The odds appeared overwhelming as decades of storms, encroaching tides, neglect and structural deterioration methodically took their toll on Mispillion Lighthouse, located near Slaughter Beach, Delaware. As if this wasn’t enough, on May 2, 2002, a powerful lightning strike suddenly pushed the Mispillion Lighthouse even closer to the brink of oblivion by destroying the sentinel’s light tower and causing a fire that charred the interior of the structure. Mother Nature seemingly dealt America’s most endangered lighthouse a fatal blow and a bleak future at best. However, the Mispillion Light possessed a sort of never-say-die aura that shone its brightest in the weeks following the tragic fire. Similar to a boxer who refuses to stay down for the count, Mispillion Lighthouse continued to confound observers by stubbornly standing tall despite the damage inflicted by the fire - as if unwilling to give up the “watch.”
However, what Mother Nature was never able to accomplish, the light’s current owners proved successful at - the removal of the spunky Mispillion Lighthouse from the banks of the Mispillion River. From June 10 through June 14, 2002, the light’s last known owners had the historic lighthouse systematically disassembled. The charred tower and roof of the structure were scrapped in a trash dumpster, while the remainder of the structure was dismantled with a chain saw and placed on a flatbed truck belonging to a local house mover and subsequently taken to an undisclosed location. Neither the owners nor the house movers will comment on the whereabouts or future destination of the disassembled structure.
The circumstances surrounding the sudden disappearance of Mispillion Lighthouse have left countless lighthouse enthusiasts, preservationists and locals both bewildered and angry. The overriding sentiment being echoed by the public is one of frustration over the fact that the Cedar Creek Group, who are the last known owners of the lighthouse, refused to communicate any intentions whatsoever about the removal of the structure. Without notice, the passionate local communities of Slaughter Beach and Milford lost an irreplaceable part of their maritime heritage and worse yet, are being kept in the dark as to the final deposition of an icon they cared so deeply about. Rebecca Craft, president of the Keepers of the Mispillion Light, summarized the situation by stating, “The removal of the lighthouse made me think of how little regard some people have shown for the importance of the lighthouse and its historical significance. Those whose lives were touched by the light, whether as a result of close family ties to the lighthouse or fishermen who knew they were home when they observed the sentinel at the mouth of the Mispillion River, always had a story to tell, a place to go, a place to share, a place to keep their past alive. But now it’s gone.”
The fishermen of Slaughter Beach will continue to return home each evening after a day’s catch. The horseshoe crab’s presence upon the pebbly shoreline of the region will remain perpetuate and the ceaseless tides of the Delaware Bay will forever forge ahead to claim valuable beach along the banks of the Mispillion River. However, the void left by the tragic demise of the Mispillion Lighthouse will weigh heavy on our hearts and permanently alter the perception of life as we knew it on the waters of the Delaware Bay. The lighthouse community can honor the memory of Mispillion Light by working to ensure this situation is never allowed to repeat itself with our nation’s remaining lighthouses.
This story appeared in the
August 2002 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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