On Tuesday, Aug. 7, a major step forward was taken in the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts’ (MAC) restoration efforts for Fire Control Tower No. 23 near Sunset Beach in Lower Township. An access hole to allow MAC’s architects, Holt Morgan Russell, to complete their studies of New Jersey’s last remaining restorable World War II tower, part of the immense Harbor Defense of the Delaware system known as Fort Miles, was gained by cutting through the concrete blocking the entry.
Built in 1942, the tower was one of 15 towers that helped aim batteries of coastal artillery, stretching from North Wildwood, N.J. to Bethany Beach, De. Four were in Cape May County, N.J.—the towers located in North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest were torn down and a third tower is located inside Cape May’s Grand Hotel, Beach and Philadelphia avenues. Fire Control Tower No. 23 is on land now owned by the Cape May Point State Park. The tower was listed on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places on May 29, 2003 and on the National Register on Nov. 17, 2003.
MAC is planning the restoration of the exterior of the concrete tower, rehabilitation of the interior to permit public access, and site improvements to protect the site’s sensitive natural environment. MAC signed a 20-year lease with the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry, Department of Environmental Protection in June of 2004, which will allow MAC to fully restore the structure, interpret its important history and eventually open it to the public. Construction work for the first phase of this project is scheduled to begin in May 2008.
MAC is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of Cape May’s heritage. MAC also fosters the performing arts. MAC membership is open to all. For information about MAC’s year-round schedule of tours, festivals, and special events, call 609-884-5404 or 800-275-4278, or visit MAC’s Web site at www.capemaymac.org.