How the ruins of Cape Henlopen’s lighthouse ended up in your neighbor’s living room

By Bill Newcott | Photograph by Charlie Pyles
From the June 2019 issue


It’s the shimmer that catches your eye, the glitter-like sparkle that winks at you from a neighbor’s fireplace. Or from the chimney of an old house. Or from behind the rhododendrons in a garden.

For a radius of roughly 20 miles around Lewes, little outposts of glimmering granite, a rock otherwise foreign to these parts, populate homes and businesses. The stones’ points of dancing light seem to twinkle against a background of blues, reds, and grays, their patterns subtly morphing as the slanting sunlight changes its angle throughout the day.

Most likely, those stones are remnants of the Cape Henlopen Lighthouse. The towering structure stood guard at the entrance to Delaware Bay from 1765 until 1926 when suddenly, with a great crash heard only by the seagulls, the tower was no more.

In a land of sand, gravel and seashells, where most homes are made of fired brick or “stick construction,” the dark granite stones of coastal Delaware have tales to tell — stories of geologic upheaval, geopolitical conflict, natural disaster and innovative commerce.       


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