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Guarding LBI The Early Life Saving Stations
The U.S. Life-Saving service in New Jersey began in August 1848 when Congress appropriated $10,000 for “providing surfboats, rockets, carronades and other necessary apparatus for better preservation of life and property from shipwrecks on the coast of New Jersey lying between Sandy Hook and Little Egg Harbor.” The funding was pushed through by New Jersey Congressman William A. Newell, a physician and politician, who witnessed the destruction of the Austrian bark, Terasto, on the shoals off Long Beach Island on August 13, 1839.
Manned by volunteers, usually local fisherman who knew the local surf and sea conditions, the early stations were on the small side and contained a hand-pulled carriage, a life car, and a mortar to fire a line to a stranded ship in order to rig it for rescue by the breeches buoy or life car. In 1854, life-saving station keepers were hired at a rate of $200 per year, and the stations grew in size. By the latter part of the 19th century, larger elaborate structures were built with living quarters and watch towers. Many exist still today and are recognizable by their unique architecture.
There six original U.S. Life-Saving stations constructed on Long Beach Island were re-designated when the U.S. Life-Saving Service merged with the Revenue Cutter Service to form the U.S. Coast Guard in 1915. The Barnegat Light station, constructed in 1855, was rebuilt in 1872, and moved several times, and last re-designated, CG 113. The Loveladies Station, CG 114, was originally constructed in 1854 and modified in 1871. The Harvey Cedars Station, CG 115, located more than 5 miles south of Barnegat Inlet, was constructed in 1849 and rebuilt several times. Designed in the Duluth architectural style, the structure still remains and is home to the Long Beach Island Fishing Club. The Ship Bottom Station, CG 116 and in the middle of the island, was originally constructed in 1849, rebuilt in 1872, and moved in 1936 before being designated for demolition by the General Services Administration. Continuing south, the Long Beach Station, CG 117, also in the Duluth style, was built in 1849, rebuilt in 1871, again in 1893, and then abandoned in 1946. Bond’s Station, CG 118, located two miles south of Beach Haven and the most southern of the stations, was built in 1849 and enlarged in 1872, and then moved in 1886 due to encroaching seas.
The foundering ships, the local heroes that rescued survivors, and most elements of the U.S. Life-Saving Service have slipped into history. A few of the structures remain – although heavily modified from their original form. It was era replaced with modern technology and rapid response from the sea and air, but for a time LBI was just that – a long stretch of beach – that was an island - guarded by iron men rescuing the unfortunate from wooden ships.