United States lightship WAL 539

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US lightship WAL 539
WAL 539 painted for "OVERFALLS" station, docked in Lewes, Delaware (NRHP)
Career (United States)
Name: LV 118
Operator: United States Lighthouse Service/United States Coast Guard
Builder: Rice Brothers, East Boothbay, Maine
Cost: $223,900
Launched: 4 June 1938
Commissioned: 11 September 1938
Decommissioned: 7 November 1972
Renamed: WAL 539 (1939/1947–1965)[clarification needed]
WLV-539 (1965-1973)
Status: Museum in Lewes, Delaware
General characteristics
Type: Lightvessel
Displacement: 412 short tons (374 t)
Length: 114 ft 9 in (34.98 m)
Beam: 26 ft (7.9 m)
Draft: 13 ft 4 in (4.06 m)
Installed power: Cooper-Bessemer 8 cylinder air-start Diesel engine, 400 bhp (300 kW)
Propulsion: Single shaft, reduction gear, 7 ft 2 in (2.18 m) propeller
Speed: 9 knots (17 km/h; 10 mph)
Crew: 14
Lightship WAL-539
United States lightship WAL 539 is located in Delaware
United States lightship WAL 539
Location Lewes, Delaware
Coordinates 38°46′40.5″N 75°8′28″W / 38.777917°N 75.14111°W / 38.777917; -75.14111Coordinates: 38°46′40.5″N 75°8′28″W / 38.777917°N 75.14111°W / 38.777917; -75.14111
Built 1938
Architect Rice Brothers
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 89000006
Significant dates
Added to NRHP 16 February 1989[1]
Designated NHL 14 June 2011

Lightship WAL 539 (numbered LV 118 when built) was the last lightvessel constructed for the United States Lighthouse Service before the Service became part of the United States Coast Guard.[2] She is currently preserved in Lewes, Delaware as a museum ship.


This ship was built to replace LV-44, badly damaged in the New England Hurricane of 1938, for the Cornfield Point station.[2] Patterned after the LV-112,[2] she has a hull unlike that of any of her sisters; in effect, a single-ship class.[3] She is the last riveted-hull lightship built for the US Lighthouse Service, all subsequent ships having welded hulls. Propulsion was diesel, with a set of diesel generators and compressors providing power for the beacon and auxiliaries.[2][4] The light was a duplex 375 mm (14.8 in) lantern on a single mast, at 57 ft (17 m) above the water line.[4] Dual diaphones were provided for a fog signal, as well as a bell and radiobeacon.[2] A radar unit was installed in 1943.[4] The crew complement was fourteen, to serve on a two weeks on/one week off basis.[4] When the lighthouse service was merged into the coast guard in 1939, she was renumbered WAL 539.[2]

LV 118 / WAL 539 served at these stations:[2]

1938-1957: Cornfield Point, Connecticut
1958-1962: Cross Rip, Massachusetts
1962-1972: Boston, Massachusetts

Unlike most US lightships WAL 539 remained on station during World War II.[3] A severe storm in December 1970 damaged the ship, leading to her decommissioning on November 7, 1972.[5] Upon retirement WAL 539 was donated to the Lewes Historical Society and placed on display in Lewes, Delaware, painted for the "OVERFALLS" station, though she never served there.[3] The ship's condition deteriorated and a failed attempt in 1999 to sell her led to the formation of a separate group, the Overfalls Maritime Museum Foundation, to take over the maintenance and restore the vessel.[6] She remains in Lewes and is available for tours.[6]

The lightship was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, and in 2011 was further designated a National Historic Landmark.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Vessel Designation: LV 118/WAL 539". U.S. Coast Guard Lightships & Those of the U.S. Lighthouse Service. United States Coast Guard. Retrieved 2010-11-16. 
  3. ^ a b c "National Historic Landmark nomination" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 201-11-19.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  4. ^ a b c d "Specifications and Other Facts". Overfalls Maritime Museum Foundation. Retrieved 2012-09-05. 
  5. ^ "About the Lightship Overfalls: History". Overfalls Maritime Museum Foundation. Retrieved 2012-09-04. 
  6. ^ a b "The History of the OMMF and the Lightship's more recent adventures". Overfalls Maritime Museum Foundation. Archived from the original on 2009-02-17. Retrieved 201-11-19.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  7. ^ "National Register of Historic Places listings for June 24, 2011". National Park Service. 24 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-24. 

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