First built in 1826 at the
western tip of Fire Island, the 75-foot tall tower proved to be too short to
project its beam the desired distance to sea.
Even after many complaints, nothing was done to improve the situation. In 1850, the cargo ship Elizabeth ran aground, causing the death of most of the crew.
This loss of life may have been a factor in the Congress creating the Lighthouse Board, in 1852, to monitor all lighthouses of the United States. Shortly after its creation, the Lighthouse Board authorized the construction of a new tower, twice as tall as the original. In 1858, the old tower was torn down and replaced with the taller, 168-foot tall tower that stands today.
A view from Parking Field #5
Affectionately known as the "Winking Woman"
The original light's foundation, next to the Boathouse.
This stone foundation marks the site of Fire Island's first lighthouse. When completed in 1826, the octagonal structure built of Connecticut River bluestone had cost the Federal government $10,000. At 89 feet above sea level, its beacon could only be seen 14-1/2 miles out to sea. However, shipwrecks continued to occur. A newly created U.S. Life-House Board crafted a plan to upgrade the system of lighthouses and lifesaving stations on Long Island. This lighthouse was replaced with one that was almost twice as tall, with a light that was visible more than twenty miles out to sea.
The first lighthouse was taken down
after the present (1858) lighthouse was lit. The stones of the first
lighthouse were used on the terrace of the new lighthouse. During the
1890's, this base was lined with bricks and a roof was added so it could store
water for an adjacent powerhouse. Today, these stone remains mark the
former western tip of Fire Island in the 1820s.
from a sign at the lighthouse
This boathouse was moved in the 1950's by Coast Guard personnel to be used as a garage.
A view of the boathouse and the original Fire Island Lighthouse foundation, as seen from the top of the lighthouse.
Another view from the top showing the
boardwalk. The Field 5 parking area is in the upper
right corner of this picture. We had to park there and walk to the lighthouse.
The American Flag, as seen from the top
of the lighthouse. The original lighthouse
was approximately the height of the flagpole.
Workers 'over the side' on July 3, 2008.
A DCB-224 aero-beacon, with two 1000-watt
bulbs, replaces the original First-Order Fresnel Lens.
A side view of the keeper's quarters. The lighthouse stands to the left.
A fresnel lens, inside the Fire Island Lighthouse Museum.
On the evening of Monday, the 1st day of
November next, a first order revolving light will be exhibited for the first
time, and on every night thereafter from sunset to sunrise, from the light-house
tower now in course of erection at Fire Island Beach, east side of Fire Island
inlet, south side of Long Island, N.Y. The illuminating apparatus is of the
first order revolving catadioptric of the system of Fresnel, and will produce a
brilliant flash once in every minute, which will not be materially different in
appearance from the existing light in the old tower at that place, except in the
greater brightness of the flash and increased range of the new light.
The light-house tower, which is placed about 200 feet N.E. from the old light-house tower, is built of brick, will be 150 feet in height, of a cream or yellow color, and the light will be about 166 feet above the mean level of the sea.
The old light house tower and keepers' dwelling will be removed immediately after the exhibition of the light from the new tower.
The new light should be seen in ordinary states of the atmosphere, from the deck of a vessel 15 feet above the water, from 21 to 23 nautical miles.
Approximate position of the new light-house tower:
Latitude, 40° 37' 53" North
Longitude, 73° 12' 51" West
Distances from Fire Island light-house to --
Montauk Point Light-house, 67-1/2 Nautical Miles
Great West Bay Light-house, 35 NM
Sandy Hook Light vessel, - 31 NM
Navesink Lights, - - - - 37-1/2 NM
Barregat Light-house - - 66 NM
Postcard of Fire Island Lighthouse from the collection of Robert D. DaVia
Copies of this postcard are available for sale here.
Last updated: July 20, 2008
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