Lighthouse Friends Home Page
 Sands Point, NY    
Lighthouse best viewed by boat or plane.Privately owned, no access without permission.
Description: Sands Point is not named for its sandy beaches but rather for its early owners. Brothers James, Samuel, and John Sands purchased 500 acres at the tip of Long Island's Cow Neck Peninsula in 1695. Sands Point Lighthouse is the third-oldest lighthouse still standing on Long Island, although it is no longer active.

In 1806, after lobbying by Senator Samuel Mitchill of New York, Congress approved $6,000 for a lighthouse at Sands Point to warn ships of the dangerous reefs 1,500 yards north of the point. In 1808, New York State purchased the necessary land for $512.50 from Benjamin Hewlett and gave it to the federal government. The boundary markers for the property were the shoreline, a large “Walnut or Hickory tree,” a “marked Buttonwood,” and a “White Oak tree.” The construction contract was won by Noah Mason, a Revolutionary War hero from Connecticut. After completing the station in 1809, Mason would stay on as its first keeper.

Sands Point Lighthouse in 1895
Mason was born a British subject in 1755 in Dighton, Massachusetts. The British invasion of Lexington and Concord in early 1775 shocked many New England residents, and the 20-year old Mason enlisted in the Continental Army in May of that year. Mason helped build a fort at Dorchester Heights in Massachusetts, and another one on the North River at Tarrytown, New York. He was injured in the Battle of Saratoga. After being discharged in 1778, Mason moved to New London and became a mariner. He married Lucretia Kinnie in 1786 and continued to work at sea for another twenty years until he submitted the winning bid for constructing the Sands Point Lighthouse.

The opening of the Sands Point Lighthouse triggered a local celebration. According to the records for the Towns of North and South Hempstead, “There was a grand civic festival at the place at which the members of the most respectable families in the neighborhood attended. Samuel S. Mitchell [sic] as the founder was honored with an invitation to meet his fellow citizens and was there on one of the happiest occasions that had occurred within the recollection of the numerous company assembled.”

The 40-foot octagonal tower was made of coursed brownstone, and the keeper’s house was of wood frame construction. As of 1838, the lighting apparatus was eleven lamps and reflectors, arranged on two tables so that the fixed white light was directed at vessels transitioning between Long Island Sound and the East River. In 1856, a fifth-order Fresnel lens was installed, producing a flashing light every thirty seconds.

On September 10, 1814, Keeper Mason was involved in another act of British aggression, but this time only as a distant observer from atop the Sands Point Lighthouse. As part of the War of 1812, the British frigate Acosta battled thirty America gunboats just offshore from the tower. Mason served as keeper until his passing in 1841 at the age of eighty-five.

Sands Point Lighthouse with dwelling
Photograph courtesy Library of Congress
The Masons reportedly added on to the dwelling, to the point that an 1838 report by Lt. Bache identified the house as having 23 rooms! In 1867 Congress allocated funds to renovate the tower and replace the keeper’s house, which was deemed beyond repair by that time. A new brick dwelling was put up and connected to the tower, while the tower itself was extensively repaired and renovated. The wooden spiral stairs and window cases were replaced with cast-iron versions. The old dwelling was torn down and its lumber used to build a barn, a shed, and an outhouse.

John Seaman was appointed keeper at Sands Point on March 12, 1866. After having served for fifteen years at the station, he almost lost his job when an inspector found that the “dwelling was crowded with boarders, which the Keeper had received in violation of the Regulations, and after having been heretofore informed that he could not do so without the authority of the Board.” The inspector called for keeper’s immediate dismissal, but somehow Seaman kept his position and remained at the station until his death in 1895. No longer considered necessary, the Sands Point Lighthouse was deactivated on October 31, 1894, but quickly reactivated in response to massive local opposition. On December 15, 1922, the light at Sands Point was moved to an automated steel skeleton tower located offshore at the end of the reef protruding from Sands Point.

In 1917, a large plot of land next to the lighthouse was purchased by a wealthy New York socialite, who built a large and expensive mansion there. The owner, a Mrs. Belmont, convinced the Bureau of Lighthouses to prohibit the lighthouse keeper from having any visitors on summer weekends, so as not to disturb the upper-crust gatherings at her estate. Many feel that her interference was one of the main factors in the decision to close the station.

After it was deactivated, the lighthouse and property were put up for auction. The State of New York attempted to buy it for a park, but Mrs. Belmont objected to that plan and managed to purchase the property for $100,000 on January 31, 1923. In 1927, Mrs. Belmont sold the mansion and the lighthouse to William Randolph Hearst for $400,000. For a while, the Hearsts lived in the keeper’s house and used the mansion for their guests. When Hearst started spending most of his time at his San Simeon estate in California, the Sands Point property was put up for sale, but in the depression era no buyer could be found. The Hearsts finally surrendered the property to a New York bank in 1940 to satisfy the mortgage.

The bank also had a difficult time finding a buyer for the large estate and eventually sold it to a Realtor, who divided it into one-acre lots and built the private residential development that stands there today. Over the years, the light station has been damaged by erosion and storms, and a number of different protection methods have been built, destroyed, and rebuilt. Despite all that, the original lighthouse and keeper’s house remain in good shape. The only view of the lighthouse for visitors is from the water.

References

  1. America’s Atlantic Coast Lighthouses, 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.

Location: Located on Sands Point north of Port Washington on Long Island's north shore.
Latitude: 40.86584
Longitude: -73.72955

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


Travel Instructions: The Sands Point Lighthouse is best seen by boat. Skyline Cruises occasionally offers a Lighthouse Cruise that passes by the lighthouse. Use coupon code LIGHTHOUSEFRIENDS when booking to receive 10% off.

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

Find the closest hotels to Sands Point Lighthouse

See our List of Lighthouses in New York

The lighthouses The Maps Our friends Lighthouse Resources Lighthouse Events Lighthouse Store Lighthouse Posters
Copyright © 2001- Lighthousefriends.com
Send us an e-mail - please note that lighthousefriends.com is not affiliated with any lighthouse

Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.