Cape Henlopen Lighthouse fell into the sea April 13, 1926

April 20, 2021

This photograph from 1925 shows the Cape Henlopen Lighthouse looking lonely and vulnerable on the edge of dunes near the point of Cape Henlopen. Within the next year, on April 13, 1926, its shallow foundations weakened by a spring storm, the lighthouse fell into the sea from where it had stood since 1769. 

The British constructed the lighthouse to mark the entrance to Delaware Bay, just a few years before the United States’ war for independence went into high gear. As part of the hostilities, the British, reportedly, almost completely destroyed the 69-foot-tall structure in 1777.

By 1784, with the war ended, wardens for the lighthouse had rebuilt the structure and put it back into service. It continued as one of the East Coast’s most valuable navigational markers for another 140 years until dune erosion rendered the structure unsafe. 

It was deactivated, replaced by an automated beacon, and then its fallen remains became a source of high-quality stone for local fireplaces and other structures over the next decade.  

  • Delaware Cape Region History in Photographs, published every Tuesday in the Cape Gazette, features historical photos from Delaware's Cape Region - particularly - and from throughout Sussex County and Delaware generally.

    Readers are invited to submit photos of historic interest. They can be mailed to the Cape Gazette at PO Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958, or via email to

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