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 North Dumpling, NY    
Lighthouse best viewed by boat or plane.Privately owned, no access without permission.
Description: On the north side of Fishers Island, there are several small islands, the largest two of which are known as the Dumplings. When considering the site for a new lighthouse in 1838, Lt. George M. Bache felt that “a site preferable to the North Dumpling may be found on the neighboring islet, the South Dumpling because a line drawn from the South Dumpling to the light at Stonington, passes through a clear channel, while the one drawn from the North Dumpling, in the same direction, will pass very close to the shoals to the northward.” Bache also felt that “two small lights, one higher than the other, ranging in the channel, and shown from the South Dumpling, will prove a better guide to vessels passing through from the eastward than a single light on the North Dumpling.” Nine more years passed before Congress financed the lighthouse, which contrary to Lt. Bache’s advice, had a single light and was placed on North Dumpling.

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John Winthrop, son of the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, acquired Fishers Island and the surrounding islets, including the Dumplings, in 1639. North Dumpling Island remained in the Winthrop family until 1847, when it was sold to the federal government for $600. Construction soon began on a brick keeper’s dwelling with an attached twenty-five-foot tower. The first optic consisted of seven lamps with fourteen-inch reflectors, and red shades were used to produce a unique characteristic. The light was upgraded to a sixth-order Fresnel lens in 1856.

The first keeper appointed to North Dumpling Lighthouse was Riley Clark, but when the time came to activate the new lighthouse, Clark was nowhere to be found, and no one seemed to know where he lived. In the meantime, a local sea captain named Joseph Dayton was given temporary authority. The customs agent in New London supported the captain as a permanent replacement for the missing Clark, writing to the Treasury Department: “The commercial community here and elsewhere has a deep interest in having a Light Keeper who is well acquainted with reefs, rocks and shoals in the neighborhood of the Light House.” His arguments were unsuccessful, as in December of 1848 Alfred Clark was named keeper. The appointment of the still-missing Riley Clark was canceled.

When Alfred Clark began his duty, he found a fog bell that had been placed on the island as a private navigational aid by the New York and Stonington Steamboat Line. When it was foggy and one of the company’s ships was scheduled to pass the island, the keeper sounded the bell. The steamboat company paid him $32 a year for this service, but when Clark found out that the keeper at Little Gull Island was receiving $43 a year for the same work, he refused to operate the fog bell any longer. The company complained to the Lighthouse Board, but they ruled that since it was a private arrangement between the two parties, the keeper had the right to do as he pleased. A few years later, the government installed its own fog bell at the lighthouse.

During the 1860s, various reports described the lighthouse on North Dumpling as being “very much decayed,” and “worn out and of old pattern.” Congress finally appropriated $15,000 in 1870 to rebuild the station. The renovations, completed in 1871, included replacing the dwelling’s roof with a new Mansard roof, and erecting a new 29-foot tower and lantern on top of the dwelling. A barn was also built for the station at the same time. The station’s sixth-order lens was replaced with a fifth-order lens in 1892.

North Dumpling Lighthouse
Photograph courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
During Prohibition, the isolated beaches and islands around Dumpling Point were found to be ideal for transferring illegal booze. Citizens of nearby Fishers Island were known to be actively involved in bootlegging. In April of 1923, the yacht Thelma-Phoebe was grounded by a storm on the south side of Fishers Island while transporting Scotch. By the time the Coast Guard arrived, the illegal cargo had already been liberated by local residents. In December of the same year, another ship wrecked in almost the same spot, and the whisky on board similarly disappeared quickly. Keeper Burkhart at North Dumpling came under suspicion of aiding the smugglers. He was accused of “running extra lights around the lighthouse, which were used as signals between main land, boats and Fishers Island.” His accuser claimed to have seen the keeper storing, delivering, and selling liquor to local residents. While the Coast Guard did see some strange lights and flares around the station, no evidence was ever found connecting the keeper to illegal activities.

In 1959, the beacon was moved to a nearby skeleton tower and automated, and the lighthouse and grounds were sold to a private party for $18,000. The new owner rarely visited the island, and his inattention combined with vandalism left the lighthouse in a sorry state. In 1980 the property was sold for $95,000 to David Levitt, who remodeled and enlarged the keeper’s dwelling, greatly altering its appearance. Levitt also convinced the Coast Guard to return the optic to the tower and remove the steel skeleton tower from the island.

In 1986, the lighthouse was sold yet again, this time for $2.5 million to Dean Kamen, who had spotted the lighthouse while taking flying lessons. After battling unsuccessfully with Suffolk County authorities for permission to put up a windmill to power his electric generator, Kamen began an extended tongue-in-cheek media campaign. He declared that his island was now the sovereign “North Dumpling Republic” and that he was “Lord Dumpling II.” The new nation was to have its own currency unit, the Dumpling, a national anthem, and a one-boat navy. Lord Dumpling graciously signed a non-aggression pact with with his friend, President George H. Bush. The eccentric Kamen, who counts the Segway Human Transporter as one of his many inventions, has been featured on several TV shows, including the Today Show and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

Kamen eventually did get his wind generator, and now through the installation of solar power and LED lighting, he can claim independence from another foreign power - U.S. electricity. His green power system provides enough electricity to illuminate his Stonehenge replica, located on the northwest tip of the island.

Photo Gallery: 1 2 3

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 Lighthouses Past and Present, Robert G. Muller, 2004.

Location: Located on North Dumpling Island, one mile north of North Hill on Fishers Island and 1.5 miles south of Groton Long Point, CT.
Latitude: 41.28792
Longitude: -72.01925

For a larger map of North Dumpling Lighthouse, click the lighthouse in the above map or get a map from: Mapquest.


Travel Instructions: The lighthouse is best seen by boat. East End Seaport out of New York and Sunbeam Fleet out of Connecticut offer excursions that pass by the North Dumpling Lighthouse.

The lighthouse is privately owned. Grounds/dwelling/tower closed.

Find the closest hotels to North Dumpling Lighthouse

Notes from a friend:

Kraig writes:
During a cruise past this lighthouse in July of 2003, we were told that the island and lighthouse are now owned by Segway inventor, Dean Kamen. After selling one of his inventions, Kamen purchased a helicopter, fulfilling a childhood dream. Kamen was informed by the wife of his helicopter flight instructor that North Dumpling Island was for sale. To get a close-up view, Kamen landed his helicopter on the island, much to the surprise of the occupants of the lighthouse.

After purchasing the lighthouse and island, Kamen decided to erect a wind turbine for power. The state of New York objected to his plan, so Kamen seceded from the U.S. He signed a fictitious nonaggression treaty with his friend and then-President George H. Bush, and even established his own currency, flag and anthem.


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