World War II Lookout Tower Museum & Memorial
(609) 884-5404/(800) 275-4278
Open: Sunday-Saturday 10:00am-4:00pm
Fee: Adults $6.00, the first child free with paying adult and the next child $3.00 (3-12)/Veterans $3.00/Active Military Free
My review on TripAdvisor:
The Lookout Tower from Sunset Beach
The World War II Lookout Tower Museum & Memorial is an interesting look of how our armed forces used these towers to watch the coastlines for U-boats and enemy ships during the war. Several German submarines were spotted along the coasts of New York and New Jersey during the war and the threat of attack was uncertain. As the war progressed on though, we found that this was a war being fought in the air and these towers were actually obsolete by the end of the war.
The World War II Tower
The tower is very interesting and very easy to climb. Don’t let the height fool you, there are only about a 100 stairs with landings on all three levels with displays on them.
The bottom level has a gift shop and display pictures of the history of the tower. The second level has shots of veterans of the wars before when the were enlisted and today (when they were much older). There were a lot of local veterans to the Cape May area.
World War II Tower pictures
The top level was manned by a docent who talked about the history of the tower, provided pictures of the area before and after World War II and the role it played during the war. She discussed the only ship attack since Pearl Harbor was right off the coast of New Jersey as well as the ‘Blackouts’ that were conducted in town to stymie any attacks.
World War II Tower
Take time to look over all the displays and pictures and the role Cape May had in the war to help protect the East Coast.
History of the World War II Lookout Tower Museum & Memorial:
Why is Fire Control Tower No. 23 administered by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC):
Like the Cape May Lighthouse, Fire Control Tower No. 23 is owned by the State of New Jersey (specifically the Department of Environmental Protection Division of Parks). As was the case with the Lighthouse, the State lacks the funds to restore and operate these historic structures. Instead it has leased them to the area’s leading cultural and historic preservation organization, the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC). Founded in 1970, MAC saved and restored the 1879 Emlen Physick Estate and operates it as Cape May’s only Victorian house museum. Starting in 1986, MAC spent 15 years (and some $2 million) on the restoration of the Cape May Lighthouse.
In 2004, MAC signed a 20 year lease for Fire Control Tower No. 23. After raising one million dollars (from the New Jersey Historic Trust, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, a Small Cities Block Grant administered by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and Lower Township and a Save America’s Treasures Grant administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior), MAC restored the Tower in 2008-09 and opened it to the public in April 2009. MAC is also mounting permanent Memorial Plaques in the Tower that will allow family members to honor veterans of any war or engagement.
(This information was taken from the World War II Lookout Tower pamphlet proved by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities)
Was Fire Control Tower No. 23 used for spotting fires?
No, it was used for spotting enemy ships during World War II and aiming guns to fire on them.
This Fire Tower was part of Fort Miles. So, where was Fort Miles anyway?
Fort Miles was never a building. It was a number of fire control towers, gun batteries plus barracks and support buildings on both sides of Delaware Bay. By World War II, the military used a spread-out series of towers and batteries, whose firing ranges overlapped to protect a large territory. Its largest guns and headquarters were located on the Delaware side (in what is now Cape Henlopen State Park), since the shipping channel hugs the Southern shore of Delaware Bay.
Were there any other Fire Control Towers?
Yes, there were originally 15 concrete fire control towers, 11 on the Delaware side and four here in New Jersey. Of the four in New Jersey, the ones in North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest have been destroyed, while the one on Beach Avenue in Cape May has been engulfed by the Grand Hotel (with only its top visible, sticking above the roof). One of the towers in Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware has been restored and opened to the public.
Were there any naval battles in the Delaware Bay?
No. German submarines sank many merchant vessels off the coast of Cape May but no German ships ever got up the Delaware River to attack the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Philadelphia or Camden.
Was Fire Control Tower No 23 built here or prefabricated?
The Fire Control was built here in June, 1942 by using a sliding tube shaped form. A ring of reinforced concrete was poured. When that solidified, the form was slid up and more concrete was poured. The whole Tower was formed this way except for the top, which required a form of its own. The whole process took only two and a half days.
Was the Cape May area important during World War II?
Yes, the Cape May area was a beehive of military activity during World War II. Cape May harbor had a Naval Air Station, a Coast Guard base and an airport. Naval Air Station Wildwood (where the County Airport is now) trained aircraft carrier pilots. Cape May Shipbuilders on Wilson Drive, where the Cape May Whale Watcher is now, built Navy tugboats and dredges. The Northwest Magnesite plant, which made an ingredient used in firebricks for steel mills, was located across Sunset Boulevard from Fire Control Tower No. 23.
(This information was taken from the World War II Tower pamphlet and I give them full credit for it.)