FENWICK ISLAND – Rehabilitation work on a lighthouse keeper’s residence has commenced in Fenwick Island.
Last week, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs launched a refurbishment project of the keeper’s house at the Fenwick Island Lighthouse.
The rehabilitation work will focus on the house’s exterior and will involve the removal of modern additions, construction of a new porch, wooden steps and landings, the replacement of existing windows, repair of miscellaneous wood trim and wood-shingle siding, exterior painting and the re-laying of the existing brick sidewalk, according to a press release from the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. Future improvement plans call for the provision of access to the first floor of the building for people with disabilities, improved pedestrian circulation on the exterior and connectivity to the lighthouse property.
In an interview this week, Winnie Lewis, president of the New Friends of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse, said construction crews have made significant progress at the keeper’s house. She noted, for example, that the building’s windows have been replaced and an existing porch has been removed.
“It’s coming along really well,” she said. “Hopefully by the end of September refurbishment on the outside will be done.”
Work on the lighthouse keeper’s residence was originally scheduled to begin two months ago, but Lewis said work on the building did not begin until last week.
“It was supposed to start in May,” she said, “but it rained so much that they couldn’t start until later.”
Regardless, Lewis said she remains optimistic that work will finish by the fall.
“Things seem to be going well,” she said. “They are taking care of everything.”
The Fenwick Island Lighthouse was built in 1858 to protect ships from the Fenwick sand shoals that extend several miles out from the Delaware coast. It began service in 1859 and continued in operation without interruption for nearly 120 years until it was decommissioned by the U. S. Coast Guard in 1978. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
Due to a grassroots effort, ownership of the property was transferred to the state of Delaware in 1981, and in 2007 the New Friends of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse was formed to protect, preserve and maintain the lighthouse.
The keeper’s house, located to the left of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse complex on 146th Street, was constructed in 1882 and has since undergone extensive renovations and additions that have altered its original structure.
During rehabilitation of the keeper’s house, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs said it would work with the construction contractor and the New Friends of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse to limit inconvenience to the public, and the lighthouse itself would remain open during its posted operating hours. Residents and visitors will see the usual presence of equipment, materials and workers on site as well as the usual noises that go with construction work during daytime hours. No weekend work is anticipated.