In 1884, a light was commissioned for the east end of the Delaware Breakwater. The light was built to replace the Cape Henlopen Beacon, which was rapidly deteriorating at the time and was discontinued later that same year. Construction began in 1885 and a temporary light placed on a wooden frame was placed near the building site during the process. The foundation of the tower was embedded into the breakwater. The iron structure, which was listed at 56 feet tall as of 1914, was completed later that year on October 2. The tower was fitted with a fourth-order Fresnel lens and also included one red sector in order to warn vessels approaching the nearby Hen and Chickens Shoal. A fog signal was installed about a month later. During the following year a wharf and oil house were built and completed at the site.
Shortly after its creation that tower was tested in the severe winds of the Great Blizzard of 1888. In 1903, the light replaced the discontinued Delaware Breakwater West End Light as the front range for the Delaware Breakwater, though the original Delaware Breakwater Rear Range Light continued to serve as the rear range until 1918, when it too was discontinued. The light was finally automated on July 11, 1950. Life at the lighthouse was also said to be quite difficult. The tower was small, with the exterior diameter measuring only 22 feet at the base and 18 feet at the watch level. In addition, the constant heavy fog at Cape Henlopen meant that the fog signal was almost constantly blaring. From July 1, 1896 to June 30, 1897, the fog signal operated for 400 hours. The following year, the signal operated for 440 hours. Not long after, the lighthouse record was set in 1905 when the signal was used for an astounding 645 hours.