skip navigation and jump to page content The Library of CongressThe American Folklife Center 
Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
Collage of Local Legacies
Barnegat Lighthouse
Barnegat Bay Lighthouse. Courtesy Ocean Cultural & Heritage Commission

Barnegat Lighthouse

Barnegat Lighthouse, affectionately known as "Barney" or "Old Barney" is the quintessential symbol of the Jersey Shore, so much so that it is featured on special New Jersey license plates.

The lighthouse, a veteran of nearly 100 years of service to seafarers, is Ocean County, New Jersey's best-known symbol. It stands on the northern tip of Long Island Beach, on the south shore of Barnegat Inlet, a shifting inlet whose currents have eroded away much of the northern tip of Long Beach Island. The flashing signal lights no longer wink out to sea, but the 172-foot-tall red and white lighthouse is now a silent symbol of days gone by. The original lighthouse was constructed in 1834, but toppled into the sea due to storm erosion in 1856. The current structure was built in 1858. The lighthouse was first lit on January 1,1859 and was retired in 1927. When operational, the light could be seen from as far as 30 miles.

The site of the lighthouse was regarded as one of the most crucial "change of course" points for coastal vessels. Vessels bound to and from New York along the New Jersey coastline depended on Barnegat Lighthouse to avoid the shoals extending from the shoreline. The swift currents, shifting sandbars, and the offshore shoals challenged the skills of even the most experienced sailor.

In 1926, the Bureau of Light Houses gave the station, except for the tower, to the state of New Jersey. The bureau continued to maintain an automatic light in the tower until January 1, 1944, when it decided to discontinue the light because the same job was being done by the Barnegat lightship, which had been established in 1927. Restored by the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry, now serves as a museum where visitors can climb the 217 steps to the observation tower to watch the local fishing fleet leaving and returning through the inlet, or gaze at the prolific growth of hollies, bay berries, beach plums, red cedars, beach grasses, and other native plants of the barrier islands.

Documentation consists of a page of text and a photograph.

Originally submitted by: Christopher H. Smith, Representative (4th District).

link to www.loc.govMore Local Legacies...

The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

disclaimer for external linksLearn More About It...
  The Library of Congress 
The American Folklife Center
Contact Us
AFC Icon