the only lighthouse in New Jersey to retain its original Fresnel lens.
For more information, see:
Articles from Atlantic City Press, October 5, 2008
Casino Connection, September 2007
[are we placing the text of all the markers in this article? It would get very long. Text from this marker follows]
Over the years, these grounds contained a variety of buildings that supported the Lighthouse operation. As you look around, envision the oil storage house with a greenhouse and sheds behind it, a square brick building housing the Weather Bureau to the left and the Life-Saving Station in the right corner. All these buildings were within the confines of the present corner property.
The Department of Agriculture Weather Bureau constructed a two-story building on the west side of the site in 1901. The building was wedged onto a 100' x 50' plot, and apparently caused rancor between employees of the Weather Bureau and those of the Lighthouse Service. As a result, a board fence was constructed to separate the Weather Bureau from the Lighthouse property. Relations eventually improved and the board fence was replaced with a more neighborly picket fence in 1912.
Absecon's light was first illuminated using mineral oil. The Lighthouse lamps consumed two gallons of oil daily in the summer and three and a half gallons daily in the winter, when nights are longer. Oil was stored in a separate building a short distance from the Light. The brick oil house that you see today was the second one on the Lighthouse grounds and the only one of at least seven original outbuildings to survive. It provided a separate, secure storage space for Lighthouse oil until at least 1921.
Around the turn of the 20th century, a greenhouse was built to supply plants for the site's gardens. Once the Federal Lighthouse Board discovered its existence, the Board ordered the greenhouse dismantled, along with the gardens. By then, the gardens had become a much-loved institution, and the community protested vehemently. Even these protests could not sway the Lighthouse Board. The gardens and greenhouse disappeared from the site.