Historic Structures

Lighthouse Description Romer Shoal Light Station Lighthouse, Highlands New Jersey

Romer Shoal Light Station is an offshore lighthouse erected in 1898 in Lower New York Bay approximately 3.8 miles north of Sandy Hook in Monmouth County, New Jersey. It sits in approximately 14 feet of water and marks an area of shallow water hazardous to vessels navigating to and from the port of New York.

It is situated some 500 feet south of the New Jersey-New York state boundary, and approximately seven miles south of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. This property marks Romer Shoal, an offshore area of shallow water surrounded by deeper waters that have been navigated by shipping from colonial times to the present day. Romer Shoal lies north of the Swash Channel, a natural navigation route, and south side of the Ambrose Channel, the main shipping lane to and from the port of New York that was dredged circa 1912. A variety of unmanned aids to navigation were established to mark this shoal during the nineteenth century, beginning in the 1830s. TTie development of offshore lighthouse design and technology led to the existing light station being established in 1898.

This lighthouse is operated as an automated aid to navigation identified as number 35070 on the regionallight list. The structure includes a cylindrical caisson foundation surrounded by protective riprap. A riprap breakwater extends westward from the foundation to form a semi-protected boat basin. A concrete pier 32 feet long by 10 feet wide by 11 feet tall extends towards southwest from the lighthouse foundation to the edge of the basin. This pier's southwest end is equipped with a ladder and pilings where boats may moor, and a metal crane is mounted on the pier deck for moving cargo. A metal stairway at the pier's northeast end leads up to the lighthouse's main gallery atop the caisson. The light tower's entrance is to the right of this stairway.

The lighthouse's foundation is a cylindrical caisson 30 feet in diameter and made with cast iron plates. It is filled with concrete except for the space occupied by the structure's cisterns. Only the uppermost courses of the caisson's cast iron plates are visible. The rest is hidden by riprap or is underwater. The main gallery sits atop the caisson. The gallery deck inside the caisson's perimeter is an apron made of concrete. This apron extends 4 feet, 2 inches outward from the light tower. A modem guardrail is attached to this concrete deck's perimeter at the edge of the caisson. It is made with metal pipe stanchions supporting two horizontal metal pipe rails, and extends approximately halfway around the main gallery. A cast iron grating extends another 3.5 feet outward from the concrete apron. It is supported underneath by decorative cast iron brackets attached to the caisson at 6.5 foot intervals. The extended deck grating is deteriorated in several places and approximately one-half of it is missing. The modem pipe guardrail provides a barrier between the secure, concrete portion of the gallery deck and the deteriorated cast iron overhang. An enclosed room made of iron plates stands atop the gallery deck on the west side. Its inner side is the exterior wall of the light tower. This gallery room has a flat roof and is 6 feet, 10 inches tall by 4 feet, 1 inch wide, by 17 feet, 9 inches long.

The conical light tower is four stories tall and stands centered atop the caisson foundation surrounded by the main gallery. It is made with cast iron plates and stands four stories tall. The exterior on the first story level is heavily corroded and has been patched in several places. The tower's exterior at the second story and higher is in better condition. The tower's first and second stories are painted white. The third and fourth stories, along with the watch room and lantern, are painted brown.

A doorway pierces the tower's southwest side near where the concrete pier's stairway ends at the main gallery deck. This doorway is framed with a cast iron surround topped with a segmental arch. It is fitted with a modern metal door with rounded top.

The tower's first, second and third stories are pierced with windows framed with decorative cast iron surrounds. Each window surround includes a segmental arch topped with a triangular pediment hood, and a projecting sill. The first story has two windows, both covered with metal plates. The second and third stories are pierced with three windows each. The second story windows have sheets of Plexiglas for glazing. Two third story windows retain two-over-two, double hung wooden sash while the third window is covered. The tower's fourth story is pierced with eight circular port-lights.

The fourth story is surmounted by the lighthouse's fifth story, a cylindrical watch room surrounded by a circular gallery. The watch room and its gallery deck are made with cast iron plates. The gallery deck extends beyond the tower and is supported by decorative cast iron brackets attached to the tower's exterior. There is a doorway in the watch room wall that provides access to the gallery. It is fitted with a modem metal door. A guardrail surrounds the gallery. It includes cast iron stanchions that support two horizontal metal railings. Each stanchion is capped by a ball finial at the top. Each stanchion is positioned above one of the brackets that support the gallery's overhang. A metal ladder rises from the watch room gallery to the lantern gallery.

Two modem, automated fog signal units are stacked one atop the other on the watch room gallery's eastern side. A third fog signal unit sits on the gallery deck next to them. A solar array is mounted on the gallery's southern side. It is used for charging batteries that power the lighthouse's aid to navigation equipment.

The watch room supports the lighthouse's decagonal lantern and circular lantern gallery. The lantern includes a lower parapet wall one-quarter the height of the lantern and made with ten cast iron plates. The upper three-quarters of each side above the parapet is composed of metal mullions holding the lantern's glazing. Each side includes three rectangular glass panes arranged vertically. The lantern roof springs from a soffit above the glazing. The roof is made with ten triangular cast iron plates and capped at the apex with a round vent ball topped with a lightning rod. The lantern gallery deck is made of cast iron plates and overhangs the watch room's perimeter slightly. The gallery is enclosed by a simple railing made with metal rod stanchions and a single flat rail. This gallery is accessed by the metal ladder that rises from the watch room gallery. Another metal ladder rises vertically next to the lantern on the gallery's north side. A metal pole attached to this ladder supports an emergency light for use if the lantern's main optic fails. The ladder's upper part is supported with a brace connected to the vent ball atop the lantern.

The tower's interior is lined with brick up to the third story. This lining is thickest on the first story level and narrows progressively on the second and third stories where the conical tower tapers inward. A metal stairway winds counterclockwise inside the tower's perimeter wall up to the fourth story. A metal partition wall separates it from the tower's rooms. Above the fourth story, metal ship's ladders provide access to the watch room and lantern.

The first story room is circular. It is 19 feet in diameter with its ceiling 7.5 feet above the floor. The tower's brickwork lining is pierced with three openings. One is for the entrance doorway. The other two are tall, segmental-arch window openings. Both windows are covered with metal sheets. Three alcoves built into the brick lining provide storage space. A metal partition wall on the room's eastern side encloses a 2.5-foot wide stairway that winds counter-clockwise up to the second story. The entry at the stairway's base is fitted with a modern metal door. The space at the opposite end of the first story's stairway enclosure contains a closet that is missing its door. A cast iron shelf attached to the brick lining near the ceiling on the first story's southeastern side supports a brick chimney flue. This flue is pierced with a circular opening for a stovepipe. It extends upward inside the tower to the watch room gallery where it formerly vented through a metal smokestack.

The stair flight from the first story has 10 steps and ends at the second story landing. This landing is 4 feet long by 2.5 feet wide. It is lighted with a window opening in the tower wall that is fitted with a Plexiglas cover. The entry to the second story room faces the window. It is fitted with a circa middle-twentieth century two-panel wooden door. Another flight of 10 steps leads continues upward to the third story. The stairway is separated from the second story room by a sheet iron partition wall.

The second story room is 18 feet in diameter and is similar to the first story. The tower's brick lining surrounding it is pierced with two tall window openings that are both fitted with Plexiglas. The floor is covered with green tiles laid on top of the original wood floorboards. The wooden floor is rotted in various places. The brick chimney continues up through the second story. It is pierced with a circular stovepipe opening. A locker cabinet and closet are built into spaces at either end of the stairway's partition wall. The doors are missing from both. The second story room contains two sets of wooden kitchen cabinets that appear to date circa middle twentieth century. There are two counter-top floor cabinets that are 5 feet long by 3 feet tall by 2 feet deep. Above these are two wall cabinets that are 5 feet wide by 2.5 feet tall by 1 foot deep.

The third story stairway landing is 4 feet long by 2.5 feet wide. The tower wall next to it is pierced with a segmental-arch window opening that is fitted with a solid cover. The entry to the third story room faces the window. It holds an original four-panel wooden door 6.5 feet tall by 3 feet wide. Another flight of 10 steps leads upward to the fourth story. A sheet iron partition wall partition separates the stairway from the third story room.

The third story room is 17.5 feet in diameter. Its ceiling is 7.5 feet above the floor. The room's brick lining is pierced by two segmental-arch window openings 4 feet tall by 30 inches wide. Each holds 4-light (2/2), double-hung wooden sash. The floor is covered with green tiles laid on top of the original wood floorboards. The wooden flooring is rotten in various places. The brick flue that began on the first story continues up through the third story. It is 17 inches wide by 12 inches deep, and is pierced with a circular stovepipe opening. There are closets at either end of the stairway partition wall. The closet beneath the stairs leading up to the fourth story is 6.5 feet tall by 33 inches wide by 8 feet, 10 inches deep. Its entry holds a 26-inch wide wooden door. An exposed section of the third story's original wooden floor is visible in this closet. The smaller closet at the metal partition wall's opposite end is 4 feet, 11 inches tall by 34 inches wide by 16 inches deep. Its door is missing.

The stairway ends at the doorway to the fourth story. There is no landing. The doorway is fitted with an original 4-panel wooden door that is 6.5 feet tall by 30 inches wide. The room is 17 feet in diameter. Its surrounding wall and ceiling are lined with tongue-and-groove wood paneling that is painted white. The ceiling is 7.5 feet above the floor. The tower's interior is not lined with brick on this level. A battery bank providing power to the lighthouse's aid to navigation equipment sits on the floor to one side. A metal ships ladder rises to an opening in the ceiling and provides access to the watch room. This ladder has 8 steps, two hand rails, and is built with a slight twist. The fourth story's surrounding wall is pierced with eight evenly-spaced circular openings that are 13-inches in diameter. These formerly held port-lights, but the hardware and glazing for them is missing. One opening is fitted with a circular Plexiglas light. The others are covered with plywood. The rectangular brick chimney flue that began on the first story rises from the floor to the ceiling. It is 17 inches wide by 17 inches deep and is pierced for a stovepipe. The end of the stairway partition opposite the doorway holds a 3-shelf built-in closet. It is fitted with a 4-panel wooden door.

A bathroom made with plywood partition walls has been added to the fourth story room. It is 8 feet, 10 inches deep by 6 feet, 11 inches wide and holds a sink, toilet and shower. The wooden floor is rotten. The bathroom's doorway was fitted with a 2-panel wooden door which is unhinged and sits nearby. The toilet was manufactured in 1955, suggesting the bathroom addition was built circa the middle 1950s.

The circular watch room is 10 feet in diameter and 6.5 feet tall. A trapdoor opening in its cast iron floor provides access from the fourth story. The trapdoor is made of wood and appears to be original. The watch room's wall and ceiling are covered with beaded tongue-and-groove paneling that is painted white. A narrow band of cornice molding is present. There is a wooden built-in closet on the room's south side. It is 38 inches wide by 20 inches deep and extends from floor to ceiling. It closes with a rectangular wooden door that secures with a hasp. The ceiling is pierced with eight, 10-inch diameter, circular glass lights providing light from the lantern room. There are no windows in the watch room's surrounding wall.

A doorway pierces the watch room wall on the west side and provides access to the outside gallery. It is 6 feet, 4 inches tall by 2 feet wide, and is fitted with a metal door secured with two metal bars. This door is convex to match the watch room's encircling wall. A metal ship's ladder rises from the floor to an opening in the ceiling. It provides access to the lantern room. This ladder has seven steps, two hand rails, and is built with a slight twist. A battery bank sits on the watch room floor and a modem electrical panel is attached to the wall.

The decagonal lantern room is 7.5 feet in diameter. Its lower parapet wall is lined with beaded tongueand- groove wood paneling that is painted white. This lining is pierced with five circular vent openings that are 6.5 inches in diameter and evenly spaced on every second side. The vent hardware is missing and the holes are covered with metal screening. Each of the lantern's ten-sides above the parapet is glazed with three glass panes arranged vertically and framed with metal muntins. Each pane is 25 inches tall by 30 inches wide.

The lantern room floor is made with cast iron plates. It is pierced with a trapdoor opening 3.5 feet long by 22 inches wide. The trapdoor is made of wood and appears to be original. Eight, 11-inch diameter, evenly spaced glass deck lights pierce the floor. The lantern's optic is a modem VRB-25 marine rotating beacon mounted on a pedestal attached to the center of the floor. Its focal plane is 54 feet above mean low water. The optic signals two white flashes every 15 seconds and is visible for a distance of 16 miles in clear weather. Four black cloth shades hang from the ceiling. They are arranged in a cross-pattern around the optic and are used to control the light signal.

This light station's tower and lantern were first erected in 1883 at the Lighthouse Depot at Tompkinsville on Staten Island. It was built to serve as an onshore lighthouse testing platform for experiments with equipment and fuels. The onshore structure was dismantled in 1898 and rebuilt at its present-day offshore location.

The lighthouse's daymark when erected on Romer Shoal in 1898 was the same as today, but the structure included features that are no longer present. One such feature was a cast iron awning roof that covered the main gallery. The awning's inner edge was bolted to a metal ledge that encircles the tower just below the second story windows. This metal ledge remains. The awning's periphery was supported by columns attached to the gallery's perimeter. A metal vertical partition wall was built approximately halfway around the awning's periphery circa 1940. It enclosed the main gallery's northern and eastern sides and was pieced with several port-lights. The gallery's southern and western sections that faced the boat basin were left open. The partition wall sheltered an area used for placing equipment and storing supplies. During the 1940s, the light station fog signal's two resonator horns were fastened to this partition wall's eastern side. Their positioning suggests that the fog signal machinery may have been located within the gallery's enclosed space.

The main gallery's metal awning deteriorated through time. It was removed in 1997 along with its partition wall. Its former position is indicated today by the metal ledge and marks surrounding the tower below the second story windows. Part of the main gallery's enclosed area remains as a room on the northern side that is approximately 18 feet long by 4 feet wide and made with sheet metal walls and roof.

The original guardrail surrounding the main gallery was made with cast iron stanchions that supported three tiers of horizontal pipe rail and balusters. This deteriorated and has been replaced. The existing guardrail is made with welded steel pipe stanchions that support two horizontal steel pipe railings.

Another original lighthouse feature was a metal smokestack that rose vertically from the watch room gallery. It vented the brickwork chimney flue that extends up through the light tower's interior. The metal smokestack extended to a little higher than the lantern roofs vent ball. It was dismantled when the lighthouse was automated in 1966. The chimney flue was capped at that time as well.

The light station's protective riprap has also changed through time. The breakwater that extends in a curve from the caisson foundation to shelter the boat basin was higher and wider in the past than it is today. Additional riprap has been added from time to time to augment material moved out of position by wave action or that has settled into Romer Shoal's bottom sediments. The riprap protecting the lighthouse's caisson foundation was augmented with additional material in 1997.

Other work accomplished in 1997 included patching and repainting the tower's exterior, repairs to the caisson foundation, and replacing boarding ladders that had been lost in a storm. In addition, the light stations submarine power cable was discontinued and the power supply for the aid to navigation equipment was solarized. Various pieces of unused equipment, including a generator and fuel tanks, were removed in 1997 as well.

The lighthouse's original optic in 1898 was a fourth order Fresnel lens. This was replaced with a modern 190-millimeter acrylic lens in 1966 when the lighthouse was automated. The acrylic lens was replaced in turn circa 1997 when the existing VRB-25 marine rotating beacon was installed. The emergency light mounted on the light tower for use if the main optic fails is a modem acrylic lens light. The light station's original fog signal has also been replaced. The fog signal equipment used today is a FA-232/02 sound unit. Three of these modem automated devices are mounted on the watch room gallery. One is a backup unit in the event the pair of primary signals fails.