Montauk Point Lighthouse

Montauk Point, Long Island, New York

In 1791 the Second U.S. Congress passed an act to erect a "Light-House on Montok point." On April 12, 1792, the act was approved by President Washington and signed by Secretary of State Jefferson. The bid to construct the lighthouse was awarded to John McComb Jr., a young New York City architect who built the original Cape Henry, VA, and Eaton's Neck, NY lights. All three of McComb's towers were built in the 1790's, and all remain standing today.

The tower was constructed of "brown Chatham stone" between June and November of 1796, on Turtle Hil, 130 yards from the water's edge. The 13 oil lamps shone for the first time in the spring of 1797, after difficulties shipping oil and lantern glass to the site.

During the 1800's several changes were made to the original construction: in 1838 a brick dwelling was added on to the 16' x 34' keeper's dwelling; in 1849 a chandelier with 15 lamps with 21" reflectors was hung in the lantern; in 1857 Montauk received a first-order fresnel lens. Extensive renovations were made in 1860: fourteen feet had to be added to the tower to accomodate the new lantern with a service room beneath to maintain the revolving apparatus. An iron balcony and iron stairway were added at this time, bringing Montauk's tower height to its current 110 feet. The double keeper's dwelling was also built during the renovation of 1860.

In 1900 Montauk received it's brown band midway up the white tower, and in 1903 the first-order lens was replaced with a 3.5 order bivalve "clamshell" lens. During World War II the Coast Guard Artillery Firetower was added to the site as part of the East Coast Defense Shield. In 1987 the bivalve lens was replaced with a revolving airport beacon.

Severe erosion threatened Montauk Point during the 1960's, but a woman named Giorgina Reid devoted 15 years of her life to an innovative terracing project that stabelized the bluffs and saved the light. More recently a stone wrapper has added further protection plus a great place to fish or meditate in the shadow of the lighthouse.

Montauk Point Lighthouse is a wonderful place to visit. On a clear day you can see Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Block Island. During 1996 Montauk is decked out in its bicentennial year finery. The tower and grounds are now maintained by the Montauk Historical Society, and are open for tours 10 - 5:30. There is a gift shop and a museum with some great exhibits. (516-668-2544)

A fine art print of this lighthouse is available for purchase.