In 1889 Congress appropriated $20,000 for the purchase
of land near Squan Inlet (now Manasquan Inlet) on which to
build a lighthouse. It was felt that some sort of light was
necessary to illuminate the long stretch of unbroken coast
between Barnegat Inlet to the south and Sandy Hook Bay to the
north. Since Squan Inlet was the best refuge for vessels
along the coast, it was deemed an appropriate place for the
erection of a lighthouse.
The papers for the purchase of a site were drawn up, but
before payment was made, it was discovered that the lot to be
transferred was not the site selected and agreed upon by the
Light-House Board and was unfit for the intended purpose.
The sale was subsequently called off.
Efforts to locate a new and more suitable site were
begun and by 1894 were successful, but there was difficulty
in obtaining a clear title to the tract located 1 5/8 miles
north of the Inlet. The difficulties were resolved the
following year, however and title was transferred.
Construction began on the lighthouse which up until this
point had been called the Squan Inlet Light-Station, in 1896,
and it was completed and first iluminated the night of
December 10, 1896.
The lighthouse was described at the time as a two-
story brick with tower on top, built of red brick, with lead
colored shutters and green blinds. The lantern was painted
black, it's top 44 feet above the ground. When first
constructed the lantern was equipped with a 4th order lens
having 8 sides and a vertical arrangement of bars.
The lighthouse was frequently threatened by the nearby
Wreck Pond (Sea Girt Inlet). In 1900, a 240 foot sand fence
was installed to protect the grounds from further
encroachment. In 1904, the Annual Report of the Light-House
Board noted that "a sand fence was rected and kept in
position during the winter. The sand that had drifted upon
the lawn was removed, a quantity of fertilizing material was
applied and some resodding and reseeding was done."
Two years later the report stated that the "Sea Girt
Inlet approached very near to the northeasterly corner of the
reservation," and that "sand bags were stored at the station
for use in making temporary revetments in case of
An inspection report of 1907 notes that the lighthouse
was 80 feet to the nearest high water mark. By the 1920's
the ocean too, had encroached upon the lighthouse so the
degree that the Government feared its ultimate demise. Water
lapped at the foundation of the dwelling. Catastrophe was
prevented with the addition of interlocking steel pilings
which were installed around the seaward side of the
In 1921, the Sea Girt Lighthouse became the first shore
light-station to be equipped with a radio fog signal.
The system of radio signals is surprisingly
simple. They are flashed far out to sea from three
stations in the vicinity of the entrance to New
York Harnor, each being distinctive so that it can
be instantly identified. One of the sending
stations is aboard the Ambrose Light-ship directly
before the entrance of the harbor. A second
station is located at Sea Girt on the New Jersey
coast, about thirty miles to the south. The third
station is aboard the Fire Island Light-ship, about
thirty miles east of the Ambrose Light-ship, off
the south shore of Long Island. the signals thrown
out from Sea Girt have a range of two hundred
miles, while the other two stations can be clearly
heard forty miles away. Even the speediest liners
therefore can pick up the radio signals several
hours' sail from the harbor entrance. The radio compass signals are
that they cannot by any chance be confused with the
sending of other shore or ship stations. The
Ambrose Channel Light-ship sends out a series of
signal dashes continuously for twenty seconds, and
then remains silent for twenty seconds. The signal
of the Fire Island Light-ship station is a series
of double dashes continued for twenty-five seconds,
followed by a silence of the same duration. The
Sea Girt station throws out a series of triple
dashes, for sixty seconds, and then remains silent
for six minutes. By listening in on these three signals it is
possible to lay the ship's course with amazing
accuracy. The new system has the great advantage
of being both simple and inexpensive.1
Vessels equipped with a radio compass detected the
transmissions with the aid of a small loop mounted above a
compass. The antenna could be moved in any direction. By
listening with a headset, an operator rotated the antenna
until the best (strongest) signal was heard, then adjusted
the frequency and took a bearing from another station.
Plotting the directions of those signals on a chart, the
point of intersection of those bearings is the ship's
position. By listening to the characteristic signal each
station was transmitting, it is possible to identify the
station. There were many advantages to this new method of
navigation, which was the forerunner of today's LORAN.
The Sea Girt lighthouse was used until 1955, when the
increased cost of continued operation, availability of more
economical options, and the change of the shipping lanes to a
more easterly direction were all factors in the decline of
the usefullness of the lighthouse.
The lighthouse was offered for sale to the state, but
the state waived its priority right to purchase the property.
The Borough Council of Sea Girt advised the General Services
Administration that it would be interested in acquiring the
For a time the lighthouse was used as a meeting place
for various civic groups, but in 1980 a group was formed with
the intention of restoring the lighthouse. The Sea Girt
Lighthouse Citizens Committee leased the property from the
town for twenty-five years. The group was incorporated in
1981, and consists of over 200 members.
The lighthouse is situated on Beacon and Ocean Avenues
in Sea Girt, New Jersey.
1 Collins, Francis A., Sentinels Along Our Coast, (New York,
New York: The Century Company, 1922), pgs. 257-258.