|New Dorp, NY|
Description: New Dorp was originally a Dutch settlement, and its name has been anglicized from Nieuwe Dorp, Dutch for New Town. Perched on the hillside overlooking the community, which was home to members of the Vanderbilt family during the late 19th century, stands the New Dorp Lighthouse, consisting of a forty-foot tower rising from the center of the keeper’s dwelling. The panoramic view from the lantern room looks across the bay to Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and while active, the tower’s beacon shined from 192 feet above sea level.
Today, a quiet residential neighborhood extends up the hill to the lighthouse from the south, but when it was built the Moravian Cemetery on its east side was its only neighbor, with the station otherwise surrounded by rugged forest.
On August 31 of 1852, Congress appropriated $30,000 for the construction of New Dorp Lighthouse and Elm Tree Light to serve as range lights to mark Swash Channel. Both of these structures were contracted to Richard Carlow, who also built the similar Chapel Hill and Point Comfort Range Lights in New Jersey around the same time. When sailing through Swash Channel, mariners were instructed to bring the range lights “in one” and steer towards then until the lights at Chapel Hill came into view. This second pair of lights would then safely guide the vessel past West Bank.
The original beacon at New Dorp was a second-order range lens showing a fixed red light, and John B. Fountain was its first keeper. In 1891, the light was changed to fixed white. The light source was changed from oil to incandescent oil vapor in 1907, greatly increasing the intensity of the light. In 1939, a sixth-order range lens was installed, still showing a fixed white light. At one time, there was a hole cut in the western side of the tower. It may have been there so keepers could see whether the Staten Island Lighthouse was lit.
The New Dorp Lighthouse was abandoned and boarded up in 1964. The neglected and vandalized property was put up for auction in 1974, and purchased by a Staten Island resident named John Vokral for $32,000. It took a lot of work for the new owner to restore the tower. In his words, he “sanded and painted every square inch of the clapboard himself, and hammered every peg into the old floors upstairs – all 1,286 of them.” There is no longer any beacon shining from the old lighthouse, but it has been restored to its original beauty. Besides the lighthouse, and oil house and barn remain on the property.
Located on Staten Island on a hill above New Dorp. 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, used by permission.