FENWICK ISLAND – Plans are underway to open the Fenwick Island Lighthouse to the public this month, despite an ongoing restoration project next door.
On Saturday, May 25, the Fenwick Island Lighthouse will open for the summer season, according to Winnie Lewis, president of the New Friends of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse. But she said visitors may have to contend with nearby construction as crews continue to restore the lighthouse keeper’s residence.
“They are assuring us that they’ll put up fencing so we can open the lighthouse this Saturday,” she said.
The keeper’s house, located to the west of the lighthouse complex on 146th Street, was constructed in 1882 and has since undergone extensive renovations and additions that have altered its original structure.
Last July, however, the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs launched a refurbishment project at the lighthouse keeper’s residence.
The first phase of the project focused on the house’s exterior and involved the removal of modern additions and repairs to the remaining structure. The second phase included renovations to improve accessibility in and around the house.
Work on the lighthouse keeper’s residence was originally scheduled to begin last May, but weather conditions delayed the project.
“It’s nowhere near done,” Lewis said. “We’ve had so much rain it’s made it much harder to finish.”
Regardless, she said she remained optimistic the restoration project would not put a damper on the summer season.
“Hopefully we’ll be in the lighthouse this weekend,” Lewis said. “They’re doing a wonderful job, but it’s just a fact of life in construction. These things happen.”
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.
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 lighthouse will be open Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m.-noon in May, Friday through Sunday from 9 a.m.-noon in June and September, and Thursday through Monday from 9 a.m.-noon in July and August.