|Galloo Island, NY|
Description: By act of Congress, $12,500 was appropriated on March 3, 1819 for the construction of a lighthouse on the southwest end of Galloo Island to mark the outer edge of a group of islands and shoals encountered by vessels en route to the St. Lawrence River or Sackets Harbor. Elisha Ely was contracted to construct a dwelling and tower, whose light was first exhibited on October 4th, 1820.
An article in the Sackets Harbor Gazette announced the activation of the light and provided the following description of the tower.
The base of the building is four feet above the surface of the water, and is 26 feet in diameter, uniformly graduated to one half of its diameter at the summit height of 65 feet. The building is of stone. The lantern is an octagon, containing 21 lights of 14 by 12 glass. Within are 15 patent lamps with reflectors, 2 feet apart, placed in two circles; giving an elevation to the light of 66 feet above the water's surface, and at the distance of 5 miles, gives the appearance of an entire globe of light. The light is distinctly visible at a distance of 22 miles on the lake.
The article noted that “the erection of such works of permanent utility bear honorable testimony of the attention of government to the interests of every portion of the union” and called for an end to the violation of revenue laws – “the turpitude of which is greatly enhanced by the consideration that it robs the government of the means by which such establishments as tend in an eminent degree to the safe navigation of the lake, are erected and supported.”
In 1857, a fourth-order Fresnel lens was installed in the tower, which by 1864 was noted by the Lighthouse Board to be in need of “various and extensive repairs and renovations.” The Board submitted an estimate of the necessary work, and on April 7th, 1866, Congress responded with an appropriation of $15,000.
Work on a new tower and dwelling began late in 1866 and was completed the following year. Gray limestone, quarried on the island, was used to build the new structures, which were linked by a covered passageway. The head keeper moved into the new residence, while the old dwelling was retained for the assistant keeper.
In 1890, the Lighthouse Board, noting that fog and thick weather often obscured the light, recommended that a steam fog signal be established at the station. The recommendation had to be repeated the following five years before Congress finally allotted $5,700 in 1896. A redbrick fog signal building was built near the shore in 1897, and two ten-inch whistles regulated by a Crosby automatic apparatus in duplicate were installed. A few years later, a circular reservoir, sixteen feet in diameter and twelve feet deep, was built near the fog signal to provide water for the boilers. In 1899, the assistant keeper’s dwelling was rebuilt and earthen sewer pipes were laid for both dwellings.
Willie E. Frazier, one of two keepers stationed on Galloo Island in 1915, gave the following report upon leaving the island for the winter. “The government allows us 30 cents a day for provisions, but we farm it and make money. There is no chance to spend anything while we are on duty, either. We have a community system and the thirty acres are split up among the four families. This year we had two and two-thirds acres planted to corn and raised 340 bushels, which we divided. There are two cows, three horses, pigs, chickens, and other animals. I just sent back to one of the women on the island a check for $90 for turkeys which I sold for her when I left. We also raise a large quantity of hay, and sell what isn’t needed to feed the stock.”
On April 18, 1919, Keeper Robert C. Graves and his assistant, Willie Frazier, went to the assistance of the disabled powerboat Louis Donald, carrying a cargo of 10,500,000 minnows, and towed it to shore. The keepers housed and fed the four men aboard the vessel for four days while they made repairs to their engine.
While the Leifers were at the station, the light was powered by two old Kohler generators, located in the fog signal building. Late one foggy night, Warren noticed the light kept growing dimmer, so he hurried down to the generators, not bothering to take the time to get dressed. After spending the rest of the night changing spark plugs and tinkering with the finicky generators in the nude, Warren headed back to the dwellings and discovered another keeper’s wife, a proper Southern girl, looking out a window at him. These nocturnal service runs must have been common, as Doris recalls, “I always told him you’re gonna get caught, you’re gonna get caught and sure ‘nuff” he did. The Southern wife never said a word about the incident.
An automatic lighting system, controlled from an onshore station, was installed in the tower in August of 1973, and the Coast Guard stopped manning the station, despite protests from boaters. The lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, and in 1997 the Coast Guard, who didn’t want to spend the money to maintain the aging buildings, declared the station surplus. Robert Hagemann, Jefferson County Administrator, asked his staff and Jefferson Community College President John W. Deans to put on their "creative thinking caps" to come up with usage ideas for the historic site, but no workable plan for public ownership could be devised.
Mrs. Divnah and her husband are investors familiar with buying and re-selling unusual pieces of property and bought the lighthouse "sight unseen." Just over two months later, the couple put the lighthouse on the market for $395,000, more than four times their purchase price. The lighthouse, which still houses a light maintained by the Coast Guard, failed to sell and has been on and off the market since then. In 2007, the Galloo Island Lighthouse, featured on a dedicated website, was back up for sale for $295,000. The larger privately held parcel on Galloo Island was also on the market in 2007, for an asking price of $12,750,000. The property, which includes an airstrip, seven bedroom lodge, guest house, and log home, had recently been available for seasonal rentals at a weekly rate of $19,500.
Located on the southern tip of Galloo Island, which is approximately twelve miles
west of Henderson Harbor. The lighthouse is privately owned. Grounds/dwelling/tower closed.
The lighthouse is privately owned. Grounds/dwelling/tower closed.
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, Mike Franklin, used by permission.