Historic Structures

Building Description Navesink Light Station - Twin Lights Lighthouse, Highlands New Jersey

On June 20, 1860, Congress appropriated $72,941 for the construction of a new lighthouse at Highlands. Unlike the earlier stand alone towers, the U.S. Lighthouse Board built the new twin towers as one building—the two towers are connected by keepers' quarters and workrooms. The distance from the center of one tower to the center of the other tower is 223 feet. Reddish brown sandstone quarried at Bellville, New Jersey, was used on the exterior of both towers and the eastern walls facing the ocean. Brick was used for the rest of the building exterior. The roof was originally slate, later covered with tin, and more recently with tern-coated steel to imitate the tin. Interior walls are brick, wood, and plaster. Some recent renovations have removed or covered portions of deteriorated interior plaster walls and ceiling, and been refmished with modern sheet rock. The front of the building has 26 windows on the first floor, all with arched tops, and four smaller windows on the second floor. There are two side windows on the second floor keeper's quarters, one for each of the apartment hallways that face the lighthouse towers. The rear of the building has 19 windows downstairs and four second floor windows in the keepers' quarters section. The 1862 lighthouse remains intact and the exterior relatively unaltered from its original construction.

The south tower is square in shape, standing 53 feet tall, with a focal plane of 246 feet. The eastern side of the tower has two arched windows facing the ocean, and another window facing south. On the second landing there are two sets of smaller windows, one facing north, the other south. The thrust-bearing pedestal for the 1898 bivalve lens still exists on this landing. An interior brick cylinder forms a lining that supports the steps winding up to the top. There are 66 steps to the watch room. A door from the watch room allows access onto the exterior walkway that is surrounded by a brownstone parapet wall about three feet high. Back inside, the lamp room is entered by climbing a 10-step ladder/stair. A 16-sided lantern made up of 30 panes of glass and 18 solid metal plates encloses the lamp room. The glass panes are divided into three horizontal rows often with the bottom panes each measuring 27 inches wide by 30.5 inches high, the middle panes 27 inches wide by 38 inches high, and the top panes 27 inches wide by 44.5 inches high. Metal plates were used instead of glass on the backside of the lighthouse to block the beacon from shining landward. The plates are divided into three horizontal rows of six with measurements that correspond to the glass panes.

When completed in 1862, the south tower displayed the 1841 first-order lens used in the 1828 tower. In 1898, the south tower lamp room was slightly altered to accommodate the installation of a larger second-order electric bivalve lens. The rear metal panels were removed and a wooden addition was added to allow space for the lens to rotate and the keepers to work. That addition was removed during a 1980s restoration and the original configuration of the lamp room was reconstituted.

The south tower roof is copper, with crenellated metal work on top. A ball ventilator with a metal spindle graces the top.

The north tower is octagonal in shape and has three arched windows located at the different landings ascending the tower. The lowest window faces the ocean, the second and third to the north, then northwest respectively. There are 65 steps to the watch room, with the same type of metal door to exit onto the exterior of the lantern. A parapet wall, about 3 feet high, also surrounds this tower's exterior walkway. The lamp room is entered from the interior of the watch room up an 11 step ladder/stair. The north tower has the same number and size glass window panes and black-out panels as the south tower. The second landing from the base of the tower has three small windows. On the landing below the watch room is a center column where weights for the clockwork hung when used to rotate the light.

When completed in 1862, a first-order Fresnel lens was installed in the tower. The light was taken out of service in 1898 and remained dark until a fifth-order Fresnel lens dating to 1881 was installed in 1962. This light is now considered a private aid to navigation.

The north tower roof is copper, with crenellated metal work on top. A ball ventilator with a metal spindle graces the top.

Although the towers were completed in 1862, the new keepers' quarters connecting them was not completed until the following year. The Lighthouse Service allowed the four keepers and their families a spacious 18 rooms to accommodate workshops and living quarters. The center of the structure had the two larger quarters for the principal keeper and first assistant. Those quarters consisted of a basement, a large first-floor kitchen, and living room, and on the second floor two bedrooms with closet space. An attic extended across the top of these two apartments. Later, in the 1950s, the Coast Guard divided the larger second floor bedrooms on the western side of the building into two smaller spaces. This allowed Coast Guard families three bedrooms on the second floor. Modern bathrooms were placed in each apartment in the 1930s. The second and third assistants had apartments consisting of two rooms each in the lower wing sections. Today the principal keeper's quarters is used as employee housing by the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry. The first assistant keeper's quarters are used for a public restroom and museum storage space, while the north wing quarters houses the museum and visitor entrance. The south wing quarters are now the historic site office and auditorium.

Work began on an electric powerhouse building, located southwest of the light station building, on April 22, 1898, and was finished on June 30 of that year. The first structure was built of wood with a concrete floor. It was meant to be temporary housing for the engines and dynamos needed to produce the electricity for the carbon arc electric light installed in the South Tower. In 1909, a more solid brick structure enclosed the old wooden building. The only section left from the original structure is part of the concrete floor. The present building is 42 feet long by 26 feet wide with two large double wooden doors and two side doors. The walls are brick; the wooden roof deck is now covered with asphalt tile shingles. The four corner piers and finials and the arched windows all follow the design elements of the 1862 lighthouse complex. Interior walls are white glazed brick, with a stained wooden ceiling, and storage attic above. Four metal beams crossed the ceiling and were used to hoist the heavy electrical producing equipment into place. Today the structure is used as an exhibit building and houses the 1898 bivalve lens once used in the south tower.