Overfalls named as national landmark to see

TIME publication includes Lewes ship as 100 places where history happened
May 26, 2024

The historic Lightship Overfalls joined some very elite company when it was named one of the top 100 must-see landmarks in the United States.

The lightship, dating back to 1938, was listed in a TIME special-edition publication.

The special edition includes such iconic sites as Central Park in New York City; The Breakers in Newport, R.I.; Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C.; U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.; USS Constitution in Boston; Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., Savannah (Ga.) Historic District, The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas; Mount Vernon near Washington, D.C.; Jackson Square in New Orleans, La.; The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.; USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; and Wrigley Field in Chicago.

There is another lightship included as well – Lightship Columbia in Astoria, Wash. The two lightships are among 17 that still exist.

Other museum lightships are located in Boston; Philadelphia; Seattle, Wash.; Portsmouth, Va.; Port Huron, Mich.; Liberty Island, Jersey City, N.J.; and Baltimore. The remaining ships are privately owned.

Volunteers save Overfalls

Lightships were in service from 1820 to 1985, with 51 on station along the Atlantic Coast and two on the Pacific Coast. LV-118 was the last lightship built by the U.S. Lighthouse Service, which later was taken over by the U.S. Coast Guard. For most of its service history, Overfalls was manned by Coast Guard personnel.

Overfalls has a long history that does not include being stationed at the mouth of Delaware Bay.

It served from 1938 to 1957 at Cornfield Point in Connecticut, 1958 to 1962 at Cross Rip near Cape Cod, Mass., and Boston from 1962 to 1972, when it was taken out of service.

Lightships take the name of the location where they are stationed.

In 1972, the Coast Guard donated the lightship (with the name Boston on the side) to the Lewes Historical Society as a floating museum. It was given the name Overfalls in honor of the lightship closest to the mouth of Delaware Bay. The original Overfalls was relocated to California.

Financial issues delayed any restoration efforts, and by 1999, the ship’s condition had deteriorated significantly. LHS tried to sell the ship, but the Friends of the Lightship was formed and purchased the ship for $1. The Overfalls Foundation was formed, and work soon started on a massive restoration effort. Most of the work was done by a dedicated group of volunteers known as the Dirty Hands Gang.

Today, the foundation not only offers tours of the ship but also sponsors events and educational programs, has a ship’s store and a newly renovated Lifesaving Station.

The ship was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2011.


Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter