Introduction to LongIslandLighthouses.com
Hello, and welcome to LongIslandLighthouses.com
If you've never seen this site before, I think you're in for a pleasant surprise. First, bookmark this site. There's too much information and too many images here for most to explore in one sitting.
This web site is not a static entity. It is updated often, based on continuing research, and is a launching pad for tours, slide presentations, local preservation efforts and news, an electronic mailing list, and a book on Long Island's lighthouse heritage. The book will contain information and images that are not included here, and will be done in a more narrative form than this site.
A Brief Overview of the Lighthouses
Long Island is known to lighthouse fans as the home of the Montauk Point and Fire Island lights. These two lights are featured in many books and videos, on lighthouse web sites and calendars, and as sculptures, clocks, Christmas ornaments and the like.
These two lights are certainly worthy of the attention they receive. Montauk, the first light established by the United States government, has served proudly since the Spring of 1797. Its light has been the first sign of hope and a new life for millions of immigrants from Europe over the years. For Long Island residents and tourists, the Montauk light's presence at the farthest point east on the island is an exclamation point to the Long Island experience.
Fire Island has also often been the first sight of the United States for many trans-Atlantic immigrants and visitors, with its beautiful 160 foot tower peering out over the Atlantic Ocean since 1858. Each summer, sunbathers adorn the shores under her gaze, while in the fall months birdwatchers and researchers spend the days watching and tagging migrating bird species.
But Montauk Point and Fire Island are only a part of the story of Long Island lighthouse history. Over twenty lights have been established on and around Long Island over the years. Many of them still stand, while others have been lost to us, living on now only in words and pictures.
The Shinnecock light once helped the Montauk Point and Fire Island lights guard the south shore of Long Island, while Plum Island, Orient Point, Horton's Point, Old Field Point, Eaton's Neck, Huntington Harbor, Sands Point, Execution Rock, Stepping Stones, and Cold Spring Harbor lights have guided mariners safely along the north shore of Long Island. The waters north of Fisher's Island have been made safer by the lights at North Dumpling and Latimer's Reef, while the waters between Fisher's Island and Plum Island have the lights at Race Rock and Little Gull Island as their guardians. The waters between the north and south forks have been served by the Gardiner's Point, Cedar Island, and Long Beach Bar lights. East of Montauk Point, Block Island has two important lights, one on the north side of the island, the other on the southest part.
The first lighthouse built on Long Island was the Montauk light, completed in 1796. The most recent was the new Long Beach Bar light in Greenport in 1990. In between these two, many have been built, rebuilt and modified. All remaining lights have been automated.
Types of Lighthouses in the Long Island Area
The array of lighthouses around Long Island reflects both the variety of waterways in the region and the development of United States lighthouses between the late-18th and early-20th centuries. The styles of structures and the materials of which they are made makes for an interesting study.
Along the south shore of the island there are tall coastal towers with powerful lenses. The Montauk, Fire Island and long-gone Shinnecock lights all carried first order Fresnel lenses at one time. The Fire Island and Shinnecock towers were designed to project their lights from a height of about 160 feet, giving them a far-reaching effect. The Montauk tower's 108 feet of height also show it as a coastal light.
Shorter structures with less powerful lights on more protected waterways, such as Cedar Island, Huntington Harbor, and Gardiner's Island, provide a stark contrast to the towering coastal lights mentioned above. And their small, attached towers make for a much different visual presentation.
The methods of construction and materials of which the island's lights are made is varied, as well. The Eaton's Neck and Montauk lights, made of sandstone, represent early American construction. The light at Long Beach Bar and former light at Lloyd Harbor were constructed of wood. Brick was used at Gardiner's Point and Stepping Stones. Granite is evident in the structures at Old Field, Cedar Island, and others. The Huntington Harbor light is unique in the area with its reinforced concrete construction. The lights at Orient Point and Latimer Reef are made of cast-iron plates.
The foundations upon which the structures were built varies as well. Granite, cast-iron caissons, concrete, logs and other materials were used in various combinations in laying the foundations upon which these navigational aids would be built.
The brief descriptions above give just an idea of the variety of styles, methods of construction, and materials involved in the history of Long Island's lighthouse heritage. By reading about, and visiting, the area's lights you'll see, hear, and feel many other unique aspects which add so much depth to the stories of the structures we often see only in pictures.
Each of these lights has a history of its own. Each one required human efforts, sometimes near-superhuman efforts, to be built and operated. Their stories should not be forgotten, for they are the stories of the history of Long Island and America, and of the growth of humanity itself. Please visit the pages of each lighthouse on this site and take a few minutes to relive and enjoy some of the history of each light.
Thank you for stopping by. Feel free to e-mail me with any questions or comments.
Robert G. Muller
Islip Terrace, NY
For more information on the history of Long Island, visit Newsday's wonderfully informative Long Island: Our Story site.
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All the text, code and photographs on this site, unless otherwise noted, are © 1998 -2000 Robert G. Müller. Please don't copy any text, code or photographs from this site without my written permission. Thanks for understanding and respecting my work. :-)