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Fourteen Foot Bank Lighthouse

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1885–1886, D. P. Heap, with Anderson and Barr, engineers. In Delaware Bay, 11 miles east of Bowers Beach (not visible from shore)
  • Fourteen Foot Bank Lighthouse (Delaware Division of Historical & Cultural Affairs, Dover, Del.)

The lighthouse guards the south end of dangerous Joe Flogger Shoal along the central shipping channel of Delaware Bay. “On the cutting edge of lighthouse technology in the United States,” according to historians Jim Gowdy and Kim Ruth (1999), it was the first to be built by pneumatic caisson, in the dramatic manner of the Brooklyn Bridge's footings. The wooden caisson was floated out from Lewes, then sunk at the site and filled with compressed air, which allowed men to work inside it. Three brave gangs of eight laborers each toiled by the light of paraffin candles, digging through sand until the caisson had sunk twenty-three feet beneath the surface of the submerged shoal. The caisson was then filled with 2,000 cubic yards of concrete. Already, the three lower tiers of the cylindrical, cast-iron lighthouse base stood atop the caisson, and once it was fully sunk the superstructure (by H. A. Ramsay and Son, Baltimore) was erected. It resembled a multigabled Queen Anne house, oddly enough, but was built entirely of cast iron, even the roof. A square, three-story central tower was surmounted by an octagonal cupola containing the light, and a neat little iron privy overhung the waves. The lighthouse remains in use, though it has been unmanned since the last two-person crew moved out in 1973. Former keepers tell of the intense loneliness of the winter months, with ice floes crashing against the metal sides. Lately, it has found a new function as an improvised platform for environmental-monitoring sensors.

Writing Credits

W. Barksdale Maynard



W. Barksdale Maynard, "Fourteen Foot Bank Lighthouse", [Milford, Delaware], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Delaware

Buildings of Delaware, W. Barksdale Maynard. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008, 238-238.

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