Taking Lighthouse to the Top – The SandPaper

As erosion threatened the tower, George R. Putnam, the commissioner in charge of the federal Lighthouse Bureau, favored abandoning it to its fate and replacing the light with a state-of-the-art lightship anchored 7 miles off Barnegat Inlet. Citizens and several newspapers rallied support to save it and enlisted local Congressman Frank Appleby and U.S. Senator Joseph Frelinghuysen to save the structure.

In early July 1921, the two men convinced U.S. Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover to inspect the situation himself; following the visit, Hoover stated he would make a decision in a short time.

On July 15, William Fisher, publisher of the New Jersey Courier, editorialized.

The friends of Barnegat lighthouse are now pinning their last hopes on Herbert Hoover for the saving of Barnegat lighthouse. The Secretary of Commerce has been on the ground, and seen the light as it stands, and its danger. He knows its value to navigation. He has talked with practical men on the beach and has gotten their ideas as to the possibility of saving the tower. He himself is an engineer of wide experience, and if he thinks it possible to save the light with any amount of money available in his emergency lighthouse fund, and if he further thinks the light as a commercial aid is worth the spending of such an amount, we may look for something to happen soon.

Personally, I am resting easy on the judgment of Mr. Hoover. Barring a freak of nature, he is the only hope left for Barnegat light.

Reporting from the Manasquan Coast Star the same day, It had seemingly been the intention of the government lighthouse authorities to permit Barnegat Light to come to an inglorious end, but through the intervention of Senator Frelinghuysen a personal interest is being taken in the matter by Secretary Hoover.

It is expected that a plan will be evolved by the latter for the salvation of the Barnegat Light and that it will be preserved under government direction and made safe against the assaults of the ocean.

The Tuckerton Beacon the day before had explained that some progress was being made.

the Commissioner has now made a favorable report, recommending that the lighthouse be retained in the service as it now stands and that steps be taken for its proper preservation. Congressman Appleby has a bill in Congress to appropriate $30,000 for this purpose, but this bill cannot be put through in time for this summers work. There is an appropriation of four million to the Lighthouse Service, and part of this is an emergency fund. Congressman Appleby and Senator Frelinghuysen are urging Secretary Hoover to allot a part of this fund to save old Barnegat Light. In a recent conference the secretary promised them he would look into the matter carefully and give them an early decision.

On July 22, the Summit Record announced some good news: Hoover Would Save Old and Famous Barnegat Light.

Secretary of Commerce Herbert W. Hoover, in company with Senator Frelinghuysen recently motored to Barnegat Light for a careful inspection of the old and famed Barnegat Light to see and hear at first hand the extent of the ravages made by stormy seas and to determine what best can be done to preserve the historic beacon.

On Aug. 13, Appleby showed he wasnt one to rest. According to the Perth Amboy News, Representative T. Frank Appleby of Asbury Park, with Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover called on President Harding yesterday in regard to preservation of the Barnegat Lighthouse on the Jersey Coast.

President Harding showed much interest in the matter and expressed his belief that the repairs should be made, and the old landmark fully restored. He reserved his decision in the matter, however, saying he would think it over and discuss it further with Budget Director Dawes. Mr. Appleby is hopeful the President will decide favorably nest week.

With that, most friends of the lighthouse relaxed, feeling they had won. But saving the lighthouse would require work, money and actions, not talk. Appleby would appear before Congress in November 1922 to give an update on the situation.

The sea has cut around this tower lighthouse and the Government undertook to save it by dumping some stones there. Those stones were put in a haphazard way but did fairly good work. A little later the municipality had what you might term wooden jetties built in front of it, around the sides and in the bay. The idea was all right, but the construction was faulty, and the result was that during a storm with high seas the woodwork was broken down in places and did not maintain the sand in sufficient manner, whereas if it had been built substantial character, such as we know proposed, it would have made it more permanent, irrespective of all that the lighthouse is still there doing excellent work and the beach is making by the various things that are held there, some of the rock and some of the broken jetties.

In addition, there is this peculiar thing: The foundation wall of a cottage, which was ordered sold and removed, forms a part of the sand-catching process, so that the brick walls are intact but what it needs now is a permanent rock projection of that nature.

The congressman went on to explain.

The lighthouse is in splendid condition, and it should be maintained in that condition. Secretary Hoover, I might say, a year ago last summer visited this lighthouse with Senator Frelinghuysen, and he recommended the appropriation.

When asked if a request had been made to the Lighthouse Bureau, he replied, This has been presented to them, yes sir. I might tell you just what the trouble is so that you may know it all. Mr. Putman, the superintendent of lighthouses, has been in favor building lightships at sea, which will cost several times this amount, and, in my judgment, will not be nearly so satisfactory. They are very expensive to maintain, and if you take away from this point a sea mark which has been there for 50 or 60 years you more or less fool the mariners, and if this is torn down or taken away the fishermen who are in and out in large numbers will have no light to guide them at night at that particular point.

The congressman wanted to make it clear.

The whole trouble is this: As far as Mr. Putman is concerned, he is against this lighthouse being saved. As far as that goes they were so sure it was going to be demolished two or three years ago they bought a new lighthouse of steel construction, not nearly so high, and they were going to place it across on the other shore, which can only be reached by boats going across the Barnegat Inlet. As soon as I heard of it, I talked with Mr. Putnam, and I showed him how impracticable it was to put a lighthouse on the opposite shore. The result has been that the old lighthouse has remained there, despite the fact that that particular department has done little to save it.

In answer to the question if replacement would save money, No, they were going to work both of them. They were going to put up a steel tower for Barnegat Inlet. They will all agree with me that Barnegat must have a light, but they were going to use a steel tower for the inlet and put lightships at sea. I claim the building of the proposed seawall is by far the more economical and satisfactory proposition.

Appleby closed his testimony with a plea.

It is something I am very much interested in, and I believe the people at large would think it would be poor policy on the part of the Government to allow a lighthouse of this kind to be destroyed.

The battle to save Barnegat Lighthouse would continue. One hundred years later one wonders what things on LBI might be like if Putnam had succeeded. There would be no lighthouse, no state park or even a town called Barnegat Light. Some experts say the inlet by now would have moved several miles south of its present location, and saving the lighthouse might have kept the word long in Long Beach Island.

Next Week: A forgotten peace treaty.


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Taking Lighthouse to the Top - The SandPaper

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