PHOTO: Freeholder Gerry Scharfenberger, Freeholder Director Tom Arnone, and Deputy Director Lillian G. Burry recite the Pledge of Allegiance at Twin Lights Exhibition. Photo credit: Monmouth County Public Information Office
HIGHLANDS, NJ – Friends of the county leaders and state officials all celebrated the 125th anniversary of the first public reading of the Pledge of Allegiance by having an informal opening of the state museum’s Lighthouse Exhibition which is open to the public and will have a more formal opening this month.
Mark Stewart, secretary-treasurer of the Friends of the Twin Lights, welcomed the guests to the museum and led a tour through the next exhibits, in the four newly refurbished exhibition rooms. Stewart also introduced Freeholder Director Tom Arnone, Deputy Director Lillian G. Burry, Freeholder Gerry Scharfenberger and state park representatives, together with Mary Jo Kenny, a past president and ex officio member of the volunteer organization that has kept the Lighthouse and exhibitions open in spite of financial cutbacks by the state of New Jersey. Also on hand for the ceremony were Skip Laufer, a trustee of the Twin Lights Committee, and Joanne Sutton, the curator for the Historic Society. Society president Thomas Mullins and Peggy Carlson, recently retired staff member for the past years at the state facility, were both unable to attend.
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In observance of the anniversary, Freeholder Burry led the group in the pledge of allegiance to the flag, held by Director Arnone.
Stewart noted several highlights in the four exhibit rooms, each dedicated in the current exhibition to a different aspect of the role the Twin Lights has played in American and local history.
The first exhibit includes photos, papers, and other memorabilia from April 25, 1893, when the pledge was said in front of the historic building; another room highlights Gugliemo Marconi’s invention of the telegraph at the Twin Lights and other aspects of communications and technology; the third room includes the maritime interests impacted and enhanced by the Twin Lights, and the fourth addresses its local heritage and location in Highlands, the waterfront community that has been home to what was once the brightest beacon on the east coast since it was first built in 1828. The present lighthouse, a single building including an octagonal and a rectangular lighthouse, making them more similar rather than twin, was built in 1862 at a cost of $74,000. Today’s visitors can climb the north tower for a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean and sites in three directions.
The exhibition includes the first formal recognition of a former third lighthouse keeper, Thomas Blume. Blume, who was at the Twin Lights in the early part of the 20th century, was the recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service with the US Navy during the Spanish American War for heroism at Cienfuegos, Cuba. Blume lived at the lighthouse with his wife and children during his tenure at a keeper, which he served between enlistments and service in the Navy. His Medal of Honor is on display at the Medal of Honor Museum in Charleston, SC. But his story is well told in photos and words at the Twin Lights.
The lighthouse grounds are open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, and the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, with all the facilities closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Further information is available by calling the during open hours at 732-872-1814.