Just Released Founder’s Collection. Limited Edition. RETIRED
Mispillion Light was originally established in 1831 when construction was authorized to Winslow Lewis for a sum of $1500. The first keeper was paid $400 a year in 1854. However, by 1859, the light was discontinued, taken down and sold to a local resident who moved it and reconstructed the building as a private home in nearby Milford.
Complaints by Mariners led Congress to authorize construction of a new lighthouse on Slaughter Beach, and on June 15, 1873, Mispillion Light was again a beacon to mariners. Two years later, an expansion raised the tower to 65-feet and a Sixth Order Fresnel Lens installed.
By 1911, the light was automated and a full-time keeper was deemed unnecessary. A local man was paid $60 a year to live in the house rent-free to ward off vandals, but in 1929, the sentinel was deactivated and the watchman was moved out. A skeletal tower, built in 1924, was moved from Cape Henlopen to serve as the Slaughter Beach beacon. Once the house’s resident was removed, Mispillion Light began falling into disrepair, and in 1932, the lighthouse was sold at public auction.
The history of Mispillion is sketchy over the next 50 years, and it received only brief attention in 1984 when the skeletal tower was deactivated. Thus, more than 70 years of neglect and erosion took its toll, until a small group of concerned citizens decided to retake Mispillion Light in 2001. This was the beginning of Keepers of the Mispillion Light. Their goal was to raise the money needed to restore the structure under a lease agreement, but less than a year into their plan, lightning cut short their efforts.
In May 2002, tragedy struck the endangered old Mispillion Lighthouse with a bolt of lightning. The wood frame structure didn’t stand a chance, as fire quickly spread down the walls of the dilapidated building, virtually ending all hope of the once-proud little sentinel being restored to its beautiful “stick-gothic” elegance.
The fire was even more tragic because it came on the eve of a grass roots effort to restore and preserve the sentinel. As broken-hearted lighthouse lovers watched, a private buyer loaded the remaining timbers onto a house-moving truck — discarding the light room in a dumpster — and to an undisclosed location. Thus, another beloved piece of lighthouse heritage had passed on.
Saddened by the fire and loss of the sentinel that Lighthouse Digest called “the most endangered lighthouse in America,” the damaged building had more visitors in a few days than it had in many years. Mispillion Light was lost just before it could be saved and the beloved lighthouse was moved to the “Lost Lighthouses” list. We honor this lost beacon with our rendition, as we pay tribute to the beautiful sentinel and the legacy it leaves behind.