|Liston Rear Range , DE|
Description: The Liston Rear Range Lighthouse is Delaware's tallest and stands three miles inland from the riverside location of its companion front range light. Vessels bound upstream pick up the piercing lights of the Liston Range, the longest navigable range in the United States, near Ship John Shoal Lighthouse, which is located roughly seventeen miles from the front light. After following the Liston Range from Delaware Bay to the mouth of the Delaware River, vessels will alternately encounter red and green range lights as they continue up the river. The Liston Range, however, must exhibit white lights due to the length of the channel it covers. The Liston Rear Range Lighthouse is also the only range light on the Delaware River to retain its powerful Fresnel lens; all others have been removed in favor of modern optics that are easier to service and maintain.
On October 25, 1905, temporary lights were established on the Liston Range to serve the newly created channel, and the Port Penn Range was discontinued. The temporary Liston Rear Range Light consisted of a 100-foot-tall lamp post bearing a triangular lattice-work day mark and topped with a galvanized-iron headlight lantern. Daniel Bailey had been appointed keeper of the Port Penn Rear Range Lighthouse on July 1, 1904, and he continued to reside at that station while caring for the new temporary rear range light, located just a few miles away.
Since the expense of relocating the tower from the Port Penn Rear Range Station to the Liston Rear Range Station was estimated to be one-third the cost of a new tower, the Lighthouse Board contracted John L. Grim of Philadelphia to make the move. The Annual Report of the Light-House Board for 1906 contains the following entry for the Liston Rear Range Lighthouse: “The skeleton iron tower at the abandoned Port Penn rear light-station was moved here and re-erected by contract on a new foundation. On May 15, 1906, the light was removed from the temporary lantern post and placed in the lantern of the re-erected tower. A second order range lens with lamps was ordered.”
Manufactured by Barbier, Benard & Turenne of Paris, France, the second-order range lens ordered by the Lighthouse Board replaced the locomotive-type reflector light in the relocated tower on November 10, 1906. The walls of the lantern room had to be extended outward to provide room for the keeper to maneuver around the large Fresnel lens. By the end of August, 1907, a new dwelling, barn, oil house, and privy had been completed at the Liston Rear Range Station. No longer needed, the remaining structures at the Port Penn Rear Range Station were sold at auction for $760. The Port Penn keeper's dwelling is still standing and is currently used as a private residence.
Around 1913, a second dwelling was constructed near the Liston Rear Range Lighthouse for an assistant keeper. The station was electrified sometime in the 1930’s, allowing the station to be fully automated and the dwellings to be sold. Only the small parcel of land around the base of the tower is now owned by the Coast Guard.
In 2001, Harry Spencer, Jr. had the opportunity to revisit the station where he had been born in 1920 while his father, Harry Spencer, Sr., was serving as keeper. After the Coast Guard escort had opened the door to the tower, Harry confidently ascended the tower’s 152 steps without stopping to rest at any of the five landings. Harry remembers that his father “would always stand the first watch from sunset to midnight, before the assistant keeper relieved him to stand the second half of the watch from midnight to sunrise.” To provide warmth during the longer winter watches, the keepers would haul coal up the tower by the bucketful to burn in the watchroom’s small stove. During strong winds, the keepers could feel the tower swaying, and keeper Spencer once witnessed water slosh out of a bucket from the tower’s movement.
On May 3, 2004, the Delaware River & Bay Lighthouse Foundation signed a thirty-year lease on the Liston Rear Range Lighthouse with the Coast Guard and assumed responsibility for the maintenance and preservation of the historic tower and the nearby enameled brick oil house. Speaking at the signing, BMC Michael Baroco, officer-in-charge of USCG Aids to Navigation Team Philadelphia, remarked “this is not just a light or a structure made of wood and iron – it is a monument to the great men and women who kept these lights burning through many difficult times throughout our nation’s history.” In 2007, DRBLFH surrendered its lease on the lighthouse deciding to focus on its other two lighthouses in Sussex County.
On April 10, 2012, Liston Rear Range Lighthouse was made available under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000 to eligible federal, state, and local agencies, non-profit corporations, educational agencies, and community development organizations to be used for educational, recreational, cultural, or historic preservation purposes. Interested entities were given two months to submit a letter of interest expressing their desire to submit an application for ownership. The offered property includes just the tower and oil house, not the adjacent keeper's dwelling.
When no acceptable owner was found, the General Services Administration initiated an online auction for the property on April 15, 2013. Five bidders participated in the auction, which closed on May 20, 2013 with a high bid of $22,003. The winning bidder was Bill Collins of Newbury, Ohio, who grew up on Lake Erie and has always found lighthouses intriguing. After winning the auction for Liston Rear Range Lighthouse, Collins gained a second lighthouse in July 2013, when the auction for Michigan's Manistique East Breakwater Lighthouse closed after just his bid of $15,000.
Photo Gallery: 1
Located just east of Highway 13 near Biddle's Corner. The lighthouse is owned by the Coast Guard, and the dwellings are privately owned. Grounds/dwellings/tower closed.
The lighthouse is owned by the Coast Guard, and the dwellings are privately owned. Grounds/dwellings/tower closed.
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.