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.
You are here
Fourteen Foot Bank Lighthouse
If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.
SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.