Phyllis Catanoso honored for leading restoration of Hereford Inlet Lighthouse

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photo courtesy City of North Wildwood/ A volunteer and Phyllis Catanosa, right, put some elbow grease into cleaning up the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse in 1982. photo courtesy City of North Wildwood/ A volunteer and Phyllis Catanosa, right, put some elbow grease into cleaning up the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse in 1982. NORTH WILDWOOD – When Phyllis Catanoso first took on efforts to clean up Hereford Inlet Lighthouse in the 1960s, she never thought the old, dilapidated building would become a center for North Wildwood’s history.

“We never dreamed it would be like this,” Catanoso said Tuesday in City Hall.

Catanoso won a New Jersey Historic Preservation award for her decades of work on the lighthouse, which is now considered an icon in North Wildwood. She was honored for that award by city council with a proclamation during the Tuesday, May 20 council meeting.

Catanoso, along with her husband, former Mayor Anthony Catanoso, first began inquiring into the lighthouse as far back as 1963. The building was owned by the U.S. Coast Guard and closed to the public in 1964.

While the lighthouse was never decommissioned by the Coast Guard, it was used for storage, boarded up, and fell into disrepair for the next 18 years.

It was then that Catanoso, along with her husband, began to work to have the city lease and maintain the lighthouse.

“They were permitting a real eyesore in our community,” she said.

Catanoso made several inquiries in order to agree upon a lease and invested hours meeting with legislators and state officials from the time the lighthouse was closed until Sept. 2, 1982, when the city and the State Department of Environmental Protection signed an agreement.

Christie Rotondo/Mayor Patrick Rosenello and city clerk Scott Jett present a proclamation to Phyllis Catanosa for her work on the lighthouse and her Historic Preservation award on May 20. Christie Rotondo/Mayor Patrick Rosenello and city clerk Scott Jett present a proclamation to Phyllis Catanosa for her work on the lighthouse and her Historic Preservation award on May 20. The lighthouse was in such poor condition that Catanoso said the DEP gave North Wildwood five years to open the first room of Hereford Inlet, an information center.

“We had it open in 10 months,” she recalled.

Several volunteers, including Catanoso, dedicated hours painting, putting up dry wall, and getting the lighthouse in a condition to open. On July 1, 1983, then-Mayor Catanoso cut the ribbon to officially open the information center at Hereford Inlet.

In 1986, Mrs. Catanoso worked with the Coast Guard to have the original light reactivated within the lighthouse tower. The city also hired preservation architect Hugh McCauley to oversee a four-phase restoration of the lighthouse. In 2011, the final phase was completed.

Today, the lighthouse is surrounded by Victorian gardens and the structure has been restored as a historic landmark. It’s the venue for several events, such as North Wildwood’s annual Christmas tree lighting, and draws 35,000 visitors a year.

“It really is the icon of North Wildwood,” Mayor Patrick Rosenello said Tuesday. “It is a beautiful building and a beautiful grounds and it’s all do to the efforts of Mrs. Catanoso.”

The mayor, along with city clerk Scott Jett, city administrator Kevin Yecco, and administrative assistant Ron Simone put together an application nominating Catanoso for the state award that totaled over 100 pages of old photographs, newspaper clippings, and a narrative from the city.

Catanoso said she never expected to receive the award from the state.

“We certainly never expected that it would be such a beautiful edifice,” she said. “It is a great deal of satisfaction for Tony and I to see that lighthouse.”

Catanoso will be recognized for her award Thursday, May 22 at the 2014 New Jersey Historic Preservation Awards Ceremony in Stockton, Hunterdon County.

Email Christie Rotondo at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or comment on this story at thewildwoodleader.com.

The Hereford Inlet Lighthouse in 1979. The Hereford Inlet Lighthouse in 1979. Volunteers join Mayor Anthony Catanosa and his wife, Phyllis, at the ribbon cutting ceremony of the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse Information Center in 1983. Volunteers join Mayor Anthony Catanosa and his wife, Phyllis, at the ribbon cutting ceremony of the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse Information Center in 1983.


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