Bergen Point Light

History | Characteristics | Keepers


The Bergen Point Lighthouse was built in 1849 at the junction of Newark Bay and the Kill Van Kull, about 50 feet from the New Jersey/New York border. It was a dwelling on a 60 foot diameter caisson. The tower was 54 feet high. The dwelling had 6 rooms and was 2 1/2 stories high. It was constructed at a cost of $4,969.78. By 1855 the lighthouse had fallen into disrepair as The Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board for 1855 gives the following information:

Extract from the report of Major W. D. Fraser, of the Corps of Engineers, dated November 15, 1853:

Bergen Point light.--the following information is derived principally from notes taken by Major Delafield, on his first survey, and fully authenticated afterwards by my own observation.

The structure consists in a a two-story frame building, from the center of which arises a wooden tower, surmounted by an octagonal lantern. It rests upon a quadrangular wharf of crib-work, filled partially with stone, and sheathed in the outside with four-inch plank placed vertically. The wharf rises about six feet above high-water mark, and is in a very precarious condition, being constructed of very light stuff, and negligently frames. The house had settled at the center, causing great injury to the ceilings both in the hall and upper rooms; and is so badly built that evening admitting the foundations to be good, it is doubtful whether it would be proper to attempt any repairs. Little study seems to have been given to either the form or location of the wharf; to guard against to which it is every winter necessarily exposed; and the southwest angle has already sustained considerable injury therefrom. the dwelling-house is sufficiently commodious, but its condition, as well as that of the wharf, is too bad to justify me in asking anything for their repairs. The whole work ought to be renewed, and something better substituted in its place.

How far any of it could be made subservient to this end, it is impossible for me to say, and hence the difficulty of making a reliable estimate. I have no doubt, however, that it will require an expenditure of at least $20,000 to carry out a plan from which a lasting benefit can be expected.

Estimate for improvements.................................................$20,000.00

Work began on the rebuilding of the lighthouse in 1857, coinciding with the rebuilding of the Passaic and Corner Stake Lights. By 1859, work had been completed on the Bergen Point Lighthouse. A report in 1868 states that the lighthouse "Requires nothing." In 1873, a large fog bell that was struck by machinery was installed, replacing a small bell struck by hand.

The station was discontinued in 1949 due to a widening of the Kill Van Kill, and the point of land on which it stood was to be cut off from the point. Eventually the lighthouse was torn down and replaced by a skeleton tower.


Contract for construction of Bergen Point Lighthouse [Note the copies of the contract were hand written and very hard to read]

Contract with G. P. W. Youngs for building Light Houses Bergen Point and Mouth of the Passaic, New York.

Articles of agreement made and entered into this twenty fifth day May A.D. 1849 by and between Cornelius W. Lawrence Collector of the Customs for the District of New York and superintendent of Lights for and in behalf of the United States of the first part, and George Youngs and William Youngs of the second part, witnessed the said parties of the second part of the consideration hereinafter named to be paid to them, agree to do all the work and furnish all the materials for the building of two Light Houses and docks according to the specifications hereto annexed and which form apart of this agreement one to be built at Bergen Point and the other at the mouth of the Passaic River on locations that may be designated by the superintendent of Light Houses for the sum of four thousand and five hundred dollars, lawful money of the United States for each Light House and dock, to be paid on the completion and acceptance thereof agreeably to and within the time time set forth in the said specifications. And the said Cornelius W. Lawrence Collector as aforesaid agreed to pay the said sums to the said G.W. Youngs according to the terms in the manner and within the times set forth in said specifications and upon a compliance with the said conditions thereof.

It is further understood and agreed by and between the parties hereto that the lamps and reflectors for said Light Houses are to be furnished by the Superintendent of Light Houses and not by said parties of the second part.

It is further stipulated and agreed, that no member of Congress or any person in the service of the United States, is or shall be admitted to any part or share of in this contract or to any benefit to arise therefrom.

In witness whereof the said party hereto of the first part for himself and his successors in office, and the said parties hereto of the second part for themselves their heirs executors and administrators have hereunto set their hands and seals the day and year first above written.

Witness C.W. Laurence
The words "to be paid" Collector
in before signing George Youngs
S.G. Ogden, Jr. William Youngs

Light Characteristics



Peter Girth was appointed Keeper on June 30, 1853 at a salary of $400 per year. He served until October 17, 1862, when he was removed from office.

Keeper John McDonald appointed October 17, 1863. Listed as "Date of Vacation - July 16, 1873" and the "How Vacated" is listed as "Deceased." He was paid $540 per year.

Hannah McDonald took over her husband's duties. She was officially appointed August 19, 1873 and appears to have served until January, 1879 when she resigned and was replaced John H. McDonald (presumably her son).

John McDonald was appointed acting keeper on January 28, 1879 at a salary of $540 per year. He was permanently appointed on February 14, 1881, and served until May 17, 1881, when he resigned the post.

George V. Post was appointed acting keeper at a salary of $540 on May 17, 1881. On November 2, 1881 he was permanently appointed. He served until August 22, 1882, when he was removed.

Alexander Ferreira was appointed acting keeper on August 25, 1882. The appointment became permanent on December 1, 1882. He served Bergen Point until May 29, 1884, when he was transferred to Throgg's Neck Lighthouse, N.Y.

John J. Prentiss was appointed May 29, 1884, took oath of office on August 1, 1888 and served until August 31, 1888 (unconfirmed). He resigned the post and was replaced by Joseph Coons. Records seem to indicate that Joseph Coons was appointed acting keeper at a salary of $540 per year on September 7, 1888 and served in that capacity until March 15, 1889, when he was appointed permanently. He apparently served in the Navy.

Joseph Coons from New York was appointed March 15, 1889 and served until January 16, 1902 when he was transferred.

Robert Ray, from Ireland, was appointed January 24, 1902, took the oath of office on February 4, 1902. He was on the payroll until February 15, 1902 when he is listed as "drowned."

Mrs. Francis Kelly was appointed acting Keeper on March 14, 1902, apparently retroactively to February 15, 1902. She is listed as serving 30 days.

August Kjelberg was appointed Keeper March 31, 1902 and took the oath April 22, 1902.

Keeper Jno. R. Carlsson at an annual salary of $540, appointed March 16, 1906, oath of office March 21, 1906.

Hans Beuthe, who came to the United States from Germany in 1898, was the keeper from 1921 to at least 1939.

2005 NJLHS