Lighthouses of Long Island
by Carole Celiberti Lucca
In early time people set fires at the edge of the water to warn boats of dangerous rocks and shores. The Egyptians were the first people to build lighthouses to use light to guide ships. In Egypt in 283 the Egyptians completed the tallest lighthouse ever built. It guided ships for over 1,500 years and stood 900 feet tall. Lighthouses were also constructed by the Phoenicians, Greeks, and the Romans.
The early lighthouses used wick lamps as a source of light. In the olden times the light beam could only travel a few miles. In 1822 the first modern lighthouse lens was invented by a Frenchman named Augustin Fesnel. He found out how to increase the light by using prisms. In 1841 the Fresnel lens was installed for the first time in a lighthouse.
Montauk Point Lighthouse
Montauk Point Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in New York State. The Lighthouse was authorized by the Second Congress, under President George Washington, in 1792.
Construction began on June 7, 1796 and was completed on November 5, 1796. This historic landmark has been part of Long Island’s land and seascape for over 200 years and still serves as an active aid to navigation.
Fire Island’s roots date back to 1653, when Isaac Stratford constructed a whaling station on the Island, naming it Whalehouse Point. Similar to Nantucket, Fire Island was originally founded as an important whaling center during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Fire Island’s next development came in 1825 when the Federal government constructed the Fire Island Lighthouse at western tip of the Island. The Fire Island Light was an important landmark for transatlantic ships coming into New York Harbor at the turn of the century. For many European immigrants, the Fire Island Lighthouse was their first sight of land upon arrival to America. This guiding light serves as the trademark of Fire Island and still stands as both a landmark and a museum.
In February of 1756, a 25-year-old George Washington left Virginia on horseback, headed for Boston. Following a recommendation by a Dr. Alexander Hamilton of Baltimore, young Washington rode across Long Island, intending to board a Boston-bound boat in Greenport. While in Southold, he made the acquaintance of one Ezra L’Hommedieu, who would later become a Revolutionary War hero. Among other matters, the two discussed the suitability of Southold’s Horton Point.
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