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Delaware Lighthouse Trip
by Mary K. Teets

There’s something about lighthouse enthusiasts–nothing can daunt their love of lighthouses! We had to get up early and meet at the Christiana Mall parking lot and car pool since we did not have enough participants to charter the bus we expected to use. We were met with terrible wind that day but the sun kept creeping through and gave us hope that it would get warmer. We persevered and we saw the four lights–Marcus Hook, Reedy Island and the Liston front and rear range lights. You say that doesn’t sound like much–ahhh, but you must realize you cannot get into these lights at the drop of a hat.

We left the mall parking lot and drove to Marcus Hook off of I-95 in Wilmington. This is such a neat light at the north end of Wilmington. The light was constructed from reinforced concrete and is 105 feet tall, about 278 feet above mean high water. It was completed in 1920 and showed a fixed white light from 24,000 candlepower (it was later upgraded to 640,000 candlepower). Today the light shows a fixed red light around the clock.

We were met there by Boatswain’s Mate Chief Michael Baroco-–remember this is Sunday morning and BMC Baroco is meeting us there on his day off so that we can see inside the light. We were not able to climb this light because of structural deficiencies, but it was great to be able to walk inside at least. Plus BM1 Shane A. Yonushonis furnished us with photo shots taken from the tower. The keeper’s quarters on the property – a lovely brick home – is boarded up and not open to the public. This light is scheduled by GSA to go on sale. Here’s your chance – a lovely community, sitting on top of a hill overlooking the river.

From Marcus Hook, we drove back to the mall and picked up our cars and drove to ChesDel Restaurant near the Liston Rear Range Light. I wonder how many people driving on Delaware Route 1 or Route 13 even realize that this is a lighthouse sitting out there in what seems to be the middle of a field. We had a lovely lunch at ChesDel and then headed out to the Liston Front Range Light. Dr. William Duncan lives in this gorgeous setting on the water and was gracious enough to open his home to a bunch of lighthouse lovers. When I say open, I mean open! This is his home and he does live here, but we were given the run of the house and could walk around every room in it. We were entertained with many tales by Harry Spencer who was born at the Liston Rear Range Light and also lived at this one while his father was lighthouse keeper. Dr. Duncan, and outgoing President of the Delaware River & Bay Lighthouse Foundation (DRBLHF) Bob Trapani also shared some great information on the history of this light. Harry and Bob even dressed for the occasion in period clothing that really added to the stories. Dr. Duncan’s grandfather was the first keeper of this lighthouse.

The Liston Front Range Light was automated in 1948 and decommissioned in 1953 when the Coast Guard moved the light from the building to a skeletal tower that stood in the front yard of the light station. This light was equipped with a fourth order Fresnel lens that showed an occulting white light of 62,000 candlepower from 50 feet above mean high water. It was sold at auction by the federal government to private owners in 1954 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

We hated leaving this beautiful setting, but we headed on to our next location–the Reedy Island Light which is a 125 foot black skeletal tower and was not open for us to climb. Unfortunately, the keeper’s house caught fire recently and burned to the ground. We were able to take some great shots of this light though. I understand from CMB Mike Baroco that if one of these lights has to be painted, it costs about $200,000. Guess that could discourage a lot of people from wanting to own one that needs paint! This light was completed in 1910 and lit with a fifth order range lens lit by a fourth order i.o.v. lamp. The 1914 Light List records a change to a fixed white light of 31,000 candlepower being shown from 134 feet above mean high water. By 1961, the candlepower was increased to 350,000. Today the tower shows a fixed red light visible throughout 24 hours.

We ended our tour at the Liston Rear Range Light with Harry and Bob giving a super presentation and answering questions from the group. Most people climbed the stairs to see the beautiful view from the top. This tower was moved here from the abandoned Port Penn rear light-station and reerected on a new foundation in 1906. The light was replaced in 1907 with a 2nd order range lens and the outer wall of the lantern room was reworked to accommodate the larger lens and enable the keeper to walk around the lighting apparatus.

We also had a drawing for a Harbour Light lighthouse and when Bob’s children pulled their mother’s ticket from the pot, we all teased them unmercifully about stacking the deck. We had several door prizes and all had a good time choosing which goody they wanted to take home.

I can’t thank Bob Trapani, Dr. William Duncan, and Harry Spencer enough for all their help and wonderful lectures. DRBLHF is losing a great leader since Bob and his family has moved and he will be taking over as Executive Director of the American Lighthouse Foundation. The new President of the DRBLHF, Herb VonGoerres, was also at the Liston Lights and it looks like DRBLHF will be in good hands. The dedication of people like this in making this a memorable trip was outstanding. It was wonderful meeting the warm and friendly people that signed up for this tour and I thank them for their patience as circumstances caused things to change. Hope to see you all on other trips in the future.

Information about these lights came from two books–"Guiding Lights of the Delaware River & Bay" by Jim Gowdy and Kim Ruth and from "Lighthouses of New Jersey & Delaware" by Bob Trapani, Jr (order from Myst & Lace Publishers, Inc.; 1386 Fair Hill Lane; Elkton, MD 21921 or www.mystandlace.com). If you would like more information on the Delaware Lighthouses, contact the DRBLHF at P. O. Box 708; Lewes, DE 19958 or www.delawarebaylights.org.

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