Digest>Archives> Sep/Oct 2017

Visiting the Lighthouses of Long Island

By Susan Mizla

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Horton Point Lighthouse.
Photo by: Christine Morton

My husband and I recently took the Cross Sound Ferry from New London, Connecticut to Orient Point, New York to see several lighthouses in the Montauk, Long Island area. Although the weather was overcast and threatened rain, we were able to see all the lighthouses we had mapped out for our visit - Horton Point, Cedar Island, Montauk Yacht Club, and Montauk Point Lighthouse. From the Cross Sound Ferry, we saw New London Harbor, Avery Point, and New London Ledge Lighthouse in Connecticut, and Plum Island and Orient Point in New York.

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Stairs to the rocky beach at Horton Point ...
Photo by: Susan Mizla

Our first stop after we landed was Southold, New York to see the Horton Point Lighthouse, named after Barnabas Horton who originally owned the point of land on which the lighthouse was built. Because we were visiting on a weekday, we were only able to see the lighthouse from the grounds. Although President George Washington commissioned a lighthouse for Horton Point in 1790, Congress did not allocate money for building the lighthouse until 1854, and it was not lighted until 1857. The 58-foot tall tower was built of New England granite and local bricks and later coated with Portland cement. It originally housed a Third-order Fresnel lens. The current optic is a VRB-25. The well-maintained grounds have picnic tables, a nature trail, and the anchor from the Commodore that wrecked west of the lighthouse in 1866. We found it fitting that there were several security signs around the lighthouse that stated it was monitored by a company named Lighthouse Security. There is also a long, steep, wooden stairway by the parking area that leads down to a rocky beach.

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The headless Cedar Point Lighthouse.
Photo by: Susan Mizla

Our visit to reach the Cedar Island Lighthouse in East Hampton was an adventure. Located at the tip of a long sand spit in Cedar Point County Park, the lighthouse was originally on an island, named after the type of trees on it, until the Great Hurricane of 1938 filled in the area between the island and the shore. Because the peninsula is a breeding and nesting area for several bird species, including Plovers, Terns, Skimmers and Oyster Catchers, much of the area is roped off and there is only a narrow area along the beach with wet sand and shells to traverse to reach the lighthouse. It was a long and windy walk to reach the tip of the peninsula. We saw deer tracks near the water and several deer. Originally built of wood in 1839, with Winslow Lewis lamps that were later replaced with a Sixth-order Fresnel lens, the lighthouse soon fell into disrepair and was rebuilt in 1868 of granite blocks atop of a circular granite pier. In 1934, a skeletal steel tower with an automated light replaced the lighthouse. Currently, the lighthouse is in sad shape. All of the windows are boarded up and its lantern was removed in 2013 for restoration, but a banner on the lighthouse shows that the lighthouse is in the process of being restored.

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The lens from Montauk Point Lighthouse that is ...
Photo by: Susan Mizla

The well-maintained Montauk Yacht Club Lighthouse is located on Star Island in Montauk, which is connected to the mainland by a causeway. The 60-foot-tall octagonal brick tower was built by developer Carl Fisher in 1928 as a replica of the Montauk Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse is painted entirely white, as was Montauk Point Lighthouse until 1899 when the brown band was added to the middle of the lighthouse. The Montauk Yacht Club Lighthouse had a light until 2011, when it was deactivated.

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The Montauk Yacht Club.
Photo by: Susan Mizla

Our final lighthouse was Montauk Point Lighthouse, which is a National Historic Landmark in addition to being on the National Register of Historic Places, as are both Horton Point and Cedar Island Lighthouses. Commissioned by President George Washington in 1796, Montauk Lighthouse was the first to be built in New York. It was named after the Montaukett Tribe. The octagonal tower was originally 78-feet tall and was built with sandstone from Connecticut. The tower was later raised an additional 14 feet in 1860. In 1903, a Third-and-a-Half order Fresnel bivalve lens, which is on display, replaced the First-order Fresnel lens and remained the optic until 1987, when it was replaced with an automated DCB-224 optic. Currently the optic is a VRB-25 marine rotating beacon.

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The Montauk Point Lighthouse.
Photo by: Susan Mizla

We climbed the 137 iron steps to the Watch Deck and were able to climb a few more stairs to see the lantern, but could not go up all the way. We could go out onto a small portion of the gallery from the Watch Deck, but it was incredibly windy and we lasted only a few moments to take a few quick pictures. There are two fascinating documents on display in the parlor of the keepers’ house. One is a document signed by President George Washington authorizing the federal government to purchase the land to build the lighthouse; the other is a document signed by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson giving congressional authorization to build the lighthouse.

Despite the below normal temperatures for June, drizzle, and wind we encountered while visiting these four lighthouses, we had a wonderful time exploring these Long Island lighthouses.

 

This story appeared in the Sep/Oct 2017 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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