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The Highlands of Navesink, rising 200 feet above sea level, were a natural location for the erection of an aid to navigation. The Highlands had been used for signaling purposes as early as 1746, but it wasn't until 1828, that the Federal Government constructed the first aid to navigation upon the Highlands. The first "twin lights" were two identical unconnected towers constructed of rubble. Just 10 years after their construction an 1838 report described the station:

Highlands of Neversink.--The revolving light burns fifteen lamps, with parabolic reflectors; the works slightly out of repair; the window-sills and many of the beams rotten; silver burnt off the reflectors. The Highland stationary light burns six lamps with parabolic reflectors; the beams under the floors rotten; tower leaks in many placed; the light shows badly towards the north. Keeper's dwelling in good repair.

Despite their condition, in 1841, the towers became the first lighthouses in the United States to be equipped with Fresnel lens. The Fresnel lens was invented by a Frenchman, Augustin Fresnel, and consisted of a beehive arrangement of glass prisms designed to concentrate ambient light. The system of prisms produced a light vastly superior to anything in this country at the time.

By 1862 however, the lighthouses were in such a state of disrepair that the Government decided to build the structure which still stands today. The two light towers were connected by storage galleries and keepers quarters. The station became a showcase for the Lighthouse Establishment, where new navigational technology was tested before being employed in widespread use at other stations. Twin Lights became the initial first-order light to be fueled by mineral oil (kerosene) in 1883, and the first electrically powered lighthouse in 1898, when a huge bi-valve lens was installed in the south tower illuminated by an electric arc lamp. At that time, the south tower became the most powerful lighthouse in the country, producing a light of 25,000,000 candle-power that could be seen 22 miles at sea, though there were reports of it having been seen as far away as 70 miles when the light was reflected off a low lying cloud bank.

The light-station was used until it was decommissioned by the Coast Guard in 1949. Highly sophisticated aids to navigation, including the Ambrose Light-tower, made Twin Lights unnecessary. The huge bivalve lens was acquired by the Boston Museum of Science and Technology from the Coast Guard in 1951, and placed on exhibit there.

In 1960, the facility became a New Jersey State Historic site. In 1979, through the efforts of the Twin Lights Historical Society, Rumson Garden Club, and NJ Division of Parks and Forestry, the Fresnel lens was returned home to Twin Lights.

(c) 2008 Mark Allen, Red Bank Web