The Delaware River and Bay Lighthouse Foundation supports both the local lighthouses through conservation and restoration projects.
The tours the foundation conducts to raise much-needed funds have had the extra benefit of connecting both the community and visitors to local history.
Red Moulinier from Rehoboth Beach is president of the foundation board, and says, “I’m amazed at the number of people that I run into during the year that remember me and the lighthouse tour they took. They tell me that it’s one of the most unique trips they’ve ever taken. They always comment on the size of the lighthouse, but the best compliment we receive is how well the tours are run and our commitment to education and learning.”
Ruth Africa of Lewes, who has coordinated tours for the last 10 years, said, “So many people tell me that going inside a lighthouse is on their bucket list, when they call to make their reservation.”
The red Breakwater Lighthouse is depicted on the sign welcoming tourists to town and residents back home. This light is on the inner breakwater wall, which was built from 1828-69. The white Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse is owned by the foundation, and is located on the outer breakwater wall, which was built from 1897-1901.
The Harbor of Refuge’s placement at the far end results in an almost constant pounding by the elements. From 2003 until the storms of 2009, the tours included both lighthouses. But from 2010 on, visitors could enter the Breakwater Lighthouse, but could only see and photograph the Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse from the boat.
In 2011, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers replaced ninety-one breakwater stones, ranging in weight from nine to 13 tons, but Mother Nature wasn’t through with the lighthouse. The docking system was battered, and then after Hurricane Sandy, most of it was torn away. According to board member Robert Holland of Salisbury, Md., “It’s so important to get our dock repaired so we can resume our restoration and tour education efforts.”
Foundation Secretary, Martha Jane Donovan-Collins from Rehoboth said, “Regaining access to both lighthouses is our long-term goal. The tour patrons love the free time they have to roam the lighthouse and explore.”
Board members and contractors went to the lighthouse April 25 to survey the damage. What they found was a dock beyond repair, and serious damage to the lighthouse itself. The foundation has submitted a request for Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Assistance Grants for Historic Properties.
Board Vice President John Gordon of Lewes said, “We're committed to making the Harbor of Refuge open to the public. Devastation of the dock has presented a great challenge. With help, we can overcome that challenge.”
Longtime board member Charlie Podedworny of Georgetown asks, “Who isn’t charmed by a lighthouse?” Indeed. These unpaid volunteers certainly are under the spell of the area’s two lighthouses. Foundation representatives will be at the Maritime Festival Saturday, May 17, at the Lewes Ferry Terminal, and volunteers would love to hear lighthouse memories from attendees. For information on 2014 Sunset Cruises, go to www.delawarebaylights.org.