Lighthouse History Information
As the United States entered the second half of the nineteenth century, many of our most important light stations were sorely in need of modernization. In 1851, the U.S. Congress took a bold step in creating the Lighthouse Board. In addition to establishing strict training for lightkeepers, the Board also went about the difficult task of upgrading lighting technology. Most stations were still using the parabolic reflector and Argand light system designed by Winslow Lewis back in 1810. Europe had already been using the far superior Fresnel lens for more than twenty years.
One such station in dire need of repair was Barnegat Light, constructed by none other than Winslow Lewis, on Long Beach Island. Established in 1835 to guide ships into Barnegat Inlet, the original 40-foot tower was listed on charts as a coastal light. In truth, the outdated beacon could barely reach 10 miles on a clear night, prompting bitter complaints from mariners. In 1855, Lieutenant George Meade, who would later lead the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg, inspected the station and found conditions deplorable. Lewis had used woefully inferior construction materials, and it was a wonder the tower was still standing at all. Considering the many shipwrecks in the area, Meade recommended that a new station be established, fitted with a first-order Fresnel lens. Ignoring Meade's advice, the Lighthouse Board initially elected to refurbish the old sentinel. One year later a storm toppled the tower into the sea.
After establishing a temporary light in the interim, the Lighthouse Board eventually erected a magnificent new light tower 900 yards south of the original light. Standing 172 feet tall from its stone foundation to the focal plane, the new brick tower was a marvel in its day. On New Year's Day in 1859, Barnegat's keeper climbed the long, winding steps to light the new lantern. Rising 163 feet above the water, the beacon was visible from twenty-five to thirty nautical miles. Referring to the powerful light as the "Jewel of the Night," skippers now considered Barnegat a true coastal lighthouse.
Barnegat Light has stood the test of time and weather for more than 138 years, no doubt due to its solid construction. Although three classic Victorian keepers cottages were constructed in 1889, by 1940, all had either been dismantled or swept out to sea. Turned over to the State of New Jersey in 1926, the station was replaced by the Barnegat Lightship and temporarily placed out of service. Shortly thereafter, the first-order Fresnel lens was replaced by a gas-fired blinking lamp. A few weeks later, although electricity made its debut at Barnegat, the beacon was downgraded dramatically from its peak performance level. Finally, in 1944, near the close of the Second World War, "Old Barney" was retired from the lighthouse service.
In 1988, after parts of the gallery railing had fallen, Barnegat Light was closed to visitors. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has since made tremendous efforts to repair and restore the historic sentinel, and in 1991, the tower was reopened to the public. Today, visitors will also want to view the classic Fresnel lens, housed at the Barnegat Light Museum, a restored 1903 vintage schoolhouse.
Rising gracefully from a twenty-foot bluff at Point Gratiot, Dunkirk Lighthouse continues to guide vessels into Dunkirk Harbor. The first lighthouse at Point Gratiot was commissioned in 1826, five years after Walk-in-the-Water, Lake Erie's first steamboat, floundered on a nearby sandbar. By some miracle, all hands were saved. Many other mariners were not so fortunate. Throughout the nineteenth century, numerous ships and lives were lost in these unpredictable waters. Using clay from nearby harbor banks, contractors fashioned bricks to build the first light tower at Point Gratiot in 1826. Powered by a simple Argand lamp and parabolic reflector, the first beacon provided adequate, if not always consistent lighting. In 1857, the tower was rebuilt and fitted with a third-order Fresnel lens. Producing a powerful flash every90 seconds, the beacon could be seen for seventeen miles. In 1875, the Lighthouse Service replaced the sentinel with a new 61-footrubblestone and brick square tower. When the light was illuminated, the focal plane was focused 82 feet above lake level. No effort was spared in designing this architectural masterpiece. Ornate gargoyle spouts were added to the lantern roof to drain off condensation. The dwelling was crafted in a High Victorian Gothic style, with gable fronts and decorative wood trim above the second-story windows. A wooden spire at the point of each gable adds the perfect finishing touch to the handsome dwelling. In 1960, the beacon was automated. Today, the station has been beautifully preserved and is being leased by a veteran's organization. Home to the Veterans Park Museum, the house is dedicated to those who served in our nation's military conflicts. The museum also features some wonderful maritime displays and light keeping artifacts. Visitors are permitted to climb the spiral, cast iron staircase and look out Overlake Erie's wide expanse. At the entrance to the grounds is a bottle-shaped cast iron pier light that once served as the South Buffalo North Side beacon. Also on display are the remains of a 50-foot old skeleton light that once stood on the pier head at the Dunkirk Harbor entrance.
North of Poughkeepsie, on the west side of the Hudson River, a quaint Victorian lighthouse leans to one side. After decades of winter ice floes pounding its stone foundation, the historic sentinel awaits rescue from the ravages of nature. We have chosen to depict our sculpture in this realistic setting. During the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the Hudson River served as a major artery for passengers and cargo traveling between Albany and the Atlantic Ocean. Until the advent of lighted navigational aids, such travel was restricted to daylight hours. River lights allowed commerce to operate around the clock. In 1839, a small pier light was erected at Esopus Meadows. By 1867, the wooden pier and the lighthouse were both in desperate need of repair, due to the build up of ice and flooding during the winter months. Concern forth keeper's safety, along with navigational needs, Congress was prompted to provide funding for a new station in 1870.Constructed on a mid-channel pier of granite rocks, the new lighthouse was accessible only by boat. Reminiscent of the Rose Island and Pomham Rocks lights in Rhode Island, the building was covered by a handsome mansard roof. Rising 58 feet from water to lantern, the sentinel was a thing of beauty to behold on the Hudson. In August 1872, the fixed, white beacon was lighted for the first time, illuminated by a fifth-orderFresnel lens.Esopus Meadows Light remained in active service for nearly a century, usually occupied by one keeper's family. In 1965, the Coast Guard deactivated the station. Fourteen years later, the lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Nicknamed The Maid of the Meadows, the lighthouse has remained an enduring symbol for local residents. Saddened by the deterioration of her beloved sentinel, Arline Fitzpatrick, the niece of one of the light's keepers, helped form the Save the Esopus Lighthouse Commissions in 1990. Grants from the National Park Service and local foundations have helped to provide much-needed funds for the station's restoration. Dedicated volunteers, working long hours, have managed to stabilize the rock foundation, but much more help is needed.
In the early 18th century, the seeds of discontent were already brewing in colonial America. As condemned prisoners stood upon the gallows or faced firing squads, some would use their final moments to loudly rebuke the English crown. Worried that such public displays of defiance would foment the local populace, justices in the New York area seized upon a cruel, yet brutally effective, method of execution. At a rocky reef, one mile north of Sand Point, near New Rochelle, New York, convicts were chained to large iron rings in a deep pit during low tide. As high tide approached and flowed over the pit, the prisoners were slowly drowned. No one knows precisely how many convicts met this terrible fate, since the bodies were buried in unmarked graves, but the news of this barbaric torture spread throughout the colonies and may have actually hastened the Revolutionary War. Legend has it that when a British ship, hot in pursuit of George Washington, met a deadly fate on these rocks, ghosts of the executed prisoners may have exacted a terrible revenge. In the years following the War of Independence, New York City gradually supplanted Boston as the principal center of commerce for the United States. Ships approaching New York form the northeast via Long Island Sound were in dire need of navigational guidance as they approached the East River. In 1850, Congress authorized the establishment of a light station to be guilt atop Execution Rocks. Designed by Alexander Parris,the noted architect who built Boston's St. Paul Cathedral, the 42-foottower was constructed almost entirely of stone. Seventeen years later, the tower was rebuilt, and granite keeper's cottage was attached to the tower. An oil house was added sometime after 1900.Because of the terrible history surrounding Execution Rocks, the Lighthouse Service and U.S. Government went to unusual lengths to ensure that the sentinel was not a hardship post for its keepers. During the Lincoln administration, Congress passed a resolution declaring that never again would nay man feel Chained to Execution Rocks. Keepers were only required to serve there as long as they were willing and could request a change of post without fear of censure. When the beacon at Execution Rocks was finally automated in 1979, two legendary keepers were on duty: Tom Buck ridge, who had served with distinction for twenty years at Montauk Light, and George Clark, a man who was born during the deadly storm at Little Gull Island Light and grew up in lighthouses. Today, the flashing white light remains as important as ever, and is by far the most powerful light in the western end of Long Island Sound.
A slender finger of sand stretches its way for miles along the southern coast of Long Island. Fire Island, along with other barrier beaches, has protected Long Island for centuries, bearing the brunt of countless north Atlantic storms. While providing a welcome buffer from the elements forth residents of Long Island, the low beaches are constantly changing with ocean currents. In colonial days, most European captains were unfamiliar with the nature and location of these treacherous sandbars. Untold vessels ran aground and met their fate along these wild, isolated beaches. Pirates were often the only inhabitants to greet them. After the Revolutionary War, New York City's superb natural harbor overtook Boston as Americas busiest port. Long Island, and particularly the Fire Island shoreline, became the first landfall for numerous ships laden with immigrants and cargo bound for the New World. To help mariners navigate safely around the eastern end of Long Island, a lighthouse was established at Montauk Point in 1795. It soon became apparent, however, that lights were needed along the southern coast as well. In March of1825, Congress authorized funding to purchase land and construct a lighthouse on Fire Island. The following year, a 74-foot tower was completed on the western tip of the island, providing safer passage for ships headed toward the Bay of New York. While mariners were certainly grateful for the new light, it was not always effective. Ships continued to run aground off Fire Island. In1850, the SS Elizabeth, a 500-ton bark sailing from Italy, struck these sandy shoals during a fierce summer gale. A number of crewmen drowned. Public outcry prompted Congress to quickly appropriate money for a new station. Bureaucratic delays unfortunately prevented construction from commencing until 1857. When the new Fire Island Light was completed the following Autumn, it was an impressive accomplishment. Standing 180 feet atop a sturdy stone pier, the brick tower was more than twice as tall as its predecessor. One hundred ninety-two steel steps wound their way tithe lantern room, sporting a new Fresnel lens from France. With its168-foot focal plane, passing ships could spot the flashing beacon for 24nautical miles. Mariners affectionately called the new light the Winking Woman. Fire Island Light and its keepers remained steadfast in their duty for148 years. During that time, countless cargo ships, ocean liners, and even smugglers relied on its familiar beacon. For those unfortunate ships that did run aground, a highly organized life saving service was there to rescue the frightened crew and passengers. One of these early life saving stations was set up right next to Fire Island Light. By 1974, modern navigational aids rendered the light on Fire Island all but obsolete. Although decommissioned by the Coast Guard, the striking black and white tower has remained an important day marker. In 1981, the lighthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Through the efforts of the Fire Island Preservation Society, the lighthouse is being gradually restored to its original splendor. In 1986,upon completion of the first phase of restoration, the beacon wasrelighted during a special ceremony. An information and exhibit center has been opened in the handsome keepers cottage, keeping alive the memory of this important landmark.
As early as 1756, such notables as George Washington recommended the establishment of a lighthouse at Horton Point. A 25-year-old surveyor at the time, the future president was dismayed to learn about the numerous shipwrecks in these perilous waters. In the course of traversing Long Island on horseback, Washington determined that Horton Point and Montauk Point each possessed the proper elevation required for an effective navigation aid. Years later, he used his presidential authority to commission construction of lighthouses on both sites. Sadly, unwillingness by the Horton Point landowner to sell the property prevented Washington's wish from being realized for another six decades. Not far from the colonial town of Southold, on the northeastern tip oblong Island, a 110-foot bluff rises up, offering a spectacular view oblong Island Sound. Named for one of Southold as founders, Horton Point marks a deceptively beautiful stretch of water. Lurking beneath the waves, treacherous glacial boulders wait patiently for unsuspecting ships. Appropriately named Dead Manâs Cove, untold lives have been lost here over the last three centuries. In 1855, government officials finally persuaded the owners of Horton Point to sell eight acres of the property, known as Cliff Lot. Two years later, a square tower and keeper's cottage were completed high atop the large bluff. Constructed of locally obtained timber, with hewn stone and granite from New England, the cottage and tower were originally separated. Some time later, a connecting annex was added. Completing the tower was a state-of-the-art third-order Fresnel lens and whale oil-powered lamp. On June 4, 1857, the fixed white beacon was illuminated for the first time. Born and raised at the lighthouse was a determined young lady, Stella Prince. In 1903, after Horton Point's light keeper was seriously injured in a fall while washing the lens, Stella was appointed by President Roosevelt to carry on his duties. She served with distinction for the next two years in her official capacity as Keeper, one of a number of women called to keep the flame. With advances in technology, the U.S. Coast Guard decommissioned the historic lighthouse in 1932. To take up Horton Point's duties, a skeletal tower was erected nearby with an automatic electric aero beacon. In a gesture of good will, the Federal government transferred the lighthouse and land to the Town of Southold in 1937. From 1941 to 1950, the military used the tower as an observation post. In a remarkable example of private and public cooperation, the Southold Historical Society, along with the local park service and Coast Guard, renovated the lighthouse and keeper's quarters in 1990. The unsightly skeletal tower was removed, and the beacon was transferred to the lighthouse. On June 1, 1990, the lighthouse was officially placed back in-service.
In the midst of the Hudson River, an elegant brick lighthouse rises from a granite caisson. Located between Athens and Hudson City, the beacon is welcome sight for mariners traversing the river. In the late 19th Century, numerous ferries, tugboats, and cargo vessels plied their trade on the Hudson River between Albany and New York City. Just off Hudson City, a one-time thriving whaling port, a shallow mud shoal known as Middle Ground Flats lay just below the rivers surface. In1872, recognizing the danger posed to watercraft by the Flats, Congress approved funding for an offshore light station. To prepare a foundation for the lighthouse, workers first constructed granite caisson pier. Determined to protect the pier from the dangerous ice floes that had ravaged other light stations on the Hudson, engineers added an extension to deflect ice away from the foundation. Built in the Second Empire architectural style, a one-and-a-half story brick house was built atop the solid stone foundation. A graceful mansard roof covered the handsome dwelling. Attached to the structure was a thirty-foot light tower. On November 1 1874, the fixed white sixth-order Fresnel optic was lighted for the first time. The lantern was refitted with a fifth-order revolving lens in 1926.In 1932, Keeper Emil Brunner, his wife and three children moved into the light station. Although the lighthouse was certainly a romantic place olive, electricity had not yet found its way to the center of the river. Work was hard and required the participation of every member of the family. The Brunner as served at the lighthouse for five years and their son, Robert, was born in the eight-room sentinel. Hudson-Athens Light (also known as Hudson City) was automated in 1949. By1980, the building was badly in need of repair. In 1984, theHudson-Athens Preservation Society obtained a twenty-year lease from thus. Coast Guard, which continues to maintain the beacon. With donations from individuals and grants from private foundations, the Society has worked diligently to restore the station to its former glory. Volunteers have offered thousands of hours of unselfish labor to repair the dwelling, tower, and foundation. Undoubtedly the most ornate sentinel on the Hudson River, efforts are being made to soon open the lighthouse tithe public.
Fist built in 1780, the original lighthouse located in Youngstown was replaced by a second in 1823. It too was short-lived and its replacement went into service in 1872. The existing tower, which is located at the mouth of the Niagara River, stands 50 feet tall. Fort Niagara boasts the first documented lighthouse in service on the Great Lakes. Constructed of Limestone in the Romanesque tradition, the current tower was raised by 11 feet in 1900 to its height of 91 feet above sea level. The keepers crew had many duties in addition to actual lighthouse service. During the Prohibition years, the Coast Guard personnel were on their toes, keeping an eye out for "Rum runners" across Lake Ontario and the Niagara River. Fort Niagara is still in use, as an automated beacon. The tower itself isn't open to the public; however, an historical exhibit and museum shop are open during summer months.
New York City's Little Red Lighthouse Under the Great Grey Bridge Driving over the great expanse of the George Washington Bridge, commuters may not be aware that one of New York's most historic maritime landmarks is very close by. Jeffrey's Hook Lighthouse originally stood as the east beacon of the Sandy Hook Range Lights beginning around 1881. In 1917, the small cast iron sentinel was dismantled to remove it from the line office of a new coastal artillery battery. For the next four years, the lens and lighting apparatus remained in storage at the Tompkinsville Depot on Staten Island. In 1921, the lighthouse was reassembled on the banks of the Hudson River in New York City overlooking Fort Washington Point. On the 21st of October, the brightly painted station, designated as Jeffrey's Hook Light, was illuminated for the first time. Shortly thereafter, news of massive bridge project connecting New York City to Fort Lee, New Jersey, was announced. When the ground breaking ceremony for the George Washington Bridge took place in 1927, loudspeakers were placed in the lantern room deck of Jeffrey's Hook. It was a joyous occasion, but one that spelled doom for the lighthouse's future. By the time the 4,760 foot bridge opened to traffic in October 1931, it was already obvious that Jeffrey's Hook Light had outlived its usefulness. Over the next twenty years, although operation of the light continued unabated, mariners found the beacon unnecessary for safe navigation. In 1942, Hildegarde Hoyt Swift wrote a wonderful children story about the plight of the small sentinel, entitled The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge. Children embraced little Red as their own, and the story soon became a classic. After the Coast Guard retired Jeffrey's Hook from active service in 1951,they prepared to auction the station as surplus government property. The highest bidder would be required to remove the building from its foundation. Apparently, the Coast Guard greatly underestimated the popularity of the beacon. Letters poured in from children urging officials to save their beloved Little Red Lighthouse. On the final day before the auction, the City Park Commissioner persuaded the Coast Guard to transfer the light to the city for the sake of the children. Jeffrey's hook became a permanent part of Fort Washington Park. Over the next three decades, the lighthouse gradually fell into disrepair. Neglect and vandalism took their toll. Finally, in themid-1980s, Jeffrey's Hook Light was repainted and the grounds at Fort Washington Park were greatly improved. Since 1992, the Urban Park Rangers have sponsored an annual Little Red Lighthouse Festival at the park for families and children. The little red lighthouse under the great gray bridge has not been forgotten.
Treacherous Diamond Shoals, known to wary seamen as the Graveyard of the Atlantic, was home to the original Cape Hatteras lighthouse built in 1802. This deadly region, on the North Carolina coast, has claimed over 2000 ships, and as many lives. The 90 foot structure proved to be no match for its adversary, the natural shoals that stretch 8 miles out to sea. In 1854, the tower was raised to 150 feet, and kerosene was burned to fuel its light. Control of this effective beacon was of great importance during the Civil War, but by the end of that era, the tower was badly damaged, and in need of replacement.
A new tower was placed in service December, 1870. This 191 foot tower, still in use today, is our nation's tallest, and most recognized lighthouse. Its barber pole striping, which serves as a vivid day mark, adds to its majestic beauty.
Over the years, Cape Hatteras has survived many vicious storms and hurricanes. It stood in constant danger from erosion of the beach that surrounded it. Plans were made to move the massive brick tower, which began in June of 1999. The move was completed in November of 1999 and the lighthouse was relit and back in service.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore, on North Carolina's Outer Banks, home to this noble beacon, is open to the public year round. This is a lighthouse you must see, and if you're up to it, be sure to climb its 265 steps!
On July 10, 1797, Congress appropriated $44,000 "for erecting a lighthouse on the head land of Cape Hatteras and a lighted beacon on Shell Castle Island, in the harbor of Ocracoke in the State of North Carolina." The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse cost $14,302 to build and the Shell Castle Island Lighthouse was built from part of the surplus. Both were completed in 1803.
The Cape Hatteras light marked very dangerous shoals which extend from the cape for a distance of 10 nautical miles. The original tower was built of dark sandstone and retained its natural color. The original light consisted of 18 lamps; with 14-inch reflectors, and was 112 feet above sea level. It was visible in clear weather for a distance of 18 miles.
In July 1851, Lt. David D. Porter, USN, reported as follows:
"Hatteras light, the most important on our coast is, without doubt, the worst light in the world. Cape Hatteras is the point made by all vessels going to the south, and also coming from that direction; the current of the Gulf Stream runs so close to the outer point of the shoals that vessels double as close round the breakers as possible, to avoid its influence. The only guide they have is the light, to tell them when up with the shoals; but I have always had so little confidence in it, that I have been guided by the lead, without the use of which, in fact, no vessel should pass Hatteras. The first nine trips I made I never saw Hatteras light at all, though frequently passing in sight of the breakers, and when I did see it, I could not tell it from a steamer's light, excepting that the steamer's lights are much brighter. It has improved much latterly, but is still a wretched light. It is all important that Hatteras should be provided with a revolving light of great intensity, and that the light be raised 15 feet higher than at present. Twenty-four steamship's lights, of great brilliancy, pass this point in one month, nearly at the rate of one every night (they all pass at night) and it can be seen how easily a vessel may be deceived by taking a steamer's light for a light on shore."
The improvement in the light referred to had begun in 1845 when the reflectors were changed from 14 to 15 inch. In 1848 the 18 lamps were changed to 15 lamps with 21-inch reflectors and the light had become visible in clear weather at a distance of 20 miles. In 1854 a first-order Fresnel lens with flashing white light was substituted for the old reflecting apparatus, and the tower was raised to 150 feet.
In 1860 the Lighthouse Board reported that Cape Hatteras Lighthouse required protection, due to the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1862 the Board reported "Cape Hatteras, lens and lantern destroyed, light reexhibited."
Between 1867 and 1870 Congress appropriated $167,000 in three annual sums, for rebuilding Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The new tower, from which the first-order light was first exhibited December 16, 1871, was the highest brick lighthouse tower in the world. It was 193 feet above ground and the focal height of the light 191 feet above water. The old tower "being no longer of any use and in danger of falling during some heavy storm" was blown up and totally destroyed in February 1872.
In the spring of 1879 the tower was struck by lightning. Cracks subsequently appeared in the masonry walls, which was remedied by placing a metal rod to connect the iron work of the tower with an iron disk sunk in the ground. In 1912 the candlepower of the light was increased from 27,000 to 80,000.
Ever since the completion of the new tower in 1870, there had begun a very gradual encroachment of the sea upon the beach. This did not become serious, however, until 1919, when the high water line had advanced to about 300 feet from the base of the tower. Since that time the surf had gnawed steadily toward the base of the tower until in 1935, the site was finally reached by the surf. Several attempts were made to arrest this erosion, but dikes and breakwaters had been of no avail. In 1935, therefore, the tower light was replaced by a light on a skeleton steel tower placed farther back from the sea on a sand dune, 166 feet above the sea, and visible for 19 miles. The old tower was then abandoned to the custody of the National Park Service.
The Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration erected a series of wooden revetments which checked the wash that was carrying away the beach. In 1942 the Coast Guard reassumed its control over the tower and manned it as a lookout station until 1945. The old tower was now 500 to 900 feet inland from the sea and again tenable as a site for the light which was placed in commission January 23, 1950.
The new light consists of a 36-inch aviation-type rotating beacon of 250,000 candlepower, visible 20 miles, and flashing white every 15 seconds. The skeleton steel tower has been retained to guard against the time that the brick tower may again be endangered by erosion and thus require that the light again be moved. (1) (2)
Heceta Head Light
In 1775, on a secrete coastal voyage, Don Bruno de Heceta (Hay-Cee-tah),with rough seas and a suffering crew, was forced to return south but not before he founded the location where the Heceta Head lighthouse stands today., Over 100 years later, the Department of the Interior set aside large tract of land for a much needed lighthouse. Of the headland, 19acres fell on the homestead of W.E. Warren and his wife Dolly. For the land and water rights to this parcel, including a natural spring above the station, they were paid the sum of $825.When construction began, H.M. Montgomery & Company of Portland provided work for 56 men who could work 10 hour shifts and earn a staggering $2.00a day. Through their arduous efforts, the lighthouse was successfully lit on March 30, 1894. From the 56-foot tower, 206 feet above the ocean, its white flashing beam could be seen for 231 miles out to sea. Late in the 1800s, a ghost, thought to be an assistant keeper's wife whose child had died there, was said to be visiting the residence in search of her lost child. Others thought it was the child returning, whatever the case, it attracted national attention to Heceta House and its considered (by some), to be one of the ten most haunted houses in the nation. In the early 1900s, local residents near the lighthouse were invited tube in attendance when daughters of the keeper and his assistant had weddings in the dwelling near the light. Its beautiful location, with view of seas and forests made a perfect backdrop for such an occasion. Over the years, many changes were made. Improvements came as modern inventions became available, and were gratefully accepted, especially the indoor plumbing in 1910. A significant renovation occurred in 1934 when the light was electrified. Later in 1963, it was automated, which boosted its brightness to 2.5 million candle power.Heceta Head sits on a naturally carved shelf, with the keepers quarters nearby, adjacent to the ever popular Sea Lion Caves. It's a must for anyone fortunate enough to visit the northwest coast.
New York City has the Statue of Liberty, and we have our lighthouse. These words from a long time resident of Lorain, Ohio, poignantly summarize the feelings of many local citizens. For them , this unpretentious light station is more than a navigational aid. It is symbol of their town's proud nautical heritage and legacy to pass on to future generations. For more than two centuries, commercial fishermen, freighters, and pleasure craft have traversed the waters of Lake Erie. In Lorain, Ohio, a small lakeside town located twenty miles west of Cleveland, citizens have used various lighted aids since the early 1800s. In 1837, a simple wooden light tower was erected at the end of a harbor pier. In 1917, while war raged far away in Europe, the Army Corps of Engineers performed many domestic duties, including the construction of a permanent light station in Lorain. Built at the end of a long harbor breakwater, the square concrete and steel sentinel was, in many ways, reminiscent of a military fortress. Designed to withstand the brutal storms and huge waves that strike the northern Ohio coast, the Corps used its vast knowledge of bridge and dam building to fortify the structure. Hundreds of tons of concrete and fill were poured into the huge foundation. Ten-inch thick walls, able to resist any foul weather, reinforced thesentinel.Aside from its huge foundation, the lighthouse looks much like many local homes, with its red-tiled, pitched roof and numerous shuttered windows. Although small when compared to the rest of the building, the lantern room, with its diamond-shaped windows, is by far the station's most memorable feature. Featuring a rotating, fourth-order Fresnel lens, the lantern was capable of casting its flashing beacon for fifteen nauticalmiles.In 1965, the Coast Guard placed a small, automated light tower at the end of a breakwater. Oblivious to local opinion, officials scheduled Lorain Light for demolition. By a quirk of good fortune, bad weather prevented wrecking crews from carrying out the dreaded task. Meanwhile, townspeople rallied to save their beloved sentinel. A committee of concerned citizens raised money and successfully lobbied Congress to preserve the lighthouse for posterity. In 1994, the Army Corps of Engineers returned to Lorain to fortify the foundation and reinforce the building. Today, although its beacon no longer shines, the restored station serves as a day mark and continues to hold a place in the hearts of the citizens of Lorain.
For the Confederate prisoners of war on Johnson Island, there was little solace from their daily drudgery, except for the occasional baseball game taught to them by their Yankee captors. During the Civil War, this tiny island on Lake Erie, just outside of Sandusky, Ohio, was transformed into a prison camp. More than 10,000 rebel soldiers were eventually incarcerated there, most of them captured officers. As they lay awake at night thinking of home, they may have been comforted by the ever-present flashing of nearby Marblehead Lighthouse. In a daring raid that marked the only Civil War battle on the Great Lakes, Confederate soldiers commandeered a passenger steam ship to try and free their brethren on Johnson Island. Their efforts, although certainly gallant, were thwarted by a heavily armed Union gun boat. While executing their escape to Canada, the commandos more than likely sailed within shouting distance of Marblehead Light. These waters have seen more than their share of American history. In September of 1813, just north of Sandusky, Admiral Perry soundly defeated the British in the Battle of Lake Erie. His decisive victory proved to be a turning point in the War of 1812.Eight years after Perry's triumph, a 55-foot conical stone lighthouse was erected at Bay Point, just east of Port Clinton. Marblehead was first lighted in 1821 to guide vessels in and out of Sandusky Bay. At some point during the 19th century, the original tower was raised an additional 10 feet, to accommodate a new lighting system. The original lantern was replaced by a highly-effective fourth-order Fresnel lens, sporting a prominent, flashing green light. Marblehead Light has faithfully served the mariners of Lake Erie for nearly two centuries. It is the oldest active station on the entire Great Lakes. Visiting the proud old tower today, you will find that it has changed very little. Although the beacon has been automated for sometime, it still serves a very important function, lighting the way for passenger ferries and commercial vessels. The tower is easily accessible to visitors, as is the keeper's dwelling, currently serving as a museum for the Ottawa County Historical Society. Standing on the solid stone beach, just outside of the tower, it is easy to understand how the lighthouse received its name and why it has stood for so long.
In the heart of the Great Lakes, dividing Lake Huron from Georgian Bay, Beautiful Cove Island is admired by countless travelers passing by on pleasure craft and ferries. Its most famous feature is undoubtedly its handsome light station, which has guided mariners for nearly a century and a half.
Canada recognized the need for lighted navigational aids on the Great Lakes from early on. Due to the expansion of settlements near Toronto, the first-trade agreement with the United States in 1854, and the opening of the Sault Sainte Marie Canal a year later, a number of light stations were erected on Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.
Six of these lighthouses, renowned for their solid construction and beauty, have come to be known as the "Imperial Towers'; the best preserved being the magnificent sentinel on Cove Island. Constructed between 1855 and 1859, Cove Island Light was considered essential for guiding mariners safely through the channel between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.
Over the last century, the water traffic on Georgian Bay has gradually changed from commercial traffic to recreational. In the mid-1970's, a rumor was circulated that the Imperial Towers, including Cove Island Light, were to be deactivated and destroyed. Public outcry against the possible demolition reached the highest levels of the Canadian Parliament and ensured the survival of the historic structures.
Today, Cove Island's flashing white light continues to shine brightly. Most of the original buildings, including the keeper's quarters, and the 1948 fog alarm building, are still intact. Beautiful landscaping completes the setting and makes this one of Canada's most picturesque light stations.
The light tower, which is located within Fathom Five National Marine Park, is seen and appreciated by hundreds of recreational boaters each day. One of Canada's most popular tourist areas, the protected area features a unique underwater marine park that attracts thousands of scuba divers and water lovers.
Montauk Point Lighthouse
Montauk Point Lighthouse was commissioned by President George Washington and was first lighted in 1797. The oldest lighthouse in New York state, Montauk's 100-foot tower presides on Long Islands easternmost tip. It stands not only as a beacon of our past as a navigational aid, but as a tangible piece of our nation's history. In its era, Montauk Lighthouse, boasting a first-order Fresnel lens, was considered to be one of the 10most important lighthouses in the nation. Montauk Point Lighthouse also stands today as a monument to John McCombJr., its architect. Mr. McComb had built the Cape Henry Lighthouse in Virginia, a few years earlier. After Montauk, he built Eaton's Neck Lighting New York. These three beautiful structures are still standing today. Though Montauk Point was home to its own lighthouse, it was at one time visited by a lightship in trouble. During a violent storm in 1854, the Lightship Nantucket, the first of its kind stationed off the shoals of that island, worked free of its anchors and was blown to Montauk Point. The lighthouse has been automated since 1986 and its overall care is in the hands of the Montauk Historical Society. The lighthouse and museum, housed in the old keepers quarters on the grounds of the station, is currently open to the public.
Navesink (Twin Lights)
As early as 1746, the Highlands at Navesink were recognized for their strategic location, with military warning lights deployed on the hills by the military. Although historic documents allude to lighted navigational aids existing at Navesink by 1762, there is no real evidence to support this. Between 1827 and 1828, twin 46-foot towers, 320 feet apart, were erected here, marking the western entrance to New York Harbor. Over the next century, Navesink Light would pioneer numerous innovations, leading the way in revolutionizing American Lighthouse technology. In 1840, Commodore Matthew C. Perry returned from France with two brand-new Fresnel lenses. Although Europe had been using these modern devices for years, America was slow to respond to new navigation idea. The following March, a fixed first-order lens was installed in Navesink's north tower, while a revolving second-order Fresnel was placed in the south tower. Americas experiment with this new beehive lens was a resounding success, impressing all but the most skeptical observers. Care for the new lighting system required diligent attention. William Lopez, Navesink's principal keeper during the 1840s, was a particularly capable individual who kept the lights in tiptop condition. His successor, however, had no previous maritime experience and disliked his duties, especially the hours. After 1852, the Lighthouse Board weeded out such men, instituting rigorous training and even providing uniforms, instilling a real sense of pride in its keepers. While the lighting apparatus remained state-of-the-art, by 1857, therubblestone towers were deteriorating badly. Four years later, two53-foot brownstone structures were erected, an octagonal column replacing the south tower, and a square one replacing the north. An eighteen-room dwelling connected the towers, giving the complex the overall appearance of a medieval castle. Rising 248 feet above sea level, the renovated station displayed its first-order, fixed white lights on May 1, 1862.Improvements continued at Navesink with the breakthrough introduction of mineral oil in 1883. Ten years later, after the north tower was taken outfox service, the south tower became Americas first coastal light powered by electricity, and the first to use the newest wonder from France, the rotating bivalve lens. The resulting 25-million candlepower beacon was the most powerful in the Western Hemisphere, projecting its flashing light for 22 nautical miles. Gradually, the need for such dramatic illumination became unnecessary, and the power was reduced. Due to advancements in coastal navigation, Navesink Light was automated in 1949and decommissioned four years later. Today, the Sate of New Jersey operates a wonderful museum here, offering a glimpse into the fascinating history of lighthouses and the U.S. Life Saving Service.
New Canal Light
On the banks of New Orleans well-known Lake Pontchartrain, lies one of several inland lights that mark Louisiana's navigable lakes and bayous. New Canal, as it came to be known, was named after a well-meaning, but failed canal project that was intended to connect the lake to the Mississippi River and downtown New Orleans. During the construction of the New Canal, a bustling marina and one of the nation's first yacht clubs was founded at the entrance to the canal. In 1834, Congress provided the funds necessary to build a lighthouse that would guide traffic in and out of the canal. Although only the first mile of the canal was actually completed, boats continued to use the new opening to dock their vessels. The need for a lighted entrance has remained to this day. The original lighthouse, although built of rather costly materials, only lasted for twenty years. By 1854, the structure had deteriorated beyond repair and had to be demolished. The following year, New Canal Light was replaced by a cottage-style building that served as a light station, as well as a keepers house. The new lighthouse, although relatively inexpensive compared to the original structure, lasted through the Civil War and remained active for 35 years. In 1890, the Lighthouse Board made the unusual decision to sell the lighthouse at public auction. For some time, the only light to mark the harbor entrance was a lantern hung from a high pole. Finally in 1901, anew two-story lighthouse, built on iron pilings, was completed. The new light room, now 52 feet above the water, was placed on the second floor, directly above the keepers residence. The quaint, white-frame structure has been in active service for more than 90 years. Although the original canal that bears its name is now distant memory, New Canal Light still provides a valuable service to New Orleans. It currently serves as the headquarters for the Coast Guards lake Pontchartrain rescue service. The lighthouse is easily accessible from New Orleans and is visible form Lake Shore Boulevard. Tours can be arranged through the Coast Guard.
The light we know as Ocracoke is actually the second lighthouse on its site. Built in 1823 at a height of 75 feet above sea level, Ocracokeremains active to this day. It is the oldest working lighthouse on the Southern Coast. Ocracoke Island is best known as the hideout for the infamous pirate, Blackbeard. The pirate is said to have met his maker in the waters just off Ocracoke Island, but not before his gunmen destroyed two British ships. The British sailors finally overpowered Blackbeard and his men, and won the hard fought battle on the decks of the pirate ship. Legend has it that when Blackbeard was beheaded, and his body thrown overboard, his headless torso still possessed the tenacity to swim around his ships even times before giving in to the seas around him.Ocracoke is also well remembered for playing an important role in the revolutionary war as a major supply depot for General Washington's armies. Even now, a visit to this little village is truly a step back in time.
Old Field Point Light
On a wind swept bluff on the northern Long Island coast, a quaint stone lighthouse beckons to sailors. Established in 1868, Old Field Point Light remains an important aid to navigation and a symbol of the deep-rooted maritime tradition of this area. Just off Old Field Point, a series of hazardous boulders extend far into Long Island Sound. In 1823, the Federal government purchased a parcel of land on the point and ordered that a light station be established here. Ayer later, Congress appropriated the necessary funding to complete the project. Built by John McComb, Jr., the talented engineer who constructed Montauk Point Light, the new sentinel was completed in 1825. Constructed of rough-case stone, the five-room lighthouse was small, yet sturdy. Its early beacon consisted of nine whale-oil-powered lamps in a large lantern, magnified by parabolic reflectors. As shipping increased on Long Island Sound, it became evident that a more powerful beacon was needed. Because the railroad had not yet reached this section of Long Island, the Sound was populated with commercial, mail, and passenger vessels. In 1868, a new lighthouse was erected on a low bluff near the western entrance to Port Jefferson Harbor. Considerably larger than the 1824 station, the new two and a half story structure was constructed of two-foot thick granite blocks. Rising from the sturdy dwelling was a thirty-five foot wooden tower. Combined with the elevation of the hill, the fourth-order Fresnel lens had a focal plane of 74 feet. Mariners could spot the fixed white beacon for thirteen nautical miles. In 1933, officials decided to abandon the lighthouse in favor of an automated gas light. Revolving atop a 50-foot black skeleton tower, the new beacon was efficient, yet lacked the charm and tradition of its predecessor. In the summer of 1991, Coast Guard officials reactivated the beacon in the 1868 lighthouse, much to the delight of local residents and historians. An initiative by dedicated local citizens secured private funding to restore the building to its Nineteenth Century splendor. Today, the living quarters are used for town offices and as a residence. The original 1824 structure is also still in use, serving as the Old Field Village Town Hall.
Peggy's Cove Lighthouse
Standing a mere thirty-seven feet tall, Peggy's Cove Lighthouse appears rather unassuming at first glance. However, this quaint sentinel has withstood the test of time, facing countless North Atlantic storms since its establishment in 1914. Resting on a solid mound of storm-weathered granite, this famous sentinel has earned the distinction of being Nova Scotia's most recognized and beloved landmark. Peggy's Cove marks the entrance to St. Margaritas Bay, near Halifax, on the southern coast of Nova Scotia. While it is likely that Peggy's Cove was named in reference to St. Margaritas Bay, the local populace adheres to a much more romantic tale. According to legend, on a moonless October night, an ill-fated schooner went to a watery grave on the rocks near Lighthouse Point. All hands were swept away in the turbulent sea, except for one fortunate lass named Peggy, who miraculously made it to shore. Peggy settled by the Cove and eventually married a local bachelor. People came from far and wide to meet this remarkable young woman, who came tube known as " Peggy of the Cove. " It seemed only natural to call this beautiful place Peggy's Cove" A lighthouse was first established on the rocks of Peggy's Cove in 1884.This early structure was essentially a wooden house with a small lantern on top of the roof. Within three decades, it became abundantly clear that a more modern facility would be needed to properly guide ships into St.Margaret's Bay. Upon completion of the new tower, numerous visitors sought permission from Keeper Sydney Garrison, as well as his successors, to climb to the lamp room for a breathtaking view of the harbor. Doubling as tour guides proved to be too much of an interference with the keeper's duties, and the practice was eventually discouraged. Peggy's Cove Lighthouse has endured continuous pounding from an unforgiving Atlantic for more than eight decades. The proud old tower has shown itself to be remarkably resilient, and remains active until this day.
Standing on the western shore of Roosevelt Island, visitors are afforded a rare and breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline. Situated on the East River, between Manhattan and Queens, the two-mile stretch of land was purchased from native inhabitants by Dutch traders in the early1600s. Known as along island by the natives, this 147-acre tract of land's only 800 feet at its broadest. From 1686 until 1921, the island was named for Robert Blackwell, son-in-law of British officer, Captain John Manning, who acquired the island from the Dutch. In 1828, the city of New York took over Blackwell Island and dedicated its use to charitable and correctional facilities. Among its many institutions were hospitals, prison, and an insane asylum once visited by author Charles Dickens. In May 1872, the Commission of Charities authorized a lighthouse to effectually light the northern tip of the island. Under the supervision of James Renwick, Jr., the famed architect who designed the Smithsonian Institution and St. Patrick's Cathedral, a team of convicted felons completed the 50-foot Gothic-style octagonal tower the following September. Constructed entirely of foliated gneiss rocks, native to the island, the sentinel is renowned for its exquisite stonework. Although the light was technically a private aid to navigation, the U.S.Lighthouse Service furnished the fourth-order lens and lamps. While records are sketchy, the light's main purpose was likely to help mariners avoid striking the island's seawall. It may have also served to guide vessels traversing the swirling waters of Hell Gate that connect the East River to Flushing Bay. Local legend has it that an asylum inmate, John "Maxy" McCarthy, helped build the light. While this is doubtful, McCarthy did apparently shore up the nearby seawall in anticipation of a British invasion. Blackwell Island was renamed Welfare Island in 1921. A few years later, the asylum was replaced by a medial facility, and the lighthouse beacon was deactivated. Over the past half-century, several major hospitals were established on the island, dedicated to caring for the chronically ill. In 1973, the island was officially given its current name, Roosevelt Island. Three years later, the lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Sites. Maintained by the New York City Department of Parks, the aging sentinel was renovated in 1979. It is currently the central attraction of Lighthouse Park, one of the island's most popular destination sites.
Sandy Hook Light
Standing proudly on the northern New Jersey coastline, Sandy Hook Light holds a rather unique distinction. While it cannot lay claim to the title of Americas oldest lighthouse, it can easily boast of being our longest operating and still standing navigational aid. Established in 1764 to provide guidance for vessels bound for New York Harbor, the rubblestonetower is a stunning example of colonial architecture at its finest. During the first half of the eighteenth century, New York was still a fledgling port, with the bulk of European trade going through Boston. In an effort to attract more commerce to New York, area merchants petitioned the local council for a lighthouse. While approval for a light was granted quite easily, funding was a more difficult issue. In spite of the money raised by two separate lotteries, as well as a tax levied upon ships entering New York, local merchants had to contribute their own money to purchase the lighthouse plot. Because of this effort, many New Yorkers considered Sandy Hook Light the New York Light, a not with standing its New Jersey address. This issue would later play out in a nasty ownership dispute between the two states. It was eventually decided that Sandy Hook, along with all other lighthouses, came under federal jurisdiction. A strategic location near the mouth of the Hudson River was chosen for this important undertaking. Isaac Conro, a talented local contractor, was hired to build the tower. Upon completion in June of 1764, the octagonal stone structure stood 9 stories high, with a 29-foot diameter at the base. Powered by the light from 48 whale oil wicks, mariners could spot the new beacon from a distance of fifteen miles. There is some unresolved confusion about the dimensions of the tower. While the current measurement from base to lantern is exactly 85 feet, a local newspaper account from 1764 reported the height as 103 feet. Most historians believe that the reporter simply made a mistake. One thing is quite clear, however; the tower was extremely well built. In an effort to thwart British shipping during the Revolutionary Way, American forces tried on several occasions to destroy the station. Their efforts proved to be futile. During the 1850s, when the Lighthouse Board was rebuilding America's outdated light system, inspectors were surprised to find Sandy Hook Lighting fine shape. In a report that would have made Isaac Conro proud, it was stated that neither leaks nor cracks were observed in it. The mortar appeared to be good and the annual repairs amount to a smaller sum than in towers of any minor light in the New York District. It was, in fact, described as one of the three best masonry towers in the country. While the board did replace the reflectors with a third-order Fresnel lens, few other adjustments were made. Except for the addition of a keepers cottage and new cast iron lantern during the 1880s, Sandy Hook Light has remained essentially unchanged for two centuries. This remarkable sentinel has survived war, countless storms, and erosion. Although automated in 1962, the old Fresnel lens is still fully operational. Ships still rely on the familiar beacon and can spot it from nineteen miles out. Located on the grounds of Gateway National Recreation Area, near Fort Hancock, the historic light is currently administered byte Coast Guard. Although the station itself is closed to the public, there is a wonderful visitor's center and life saving museum open throughout the year.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Hudson River served as a major transportation artery, providing a direct connection for passengers and cargo traveling between Albany and the Atlantic Ocean. Its often forgotten, however, that until the advent of lighted navigational aids, such travel was restricted to daylight hours. River lights, which began to appear in the early 1800s, allowed commerce to continue unimpeded around the clock. Fifty miles north of New York City, where Esopus Creek pours fresh water into the brackish Hudson, one of the worlds most important manufacturing centers was born during the 1820s. Henry Barclay and Robert Livingston built a dam and deep water port on the creek, attracting numerous industries to the Saugerties area. Within ten years, iron ore, blue paving stones, paper, glass, and gunpowder were processed in huge quantities at nearby foundries. A commixture of fresh and salt water provided fertile feeding grounds for enormous sturgeon, striped bass, shad, and other delectable fish to feed a growing population. Until the onset of pollution and the invention of electric ice boxes, the Hudson also provided an abundance of cut ice during the winter. To aid the numerous cargo ships and passenger ferries, officials decided to build a light station at Saugerties in 1869. A previous stone lighthouse, built in 1834 on a river sand bar, had long since fallen into disrepair. Situated on a solid stone pier, the new building would best be described as a two-story, brick Italianate structure. A sixth-orderFresnel lens, smallest of the French-designed lenses, completed the square tower, and provided adequate light for approaching river traffic. During its eighty-five years of active service, no less than twenty-one keepers tended Saugerties Light, including two women. One of these women, Kate Crowley, came from a long line of light keepers. She was a powerful, able-bodied woman, who took to her duties as well as any male keeper. When winter winds turned the Hudson into a sheet of ice, and shipping came to a standstill, Kate was well known for her ice skating skills on the frozen river. She served with distinction from 1873 to 1885.By the mid-1950s, the coast Guard began to automate many of our river lights. In 1954, the Saugerties station was permanently closed, and the light moved to a nearby steel tower. Over the next twenty years, the ravages of time and neglect took a serious toll on this once proud lighthouse. Were it not for local citizens, officials would have turndown this historic treasure. A mental effort to restore Saugerties Light to its former glory. Today, the lighthouse appears much as it did 100years ago, thanks to this team of faithful volunteers. Tours of this living museum are available weekends and holidays during the summer or by appointment.
In the summer of 1896, while vacationers bathed in the nearby ocean, contractors built a handsome Victorian lighthouse on Sea Girtâs white beaches. In the waters near this lovely seaside resort, countless ships had floundered over the previous century. Known to mariners as ãWreckPond,ä the coastal area between Sea Girt and Manasquan Inlet claimed 92vessels during the early 1890s alone. The nearest lighted navigational aids lay 26 miles to the south at Barnegat Inlet and 19 miles north at the Highlands of Navesink.Although $20,000 was appropriated in 1889 for a lighthouse at Sea Girt, it took seven years to acquire the land. In 1896, an L-shaped dwelling was constructed with an attached square light tower. With its brick walls, pitched roof, spacious porch and red French chimney, the new station blended in beautifully with neighboring homes. On December 10th1896, a revolving beacon was activated from a 52-foot focal plane. Magnified by a fourth-order Fresnel lens, the flashing red light was visible for fifteen miles. In 1921, history was made as Sea Girt Light became the worlds first sentinel to successfully operate a radio beacon system. Improving on earlier French experiments, the lighthouse employed a round robin signaling system with the Fire Island and Ambrose Lightship. These transmissions gave mariners the capability of determining their position by radio triangulation. In 1928, Sea Girtâs radio beacon was transferred to the lightship Barnegat. During World War II, the lighthouse was blacked out while the Coastguard searched the Atlantic for German U-boats and patrolled area beaches. By the end of the war, advancements in technology spelled the end of Sea Girtâs usefulness as a navigation aid. The lighthouse was deactivated in 1945.In 1956, the Borough of Sea Girt purchased the lighthouse from the Coastguard. Twenty-four years later, the town was faced with the difficult question of raising taxes to pay for upkeep on the station or razing the building and selling the property. Thankfully, local citizens and community groups came to the rescue. In August 1981, the Borough leased the sentinel to the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee. In wonderful example of civic pride in action, the Committee worked feverishly to renovate the station. Two years later, the beacon wasrelighted as a private aid, using a fourth-order optic donated by the Coast Guard. Today, Sea Girtâs beloved lighthouse is used by nearly dozen local organizations as a meeting place. The restored building features some wonderful historic displays and artifacts.
Although the light station at Salmon River, New York, remained in active service for a mere 21 years, the quaint old building serves to remind us of the rich and colorful history of this lakeside region. The waters along the eastern shore of Lake Ontario support some of the finest salmon and trout fishing in North America. Indigenous populations were fishing and thriving here more than a thousand years before the first European, French explorer Samuel de Champlain, set foot here in 1615. Champlain, as well his successors, were determined to claim this abundant land for France. In 1684, French troops, weary of battle and sickened with disease, negotiated a truce with the Seneca, Onodaga, Cayuga, and Oneida tribes. Relative peace and harmony between local natives and the Europeans continued even after the British wrested control of the territory from France. Shortly after the Revolutionary War, the Governor of New York purchased land north of the Salmon River from the area thrives. By 1801, the first permanent white settlement was firmly established at the mouth of the river. Superb fishing and fertile farmland attracted numerous war veterans looking for a better life. It also attracted smugglers, especially during the War of 1812. During the 1830s, government engineers determined that the harbor was adequate to anchor at least 30 ships safely. Commercial shipping and shipbuilding had already become major local industries. Mindful of the numerous vessels which had been wrecked along the nearby coast, recommendations were made to build a lighthouse and funds were approved by Congress. In August of 1838, less than one year after its authorization, half-and-a-half story stone lighthouse was completed. Perched atop the gable roof was a parabolic reflector-lamp that cast a fixed white light for a distance for 14 miles. Eventually, the lantern was replaced by inefficient sixth-order Fresnel lens. Originally known as the Salmon River Light Station, the lighthouse was more commonly associated with the nearby community of Selkirk. Sir Thomas Douglas, the 7th Earl of Selkirk, at one time held sizable tracts of land north of the river. Selkirk Light, as it came to be known, served the mariners of Port Ontario for more than two decades. Hopes for further development of the harbor never materialized, however. Failure to attract a railroad, construction of the Erie Canal, and the silting of the river mouth slowed growth in the port area considerably. In 1860, the Lighthouse Board took the lighthouse outfox service, although it appears to have been used as a lifesaving station between 1877 and 1893. Selkirk Light was eventually sold to a Prussianemigre, Leopold Joh, at a surplus Government auction in 1895.Selkirk Light has changed hands only twice during the past century. In1979, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Since1987, this historic station has been under the watchful care of Jim Walker, who has reactivated the light, with guidance and permission from the Coast Guard. Mr. Walker is progressively restoring one of our last remaining "birdcage" lanterns. Visitors to the Pulaski area can spend their days pursuing world-class salmon and trout, and spend the night in the lighthouse, guests in the arms of history.
South Bass Island
Just north of Port Clinton, in the blue expanse of Lake Erie, a series of three lovely islands has attracted visitors and fishermen for hundreds of years. South Bass Island, the largest of the three, is home to the charming town of Put-in-Bay, one of Lake Erie's most popular summer destinations. On the southern shore, a beautiful red brick lighthouse stands proudly, a reminder of the island's rich nautical history. In 1897, the Lighthouse Service established a light station on South Bass Island to guide mariners traversing the waters between the island and the mainland. Engineers chose a strategic site on a rugged piece of shoreline known as Parkers Point, situated at the southwestern tip of the island. Architects designed the spacious, Queen Anne-style structure with numerous rooms and a multitude of windows. The front porch of the house, supported by brick pilasters, offered the keepers a breathtaking view of the lake. South Bassâ first light keeper was a young gentleman named Harry H. Riley, previously a ships mate on a supply steamer. Having recently married,Mr. Riley and his new bride found the living quarters quite satisfactory. While he did not have an assistant keeper to help with duties, Harry brought along his faithful fox terrier, Bill, who had accompanied him on many of his journeys as a sailor. Like many Great Lakes light stations, the 60-foot light tower was guilt right into the dwelling. A fourth-order Fresnel lens, imported from France, completed the tower, rising 74 feet off the lakes surface. On October 31 1962, an era came to an end as Paul Prochnow, the last keeper at South Bass Island, illuminated the lantern for the final time. The beacon was deactivated and replaced by an automated, white skeleton light tower, located a few yards from the sentinel. The house was purchased by Ohio State University and is currently used as a biological research center and private residence. While it no longer guides ships to safe harbors, the beautiful Fresnel optic is now on display at the Lake Erie Islands Historical Society museum in Put-in-Bay.
Between Tarrytown and Nyack, motorists have the privilege of viewing a historic lighthouse, Tarrytown Light. Although the lantern no longer casts its steady beacon, the handsome sentinel is a wonderful reminder of the Hudson Rivers glory days. In 1882, construction began on a light station on the eastern side of theHudson River, about 25 miles north of New York City. Built to warn mariners of shoals near the eastern shore of the river, the caisson-style tower was erected on an offshore stone pier. Similar to Robbins Reef lighthouse on Staten Island, the caisson and tower were constructed almost entirely of cast iron. Rising 56 feet above the water, the sentinel was the southernmost in a series of eight lighthouses established on the Hudson. On October 1, 1883, the fourth-order Fresnellens was illuminated for the first time. Tarrytown Light's first keeper was Jacob Ackerman, a 57-year-old former schooner master. In spite of his advanced years, he is credited with pulling 19 people from the river while a keeper at Tarrytown. Keeper Ackerman remained at his post for 21 years. Although small in appearance, the tower held ample living quarter for Jacob and his wife. They even managed to find room for a flock of chickens and several cats! During his idle hours, Jacob loved to paint and fish in the Hudson's fertile waters. In 1957, the beacon was automated. In 1974, the County of Westchester acquired the lighthouse. Several years later, the station was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Over the years, the eastern edge of the river has gradually filled in, moving the light closer to the shoreline. Today, a footbridge connects the light to the mainland at Kingsland Point Park. The sentinel houses a small museum operated by the county parkas commission. It is open by appointment only. For much of this century, the Hudson River was dying. Raw sewage and industrial waste slowly destroyed the once thriving river. Because of conservation efforts, today the river is back. Striped bass, herring, shad, and sturgeon once again call the river home.
Thirty Mile Point Light
During the French exploration of Lake Ontario in 1678, an unsuspecting commander La Salle was caught unaware when one of his ships ran aground on a sand bar. The twenty-ton sailing vessel was wrecked roughly 30 miles east of the mouth of the Niagara River, northeast of present day Lockport and Niagara Falls, and west of Rochester. A century later, during the Revolutionary War, a British two-masted warship, armed with heavy cannon, floundered during a blizzard off the same point. The H.M.S. Ontario, heading for duty against the New York Continental forces, and said to be carrying a substantial military payroll, was lost along with 88 lives. Although the Kings gold is more than likely lying on the bottom of the lake, along with the remains of the Ontario, rumors have persisted about the whereabouts of the treasure for three centuries. An anchor, believed to be from the downed vessel, was recovered in 1853 and is now on display at the Fort Ontario Museum. In 1875, a wise decision was made to build a lighthouse along the shore, a short distance from the deadly shifting shoals. Thirty Mile Point Light, which has proved to be an ideal mileage marker for mariners, was built atop Golden Hill, at a cost of $90,000. Although legend says that the hill was named for the golden treasure from the ill-fated Ontario, historians generally are that the name comes from the beautiful goldenrod that once grow in abundance on a nearby island. The island has eroded substantially in the past two centuries, along with the dangerous sandbar. Building this charming Victorian light station was no easy task. Square gray stones were cut and shipped from Chaumont Bay near the St. Lawrence River and hauled up the step banks of Golden Hill. The unpainted 54-footsquare tower was also built of gray stone, and attached to the north side of a two-story keepers dwelling. A third-order Fresnel lens, manufactured in France, was installed in the eight feet diameter lantern room. The center of the lantern room rises 78 feet above the level of Lake Ontario. The kerosene lantern flame, concentrated through the find optical lens, produced a candlepower of 600,000 making it the most powerful beacon on Lake Ontario and the fourth brightest in the Great Lakes. The flashing white light provided a warning to ships as far as 18 miles. In 1885, alone of the earliest applications of Edison's invention, the kerosene lamp at Thirty Mile Point was replaced with an electric light. Thirty Mile Point Light remained in active service until 1959, when the light was automated and transferred to a steel skeleton tower nearby. Today this enchanting lighthouse is the main attraction of Golden Hill State Park in Somerset, New York. Visitors are encouraged to take self guided tours of the famous station during specified weekend hours. While you are there, be sure and pack a picnic basket, take a walk on the nearby nature trail, and reminisce about a sometimes forgotten era.
In southwestern Oregon, not far from Coos Bay, a beautiful river winds its way through the countryside. Although placid in appearance, the waters surrounding the mouth of Coquille River once struck fear into the hearts of mariners. Toward the latter part of the nineteenth century, Oregon's lumber industry was in full swing. The small town of Bandon, near the river entrance, quickly grew into a bustling port. Schooners sailed into the port on a regular basis to ferry loads of harvested lumber.
In 1870, the schooner Commodore foundered on the bar near Coquille's entrance and broke into pieces. Over the next few years, numerous vessels went down in these hazardous waters. Some mariners considered the river bar among the most dangerous on the West Coast.
Fifteen years after the Commodore wreck, a stuccoed brick lighthouse was erected near the mouth of Coquille River. Rising 40 feet into the air, the white conical tower was fitted with a fourth-order Fresnel lens. Attached to the tower was a unique, octagonal fog signal building. A keeper's cottage, which has since been destroyed, was constructed nearby, connected by a long, wooden walkway. In 1896, Keeper J. Frank Barker activated the light for the first time.
For the next forty-three years, the beacon at Coquille River not only guided vessels through the river entrance, but also served as an important coastal light. Although countless ships were no doubt saved, a number of vessels still went down in the waters near the lighthouse, including several schooners between 1904 and 1905.
In 1936, a devastating fire nearly destroyed the town of Bandon. Many residents sought refuge at the lighthouse, which was on the opposite side of the river. After the fire, coastal shipping in the area began to decline significantly. Three years later, the Beacon was deactivated and replace by a small jetty light and a series of buoys.
After the government abandoned the station, it fell victim to vandals and the ravages of nature for the next four decades. In 1979, the tower was restored to its former grandeur. In 1991, during the centennial celebration of Bandon, a solar-powered light was ceremoniously lit in the lantern room. Today, the sentinel, still referred to by locals as "Bandon Light", is a popular attraction of Bullards Beach State Park.
On a lonely rock off the Oregon coast, Tillamook Rock Lighthouse stands as an enduring symbol of manas struggle with the sea. In 1878, Congress authorized a light station to be established on Tillamook Head to safely guide ships approaching the Columbia River. Engineers however, strongly counseled against it, citing the heavy fog that often enveloped the promontory. An alternative site was recommended on Tillamook Rock, despite the great difficulties and potential expense posed by the offshore location. The Lighthouse Board concurred. In September 1879, John Trewavas, an experienced lighthouse mason, was put ashore on Tillamook Rock to survey the site. While climbing the sheer eastern rock face, he slipped, plunged into the ocean and drowned. Although saddened by Mr. Trewavasâ untimely death, engineers were not deterred. On October 21st, four workers gained a foothold on the lonely rock. The task before them was monumental. Mountainous waves, fifteen stories high, sometimes swept over the entire rock. Turbulent seas, along with the rocks steep, jagged sides, created extremely hazardous conditions.A derrick was built to lift supplies and personnel to the rock from boats below. Crews cut and blasted more than 30 feet of rock off the top to create a pad for the sentinel. In June 1880, the cornerstone was laid and construction commenced. The first layer of building stone was actually bolted to the rocks surface. After 14 months of backbreaking work, the62-foot high tower and keepers cottages were finally completed. In January 1881, the light, magnified by an enormous first-order Fresnellens, was illuminated for the first time. Rising 133 feet off the water, the powerful beacon was visible for 18 miles."Terrible Tilly," as the light was affectionately called, was one of the toughest assignments in the Lighthouse Service. Because of the isolation and severe hardships, no women or children were permitted to live on Tillamook Rock. During a gale-force storm in October 1934, Keeper William Hill and his assistants battled 100-mile-an-hour winds. Giant stone fragments carried by huge waves damaged the classic lens. Water completely filled the tower and living quarters. Working in neck-high water, the keepers managed to rig up an auxiliary light, and the beacon was dark for only one night. Tales of their heroics made national news. By 1957, the lighthouse was well out of shipping lines and had become the most expensive in the nation to operate. It was replaced by a whistle buoy and deactivated. In the early 1980s, private owners converted the station to a columbarium. Remains of the dearly departed are now kept here in urns, a final resting place for lovers of the sea.
Toledo Harbor Light
Perhaps it is the solitude of lighthouses that gives rise to spectral legends. Whatever the reason, stories of ghosts and mysterious apparitions abound in the history and folklore of American sentinels. Toledo Harbor Lighthouse was blessed with its own Phantom of the Light, not long after the station was automated in 1966. Coast Guard officials,in an effort to prevent possible vandalism, dressed a mannequin in uniform, and posted this guard by one of the windows. The unusual guise worked even better than expected, giving rise to local fable about a ghostly keeper. Toledo, Ohio, with its excellent port and strategic location, has served as an important Lake Erie shipping center since the 1830s. In 1906, a state-of-the-art lighthouse was placed at the entrance to Toledo Harbor, rendering the station at nearby Turtle Island all but obsolete. This new facility employed a powerful Fresnel lens and modern fog signal, enabling ships from 16 miles away to find safe passage to the harbor. This unique light was built on top of a crib structure that extends twenty feet below the water's surface. Piles of rocks surround and protect a good portion of the station. Skilled architects gave the roof, as well as the parapet, a beautiful, full-rounded edge. In fact, the entire building reflects a softness of design that contrasts sharply with the hard angles of many Great Lakes light stations. Even the lantern room, surrounded by dozens of diamond-shaped curved glass panes, indicated an artist's thoughtful touch. Since the first keeper, Dell Hayden, took up his duties at this handsome station more than ninety years ago, Toledo Harbor Light has stubbornly served the mariners of Lake Erie. It remains an important symbol of the past, while continuing as an active aid to navigation.
Umpqua River lighthouse was originally built in what was then the Oregon Territory and first lit in 1857. During the five-year period prior to the decision to build this lighthouse, six sailing ships were lost at the Umpqua River's mouth. The first lighthouse was built on the sand and the heavy rains of February 1861 undermined the foundation and the structure began to list. It finally cracked and fell into the sea. Fortunately, no lives were lost. The replacement light went into service in 1894. It measures 165feet above sea level.
Originally built in 1820, this tower was replaced in 1872 due to severe damage from violent storms. Although it was built to offer protection for shipping in Portsmouth Harbor, New Hampshire, it is actually located closer to the Maine coastline. With a tower only 59 feet tall, it is surprisingly effective for its area of service. You may best view Whaleback from the Forts in Kittery, Maine.
Differing dramatically from the majestic brick and stone sentinels along the eastern seaboard, many of the lighthouses built along the California and Oregon coast were simple wood structures, reminiscent of the small houses on Cape Cod. Despite the wind and rain that often pummel these shores, many of these lighthouses, such as the charming station on Yaquina Bay, are still standing proudly. Not far from Newport, Oregon, a deadly set of reefs lie just off the Yaquina Head promontory. Numerous ships have met a watery grave here, dashed to pieces on the unforgiving rocks. To make matters worse, a rich magnetic vein lies at the center of Yaquina's outcropping, causing ships compasses to go haywire. So many ships have been lost here, in fact, that locals built handholds in the rocks for shipwrecked sailors to climb to safety.In 1871, the Lighthouse Board ordered the establishment of a light station on Yaquina Bay. The picturesque, tow story structure was constructed in just a few short months. Completing the lantern room was a modern fifth-order Fresnel lens, imported from France. On November 3rd,keepers lit the whale oil lamps for the first time. For the next three years, the beacon at Yaquina Bay was among the most important in the Pacific Northwest, no doubt saving numerous lives. Shortly after Yaquina Bay Lighthouse was erected, the Lighthouse Board ordered the construction of a new station at Cape Foul weather. Improperly marked maps apparently confused the real Cape Foul weather, located six miles to the north, with Yaquina Head. Work crews set about to build a93-foot tower at Yaquina Head, three miles from Yaquina Bay. With its powerful first-order Fresnel lens and strategic location, the new station rendered the smaller lighthouse virtually obsolete. In 1874, the short-lived light at Yaquina Bay was extinguished. For more than a century, scholars have debated if engineers built Yaquina Head Lighthouse on the wrong location. Considering the close proximity to Yaquina Bay, this would certainly seem logical. Recent reexamination of official documents of the era, however, seriously question this theory. Either way, officials could not see a reason to maintain two lights. After a number of years lying idle, the building was taken over by the U.S. Lifesaving Service. Crews of hardy surf men lived and worked here, rescuing shipwrecked victims from drowning in these perilous waters. Ownership of Yaquina Bay Lighthouse was transferred to the State of Oregon in 1934. Although plans were made to demolish it in 1946, local citizens rallied to save their beloved lighthouse. In 1965, the Lincoln County Historical Society opened a wonderful museum here, offering a glimpse into nineteenth century lighthouse life. Ten years later, the Oregon State government restored the sentinel to its original state and opened it to the public.