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 Long Beach Bar, NY    
Lighthouse best viewed by boat or plane.Lighthouse open for climbing.Interior open or museum on site.
Description: The Long Beach Bar Lighthouse was first lit on December 1, 1871, marking the entrance to Peconic Bay on the east end of Long Island. The first entry in the station logbook read, “Only 70 gallons of oil on hand when I came.” The first keeper, named William Thompson, was apparently not happy with his new assignment, as he sent in his resignation less than a month later.

Perched on a screw pile platform penetrating ten feet into the sandy bottom, the structure resembled a bug walking on the water when from a distance, giving rise to its nickname "Bug Light." The two-story wood frame keeper’s house with its mansard roof is topped by a four-sided tower featuring beveled edges. The sixty-foot tall structure was equipped with a fifth-order lens showing a fixed red light, and a fog bell. The residence had a kitchen, dining room, and sitting room on the first floor and three bedrooms and an oil room on the second story.

Long Beach Bar Lighthouse
Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
Almost every winter, the station was damaged by ice piling up against the thin spindly legs of the platform. Wind and waves also took their toll on the extremely exposed foundation. In February of 1824, ice shook the building and tore away the dock. A month later, the keeper and his assistant had to leave the station for two days, “on account of ice shaking it so bad.” In 1881, Keeper George W. Fenton described how the lighthouse had nearly been destroyed in a storm: “Ice packed under the house from the east with flood tide, and broke three pilings, and nearly all of the braces. The ice was two feet thick. Had to steady the lamp lenses by hand to save them.” To protect the lighthouse, a reinforced concrete foundation was poured in 1926. The top portion of cement foundation served as a basement that held a central steam heating system. A new bathroom with a flushing toilet was also added at the same time.

Keepers did not always perform their duties to the best of their abilities. Judging from entries in the station’s logbook, Keeper Fenton spent most of his time catching lobster and blackfish, and complaining when the storms washed his lobster pots away. On August 3, 1911 the steamer Shinnecock came up Long Island toward Peconic Bay. Upon entering a heavy fog bank, the ship’s captain headed toward the Plum Island Lighthouse, and when he heard that station’s fog signal, turned toward Long Beach Bar Light. He proceeded cautiously, listening for its fog signal. Not hearing anything, he kept going until he ran aground right in front of the station. Almost a half hour later, the keeper finally sounded the fog signal, continuing to sound it long after the fog had lifted. The ship and its passengers were undamaged, and the keeper was severely reprimanded for his inattention.

Charles Fenton became keeper of Long Beach Bar Lighthouse on May 18, 1887, following the passing of his father George. Two years later, a new assistant keeper, Charles B. Moore, arrived at the station with his daughter Ruth. Ruth and Charles had plenty of time to get acquainted at the isolated lighthouse and soon decided to wed. The couple went ashore for the wedding ceremony, but returned to their beloved lighthouse for their honeymoon. Charles resigned as keeper in 1905, when a doctor forbade Ruth from living at the station any longer due to her poor health.

The station was taken out of commission in 1948, mainly because the sandbar had extended so far beyond where the lighthouse stood that the beacon was useless as a channel marker. The station was put up for auction in 1955, and a local group called the Orient Point Marine Historical Association placed the winning bid of $1710, quite a bit more than the other bids that ranged from $52 to $212. On the Fourth of July in 1963, the lighthouse was lit up again, when arsonists set fire to the lighthouse completely destroying it.

After several years, the first steps in rebuilding the lighthouse were taken by putting an additional 60 tons of riprap around the cracked and deteriorated foundation. In 1990, a fundraising campaign was begun by the East End Seaport Museum and Marine Fundation, and $140,000 was quickly gathered for the construction of a working replica of the original lighthouse. Work began at the Greenport Yacht and Shipbuilding Company, based on old drawings.

On September 5 of 1990, the lighthouse was ready to be moved to its final location. The structure was put on a marine railway and taken to the dock, accompanied by much ceremony, including a Navy band and a 21-gun salute. At the dockside, it was separated into three sections and loaded onto barges. The barges were towed to the site, and a giant crane lifted the sections into place. By the end of the day the lighthouse was erected and its solar-powered beacon lit as a private aid to navigation, with a special fireworks display -- all on the same day it left Greenport in sections. There is a story about a local fisherman who sailed by the lighthouse’s empty foundation that morning. On his way back home that evening, he doubted his vision and his sanity when he passed the spot and he saw a complete, working lighthouse there. The entire project had only taken 60 days.

In 1993, due to support from the community and local mariners, the Coast Guard took the lighthouse over and re-established it as a Federal aid to navigation. The lighthouse now, once again, welcomes boaters to Gardiners Bay, and, if you are willing to pay the cost, you are welcome to spend the night in the lighthouse. The lighthouse is visible alongside Highway 25, between East Marion and Orient, where you will also see a marker listing all those who contributed to the second Bug Light.

The future of the lighthouse is still far from certain. The structure sits on 130-year old screw piles that remain underneath the concrete foundation that was installed in 1924. The riprap surrounding the foundation is sinking and needs to be replenished. Since 2001, East End Lighthouses and the East End Seaport Museum were feuding over control of the lighthouse, but in April of 2005, an agreement was signed between the two groups to divide maintenance and repair chores and to jointly cooperate in fundraising to keep the lighthouse functioning as an active aid to navigation. The two groups have since combined and are known as East End Seaport Museum & Marine Foundation.

References

  1. America’s Atlantic Coast Lighthouse, Kenneth Kochel, 1996.
  2. Northeast Lights: Lighthouses and Lightships, Rhode Island to Cape May, New Jersey, Robert Bachand, 1989.
  3. Long Island’s Lighthouse Past and Present, Robert G. Muller, 2004.
  4. East End Lighthouses website.

Location: Located just off the tip of Long Beach, marking the entrance to Orient Harbor.
Latitude: 41.10909
Longitude: -72.30598

For a larger map of Long Beach Bar Lighthouse, click the lighthouse in the above map or get a map from: Mapquest.


Travel Instructions: This lighthouse is best seen by boat, but views are possible from Orient Beach State Park and several other places along Gardiners Bay and Orient Harbor. East End Seaport Museum & Marine Foundation offers lighthouse cruises that stop at the lighthouse.

The lighthouse is owned by East End Seaport Museum & Marine Foundation. Tower/dwelling closed.

Find the closest hotels to Long Beach Bar Lighthouse

Notes from a friend:

Kraig writes:
A more recent addition to the waterfront of the area is a large iron sculpture of an osprey. The metal bird sits atop a twisted I-beam, pulled from the wreckage of New York's Twin Towers.

See our List of Lighthouses in New York

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