Gardiner's Island Lighthouse


Location: Formerly on Gardiner's Island Point, near the site now known as "The Ruins," 3 miles north of Gardiner's Island.

Description: One and one half story keeper's house with a cellar, twenty-eight feet square; the circular tower was attached to the north side of the dwelling, nine feet in diameter, with a focal plane of 30 feet; Fifth Order lens; the dwelling and tower were made of "hard-burned bricks laid in cement, with slate roof and cast-iron lantern;" also attached to the dwelling were a 10X12 "wash room" and a cistern six feet in diameter and seven feet deep.

History of light:

  • 1851: Site purchased by government. At the time, the site was a 14-acre site on a peninsula which extended three miles north from Gardiner's Island.

  • 1851, March 3: Congress appropriates $6000 for a lighthouse on Gardiner's Island.

  • 1852, Aug 13: Another $1000 is appropriated for the completion of the light.

  • 1854, December: Construction finished.

  • 1855: First lit.

  • 1869: "A new stove for warming the tower" was installed.

  • 1870, July 15: Congress appropriates $12,300 for repairs at Poplar Point, Watch Hill, Horton Point and Gardiner's Island.

  • 1871: "Necessary alterations in the lantern" were completed and the inside and outside of the tower were painted.

  • 1888: The infamous March blizzard causes a break in the peninsula, leaving the lighthouse on an island.

  • 1890: Relocation/reconstruction proposed.

  • 1893: The island was surveyed to "determine the advisability of either moving the old light and dwelling or rebuilding farther from the high-water lone, which is approaching the station from the east at the rate of 10 2/3 feet per year for the last three years."

  • 1894: Damaged by storm  and abandoned by keeper Jonathan A. Miller upon orders dated March 7, 1894. Extinguishing of light was included in those orders. Fell into the water shortly thereafter.

  • 1894, May 31: A "gas-lighted buoy" was moored 1/4 mile northeast of the abandoned lighthouse.

  • 1898: The "abandoned light-house reservation" is transferred from the Treasury Department "to the War Department for the erection of a battery."

Current use: No longer in existence.

The surrounding area: Gardiner's Island, which sits between the North and South Forks of Long Island, is privately owned.

Public access? No, but you can see the ruins of Fort Tyler by boat.

Similar Lights:  I know of no lights with a similar design.

Other information: The light was constructed on an unstable sand bar. The loss of beach led to the proposal to relocate or rebuild the light, but it was abandoned after a storm. The masonry structure "toppled into the sea" shortly thereafter. The government then tried to establish a fort site, to be named Fort Tyler, on the remaining land, but the sands were too unstable. This fort, which cost $500,000, was to have protected Long Island during the Spanish-American War. The State of New York later purchased the property for $50 with the intent of creating a park there but, when funds were not available to do so, the land reverted to the federal government. The "Old Fort" or "Ruins" area, which came to be considered a navigational hazard, was used during World War II by the US military for torpedo and bomb practice. The area may still contain undetonated explosives.

Fort Tyler was named after President John Tyler. Tyler's second wife, whom he married while in office, was Julia Gardiner. Julia was a descendant of Lion Gardiner, the first European owner of Gardiner's Island and an important part of Long Island history (If memory serves, one of Tyler's children was named Lion Gardiner Tyler). The Gardiner's were active in Long Island's maritime history.
















Research materials for this lighthouse can be found at the East Islip Public Library, East Islip, New York.
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