Thursday, January 10, 2013

Marcus Hook Rear Range Light

      My walk today was in and around the town of Bellefonte, De.  It is very near to Bellevue State Park, so often, I will park by my community plot, then walk over to Bellefonte.  Today I walked by the Marcus Hook Rear Range Lighthouse, which is right in the town, and probably a half mile from the Delaware River. 

Lighthouse in Bellefonte,  January 10, 2013
      The light keepers house and lighthouse are on a street much like any other in the town, except that is officially named "Lighthouse Road".  The house is fixed up now, as someone apparently lives there.  The light is the highest light on the Atlantic coast!  The tower, unmanned and automated, is still an active aid to navigation, but is not open to the public.

      Gone are the boarded up windows shown in a picture from the online reference below probably taken sometime around 2005.  The reference should be updated, as it is a much more attractive property now.

The following is copied from LightHouseFriends. com

      The first rear range light was also a temporary affair consisting of a locomotive headlight shown from atop a tall pole. The site for the rear light was on a hill between the towns of Edgemoor and Bellefonte, 1.8 miles southwest of the front light. As condemnation proceedings were necessary to obtain enough land for a proper tower and keeper's dwelling, the temporary light had to serve from 1915 until 1920. After the land owner was paid $2,050, construction of the lighthouse was begun by Rust Engineering Company of Pittsburgh.
      The tower, built of reinforced concrete, is square with buttressed corners. A metal stairway, with landings spaced 25 feet apart, leads up the tower to a spacious watchroom, which originally served as a chart and radio room. From there, a metal ladder provides access to the lantern room, which is surrounded by a four-foot-wide balcony offering a dramatic view of the Delaware River. The original light source was a fourth-order range lens that produced a fixed white light of 24,000 candlepower. The lens was removed in the 1980s and can now be seen at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia. A DCB-24 shines a red light along the range today at a focal plane of 278 feet.
      The lighthouse's nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places describes the keeper's dwelling near the tower as a "two and one-half story brick dwelling, Colonial Revival in style, with the ridge of its gable roof parallel to the road. The walls are of textured (red) brick laid up in Flemish bond, with splayed brick lentils over the windows, which are fitted with six-over-one sash. A flat roof porch runs across the front of the house, sheltering the entry centered in the three-bay facade. Decorative effects include a full return of the cornice across the gable ends and quarter-circle attic lights on either side of the exterior chimney on the northeast end." A one-story brick structure that served as a combination garage and work area was built behind the dwelling.
      One of the keepers that served at Marcus Hook was Leslie Van Stavern Millar, who in the 1930s moved into the dwelling with his wife, six children, and his father, who also had served as a keeper. Millar's assignment at Marcus Hook was a bit unique. As an experienced technician, Millar was responsible for maintenance of all the aids to navigation from Philadelphia to the mouth of Delaware Bay. Leaving family members to look after the Marcus Hook Light, Millar would be absent for weeks at a time as he visited stations to repair generators, fog signals, and the mechanisms responsible for revolving some of the lights.
      Three of the Millar Children, Don, Len and Richard, served in World War II while their father was stationed at Marcus Hook. Another son, Robert, was thus frequently responsible for the Marcus Hook beacon when his father was visiting other lighthouses. Robert recalls "there was a ventilator in the lantern room and as luck would have it, it was located right over the light bulb area. Water would collect in the ventilator and 'bing,' off would come a drop - hit the bulb, and out would go the light. Then 'ringgggg' would go the alarm in the house at the top of the stairs." These outages, according to Robert, seemingly always happened late at night in the middle of a thunderstorm, forcing him to climb
       A floor model, battery operated radio at the Marcus Hook Lighthouse allowed the Millar family to keep in contact with their father during his travels. Keeper Millar also penned personal letters to his children informing them of the interesting and sometimes humorous life of a lighthouse keeper. One such letter, written to young Helena Millar from the Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse on September 21, 1948, contained the following: "The keepers brought a live chicken out here a week or so ago and the darn thing is so tame it follows us all around in the engine room. Don't mind that too much but we can't convince her that the toilet is up on the second floor. She got locked up in the engine room the other night by mistake and the assistant keeper had to clean up the mess the next day. Says the next time he goes ashore, he is going to bring out a load of diapers to put on her."
      Members of the Coast Guard continued to occupy the dwelling at Marcus Hook until sometime around 2004, when the house was vacated and boarded up. Declared surplus property, the dwelling and garage were listed on March 9, 2005 as being available under the provisions of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act (NHLPA). No applicant was recommend for transfer of ownership, so the General Services Administration was notified, but no online auction has been scheduled for the property.
      The unattended dwelling, decorated with bright red plywood over its windows, and the surrounding unkempt lawn are slowly becoming somewhat of a blight to the otherwise attractive neighborhood. Since the lighthouse is located in a residential area, it would not have been well suited to become a tourist destination like other lighthouses offered under the NHLPA. A $37,500 contract was awarded by the Coast Guard in 2008 to refurbish the porch of the dwelling. The official word is that there are some "environmental issues" with the property that need to be taken care of before it can be disposed of by the government.

 the darkened tower to replace the bulb.

No comments:

Post a Comment