HIGHLANDS, NJ - For the past few weeks, longtime Jersey Shore residents and visitors have been doing double-takes after sunset, thanks to a dramatic new lighting project completed by the State Division of Parks and Forestry. For the first time in 155 years, the magnificent brownstone edifice of the Twin Lights can be seen at night. Tree removal scheduled for November will further improve the view.
“For as long as anyone can remember, the nighttime view of the Twin Lights has been limited to a small light in the north tower, plus some security lighting focused on the grounds,” says Tom Mullins, President of the Twin Lights Historical Society. “I don’t think anyone fully appreciated the beauty of this unique structure until now. The state just did a super job.”
The genesis of the project dates back to early 2016, when Bob Martin, the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, held a staff meeting in the Twin Lights auditorium. The group toured the site—including the just-opened Seeing Stars exhibit—and Martin commented on the untapped potential of Twin Lights as a “beacon” for heritage tourism. Stopping at the front of the building, he questioned why the lighting was pointed down instead of up. Because state historic sites fall under Parks and Forestry—and because Parks and Forestry is part of NJDEP—Martin was able to get the ball rolling.
“We are obviously grateful to Commissioner Martin for not only sharing his vision for Twin Lights, but for helping to execute that vision,” says Mark Stewart, a trustee of the Twin Lights Historical Society. “Now that we offer a spectacular light show, the next step is for the forestry people to finish clearing the view. Some of that work was done in advance of the uplighting and hopefully the rest will be completed in the next year or two.”
“I’m happy that the uplighting project at Twin Lights has been completed and that it has helped restore this historic location on the Jersey coastline,” says Commissioner Martin. “Twin Lights is fortunate to have a large group of committed supporters and friends to keep it shining bright.”
Because the Twin Lights site closes to the public before sundown, there have already been numerous requests from photographers and other fans to gain nighttime access. Parks officials are discussing a plan to keep the Twin Lights open once a month after dark.
“The challenge for night programs probably revolves around staffing,” Mullins points out. “Because of cutbacks and retirements, the site went from three full-time state employees to ‘half’ an employee as of September 1. Our volunteers do a great job, but they aren’t allowed to open and close the lighthouse.”
Once the state irons out the staffing issues at Twin Lights, adds Mullins, the Historical Society will produce monthly programs for the evenings that it is open.
In other Twin Lights news, the Seeing Stars exhibit will be concluding this winter after a two-year run that has seen nearly 150,000 visitors enjoy the Museum’s collection of historic flags and patriotic artifacts—which tie into the introduction of the Pledge of Allegiance as our national oath of loyalty. That event, celebrated in the award-winning documentary You Hear It Here First (narrated by Ed Asner), took place in front of the lighthouse in 1893.
In 2018, the Museum’s four galleries will feature exhibits on Local History, Maritime Heritage, Twin Lights Technology and the Lighthouse Culture.
Regular hours for the lighthouse are Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The museum’s Seeing Stars exhibit will be open, as well as access to the North Tower. For more information on days, hours and special events, visit twinlightslighthouse.com or call 732-872- 1814.