Elbow of Cross Ledge, Delaware Bay, New Jersey

Lighthouse of the Month

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The Original Elbow of Cross Ledge Lighthouse. The lighthouse is set upon a steel base filled with concrete. The two-story brick structure was the crew’s living quarters. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo)

Located several miles offshore of Fortescue, NJ, just below the surface of the Delaware Bay lies Cross Ledge—a hazard to navigation that had claimed several ships. A lighthouse was first built on the south end of the ledge in the 1870s, but the other end of this ledge, the Elbow, was actually closer to the shipping channel. Funding for a lighthouse at the Elbow of Cross Ledge was authorized in 1904.

Construction began in 1907. The base of the lighthouse was a cylindrical steel caisson filled nearly to the top with concrete. The two-story crew living area of the lighthouse was constructed of brick. Atop the brick structure was a steel watchroom with an oil-fired beacon mounted on top of the watchroom. A 2000-lb fog bell was also installed in the structure. The bell was struck by a heavy hammer every fifteen seconds when visibility was restricted.

It is reported that the crew of four slept in their life vests because ships had struck glancing blows at night on the lighthouse on several occasions.

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The Elbow of Cross Ledge light today

In 1932, the oil lantern was replaced by powerful electric lamps. Power lines were run underwater from Fortescue, NJ, five miles offshore to the lighthouse. The crew of four remained at the lighthouse until 1951 when a strong storm damaged the structure. The crew was removed and the light was automated.

Two years later, the wisdom of sleeping in life vests was demonstrated when a heavy ore carrier slammed into the lighthouse and knocked much of the original structure off of the base. The remainder of the structure was removed from and an automated beacon was set atop a tower. The modern tower seen in the photographs supports a solar-powered beacon.

The best way to see this lighthouse and four others in the Delaware bay is by tour boat from Fortescue, New Jersey. The two-hour cruise visits five Delaware Bay lighthouses—or what is left of them.

Photography © Jeff Richmond

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