Oct 22, 2012

Lighthouses on Lake Ontario

Many people don’t think of the Statue of Liberty as a lighthouse but it was officially classified as a lighthouse from 1886 to 1902 and was the first American lighthouse to utilize electricity to light its beacon, which could be seen for more than 20 nautical miles.

There are nearly 100 lighthouses in New York State that have safely guided ocean, lake and canal vessels through the years.  One of my recent day trips was to

Tibbetts Lighthouse which has always intrigued me because it has a hostel.  I have never stayed in a hostel but after seeing this one I might consider it.  The rooms were basic but a kitchen and sitting room with a beautiful fireplace are available for guests to use.  And, the views are awesome. It is possible to have a room with a private bath which I prefer.  It seems that more and more hostels offer private bathrooms and open up to people of all ages making it an affordable budget accommodation.  There is a gift shop and a small museum in the fog horn building. Built in 1897 the air-compressed fog horn was used to alert ships during bad weather. Today it is activated when the door is opened.   

Tibbetts Lighthouse Cape Vincent is located at the entrance to the St. Lawrence on a large tract of land once owned by Captain John Tibbetts. Three acres of the land was deeded to the U.S. Government which built a lighthouse in 1827 and, in 1854, the current tower was built.  The Fresnel Lens, which was fueled by whale oil in the beginning, is the only remaining part of the 1827 structure and the only classical Fresnel Les still in operation on Lake Ontario. 

On Route 12E near the entrance to Cape Vincent I noticed a lighthouse near the road away from any water so I stopped to check it out.  Built in 1901 it was one of two lights originally located at each end of the village breakwall to protect Cape Vincent harbor and safely guide ships. Due to the dedication of community members the historic lighthouse was moved to a place of honor in 1951 and is now a proud landmark welcoming people to the village.

On the way back I stopped at the Selkirk Lighthouse where the Salmon River flows into Lake Ontario. Built in 1838 it is topped with a unique “birdcage” lantern.  The hexagonal dome of small-paned glass and wrought iron predates those used to house Fresnel lens. There are only four similar ones in the United States. It remained unchanged because the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1858. The lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places, privately owned and available for overnight accommodations.
Lighthouse aficionados are a dedicated group supporting the preservation of historic lighthouse that eventually would disappear without their efforts. Such is the case with the one in Oswego which is the city’s iconic image and will continue to be, thanks to a group of citizens who have undertaken the task of preserving and restoring it. Built in 1934, it is the fourth lighthouse in Oswego. The rotating fourth order Fresnel Lens was removed in 1995 and can be viewed at the H. Lee White Marine Museum. The current light is solar-powered alternating red and white at 10 seconds intervals. The lighthouse is not accessible to the public.