Having been repeatedly requested by the watermen who navigate the sound to give my aid in bringing this subject to the notice of the government, I have considered that I could in no way more properly do so than by addressing myself to your excellency. That a more perfect knowledge may be communicated to the department, and upon which an appropriation may be asked of Congress, I would most respectfully propose that a commission of two or three officers be appointed to examine the location, and report to the department over which you preside.
Paulding’s appeal proved successful as Congress approved $4,000 on August 3, 1854 to build a beacon light to mark the entrance to Lloyd Harbor. Two-and-a-half acres on the sandy spit, along with a right of way, were purchased from the Denton family on July 26, 1855 for $250, but construction on the lighthouse would not begin for almost two more years.
Lloyd Harbor Lighthouse was finished in 1857 and consisted of a two-story, wood-frame dwelling built on a brick foundation and attached at one corner to a square brick tower. A kitchen, dining room, and sitting room were found on the dwelling’s first floor, and three bedrooms on the second. The original beacon was a fifth-order, Henry-Lepaute Fresnel lens showing a fixed white light at a focal plane of forty-eight feet.
In its 1871 Annual Report, the Lighthouse Board noted, “The damage caused to the Lighthouse at this station by the gale of November 22, 1870, has been repaired and a granite wall built to protect the station, at a cost of $3,000.” This sea wall was damaged by ice during the winter of 1872, and on June 23, 1874, Congress appropriated $2,000 for placing an enrockment of large stones around the station.
By the early 1900s, both the public and local politicians were demanding a new lighthouse at a nearby offshore site that could mark the entrance to both Lloyd and Huntington Harbors, and Congress provided $40,000 for its construction on March 4, 1907. After soundings and borings were made at the site and plans and specifications for the lighthouse were approved, a contract for its construction was awarded in the 1910 fiscal year.
The lighthouse, which remains standing today, was finished in 1912, and on June 16 of that year the torch was passed from the old lighthouse to the new one. The new lighthouse is a square tower attached to a one-story, cement structure, and its architectural style has been described variously as Venetian Renaissance, Art Deco, and Beaux Arts. The quarters at the lighthouse, consisting of a living room and bedroom, were intended only for the keeper while on watch, as the old lighthouse was retained as a shore station for the keeper.
Keeper McGlone would stand watch in the new lighthouse, while Augusta Harrigan continued to live at the old lighthouse. The two McGlone children who had not yet left home, Robert and Isabelle, spent most of their time at the new lighthouse helping their father, who by then was suffering from arthritis. Although Isabelle spent some free time digging clams and catching fish, her daily life was mostly filled with lighthouse-related work. “Looking back on my life at the lighthouse,” recalls Isabelle, “I can truly say there was little pleasure. It seemed as though there was always work to be done and I was more than ready to tumble into bed as soon as the lamp was lit at sundown. I did miss the delights of childhood. Bleakness and drudgery is what I remember.”
Isabelle was freed from lighthouse life in 1919, when her father passed away. Augusta continued to live at the old lighthouse, with a single-barrel shotgun to deter “suspicious characters,” until 1934. The old lighthouse was turned over to the state in 1924, and then to the town of Huntington in 1928. The dwelling, which went mostly unused in later years, was damaged by vandals and then destroyed on November 12, 1947, after a fire, started in the fireplace by some hunters, got out of control. Reverend E. J. Humeston, Huntington’s town historian, wrote, “…the fire had put a period to its long sentence to shameful and shameless neglect. Better the pyre than ignominious disuse.” Augusta counted the fire as a blessing that provided the lighthouse a “clean escape from neglect and its scurrilous maltreatment at the hands of tramps, campers, and filthy nobodies.”
Several of the keepers of Huntington Harbor Lighthouse were recognized for rendering assistance to boaters. In 1920, Keeper Marvin Burnham rescued a man and woman from a leaking schooner in Huntington Bay. Emil J. Brunner served as keeper of the lighthouse for just a few months in 1929 and 1930, but during that time, he rescued the occupants of a speedboat that lost its wheel near the lighthouse and then rescued two men who fell overboard from a motorboat. Joseph Dubois, the light’s next keeper, rescued a woman and child from an overturned boat on July 27, 1930 and took them to the lighthouse and supplied them with dry clothing.
In 2003, with the lighthouse safe and secure, the group changed its name to the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society. The group conducts tours of the lighthouse, which was the first offshore Long Island lighthouse to be regularly opened to the public. The station continues to be an active aid to navigation, with a modern 300mm lens as its beacon. The original fog bell, with its inscription “Jersey City, NJ 1911,” sits on the lantern deck next to the modern fog signal.
A Notice of Availability, dated July 2, 2010, announced that Huntington Harbor Lighthouse was excess to the needs of the United States Coast Guard and would be “made available at no cost to eligible entities defined as Federal agencies, state and local agencies, non-profit corporations, educational agencies, or community development organizations for educational, park, recreational, cultural or historic preservation purposes.” Qualifying organizations were given sixty days to submit a letter of interest.
In 2011, the Department of the Interior announced that Huntington Harbor Lighthouse would be transferred to the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society. This action was a fitting reward for the group’s effort to save, restore, and interpret this unique lighthouse.
Head Keepers: Abiathar Johnson (1857 – 1861), Alanson Pearsall (1861), Abiathar Johnson (1861 – 1869), Lester C. Darling (1869 – 1874), George R. Johnson (1874 – 1884), Neil Ward (1884 – 1885), Robert McGlone (1885 – 1919), John Grimes (1919), Marvin E. Burnham (1919 – 1926), James Galler (1926 – 1928), Andrew Zuius (1928 – 1929), Emil J. Brunner (1929 – 1930), Joseph Dubois (1930 – 1933), Robert L. Howard (1933 – 1935), Arthur Bouder (1935 – 1938), Richard J. White (1938 – 1942), Bernard A. Bentley (1943), Richard J. White (1943 – 1948).