Questions Most Often Asked About Twin Lights
Why are there two towers?
The first Navesink Light Station was built in 1828 and consisted of two identical towers. Those “Twin Lights” gave the station a definite and decided character that helped distinguish it from the nearby Sandy Hook lighthouse and the Sandy Hook Lightship stationed offshore. When the present station was commissioned on 1st May 1862, the south tower contained a first-order Fresnel lens that gave ships a warning of their approach to land. The north tower was lit by a lens of the second-order, an indication to vessels they were coming up on a headland along the seacoast and the approach to a bay.
Why are the towers different?
We really don’t know. Perhaps architect Joseph Lederle found it more aesthetically appealing to construct them differently, yet similar. We like to think of the towers as twins, but not “identical” twins.
How many steps are there in the towers?
Sixty-four steps in the north tower and sixty-five in the south tower.
Are you open all year?
Yes. The museum, tower and gift shop are open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM, Memorial Day to Labor Day. The rest of the year the building is open Wednesday to Sunday 10 AM to 5 PM. Regardless of the season, the grounds are open from 9 AM to sunset.
How high is Twin Lights?
The focal plane of the north tower lens is 246 feet above sea level.
Will the big lens ever be put back in the south tower?
No. To do so would exclude some visitors from viewing the lens. It will remain on display in its original power generating station where it can be interpreted for all.
Can New York and Long Island be seen from Twin Lights?
Yes. Both are visible from The overlook and towers. On exceptionally clear winter days, the upper portion of the Statue of Liberty may be seen with binoculars.
What are the portholes in the towers for?
For ventilation. When the lenses were illuminated by whale oil, lard of kerosene, the lamps smoked a great deal and it was necessary to vent, or air, the towers regularly.
Was all of Twin Lights built at the same time?
Yes. Construction began in 1861 and was completed on 1st May 1862.
What were the galleries used for originally?
Each gallery contained a parlor and two bedrooms for the 2nd and 3rd assistant keepers, and an oil room and workshop. Housing for the principal keeper and 1st assistant keeper was in the central portion between the galleries and consisted of a sitting room, kitchen and two bedrooms for each.
Does the lighthouse work?
Yes. The north tower is lit from dusk to dawn and maintained by the New Jersey State Park Service.
What is the small boat that looks like a submarine?
It is a Francis Life car and was used by the US LIfe Saving Service to rescue victims from shipwrecks along the coast.
Are you part of Sandy Hook?
No. Twin Lights is a state historic site administered by the New Jersey State Park Service of the Division of Parks and Forestry, Department of Environmental Protection. Sandy Hook is a unit of Gateway National Recreation Area, United States National Park Service. We are good neighbors and engage in many mutually supportive programs.
Twin Lights claims a Marconi wireless telegraphy “first” and so does Cape Cod National Seashore. Why is that?
Both have valid claims to Marconi wireless telegraphy “first.” On 30th September 1899, Gugliemo Marconi erected a receiving antennae at Twin Lights and from offshore sent messages reporting on the progress of the Great WHite Fleet that was honoring Admiral Dewey. Those transmissions were the first demonstrations of practical wireless telegraphy in America. On 16th October Marconi telegraphed reports of the America’s Cup races off Sandy Hook to the New York Herald. That was the first use of wireless telegraphy on a commercial basis. The first transatlantic messages were sent from England to Cape Cod on 18th January 1903.