Posted/Updated by Bryan Penberthy on 2014-11-16.
On the eastern end of Lake Ontario, a peninsula sticks out into the lake creating a hazard for shipping. To mark this outcropping, the federal government established the Stony Point Lighthouse in 1837.
That year, the government requested $3,000 "for a light-house on Stony Point, in the town of Henderson, in the county of Jefferson." Five acres of land were purchased and the lighthouse was completed the following year. Wiley Gilbert Nickles served as its first keeper.
By 1838, many of the nation's lighthouses were being inspected and reported on by various members of the U.S. Navy. Along the coast of Massachusetts, Lieutenant Edward W. Carpender performed many of the inspection duties.
In the tenth lighthouse district, which spanned from the St. Lawrence River down into Ohio, Lieutenant Charles T. Platt handled the inspections. For the newly constructed Stony Point Lighthouse, he put the following text in his report:
Stony-point light-house - This is a revolving light, and is lighted with ten lamps, and an equal number of bright reflectors. It is a new light, with the light on the keeper's dwelling. The dwelling is two stories in height, which gives the lantern an elevation quite sufficient for all nautical purposes. This is a very useful and important light, and is kept in excellent order. The supplies furnished by the contractor are all right.
The Lighthouse Board, established in 1852, sought to modernize many of the lighthouses by embracing the Fresnel lens technology. As there were many lighthouses to outfit, a staged approach was needed, with that, the Stony Point Lighthouse received a revolving fifth-order Fresnel lens in 1857.
By 1868, the station was in poor condition, and in June of the year, the decision was made to erect a new keeper's dwelling with attached tower similar to the one built in Copper Harbor, Michigan two years prior. The Report of the Secretary of the Treasury on the State of the Finances for 1869 had the following entry:
18. Stony Point - Authority was given for the erection of a new dwelling, with tower attached, similar to that at Copper Harbor, in June last, and the work was at once commenced, and has been carried on vigorously, and will be pushed to completion before the close of the season. The stone used has been quarried near the site. All the materials for construction are on the ground, and the new lantern and glass have been received. This work will cost about $13,000, in consequence of the difficulty of access to the place and the high price of labor.
At the start of the following season, a few loose ends were tied up, which included some plastering and pointing of the brickwork which wasn't finished before winter.
Some minor maintenance work was carried out in 1880, which included painting the dwelling and barn, the tower was re-pointed and re-plastered, and a well was sunk to a depth of 30 feet. A pump was provided to help the keeper retrieve the water.
Stony Point Lighthouse (Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard)
That year, the Lighthouse Board brought up the need for a secure boat landing, citing the difficulty of safely landing at the location. The cost of the work was estimated at $880. The same request was repeated again in 1881 and in 1882. Nevertheless, the cost jumped to $1,000 that year.
Also in 1882, a small cellar was dug under the dwelling and lined with stone. Nothing noteworthy was entered in the Annual Reports of the Lighthouse Board for 16 years until 1896, when an entry citing extensive repairs to the keeper's dwelling and the establishment of a concrete foundation for an oil house.
Although the metal work was purchased in 1896, the oil house wasn't erected until the following year. At that time, the old oil room in the structure was converted to a living room.
A few years later, in 1900, water was finally brought to the dwelling by running 106 feet of lead pipe from the well to the dwelling. That same year, a fence was constructed along the southern half of the division of the lighthouse lot.
Many changes came to the Stony Point Lighthouse in late 1901. The height of the tower increased by twenty feet and the lighthouse was painted white to make it a better day mark. The Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board reported on them in their 1902 entry:
61. Stony Point, Lake Ontario, New York - The top of the stone tower was built up 20 feet, thus raising the focal plane of the light from 38 feet to 58 feet above mean lake level, and increasing its range of visibility. The characteristic of the light was changed by reducing the interval between the flashes from two minutes to one minute. The color of the tower was changed to white to make it a better day mark. Various repairs were made.
Stony Point Lighthouse Fresnel Lens
The characteristic of the light was changed on April 28, 1926 to an alternating red and white flash every 10 seconds. A one-second red flash followed by a four-second eclipse. And then a single-second white flash followed by a four-second eclipse.
The lighthouse was originally fueled by whale oil, then upgraded to kerosene, which remained in use until electricity was run to the station in 1938.
Mial E. Eggleston accepted the keeper position at Stony Point on February 15, 1906 and would serve there until his retirement on April 1, 1942. Wiley Koepka, previous keeper of the Galloo Island Lighthouse, was transferred to Stony Point "to guard the property during the emergency created by the war." He was named keeper upon Eggleston's retirement on April 1 and would would serve until the close of the 1946 season.
When the lighthouse was reopened at the beginning of the 1947 navigation season, it had been automated. In 1959, the lighthouse was decommissioned, and the light was shifted to a skeletal tower, which was erected 100 feet closer to the shoreline.
In 1960, the Coast Guard declared the property surplus, and it was sold by the General Services Administration to Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Kotler of Braddock, Pennsylvania.
The Kotler's sold the property in 1964, which included six acres of land, the dwelling with attached lighthouse, a barn, several sheds, and a flag pole to Richard F. Costello of Webster, New York.
During the early dawn hours of June 26, 1968, the Stony Point Lighthouse was destroyed by fire. The Costello Family had been entertaining friends in the barn the previous night until 11:45pm. About 4:45am the next morning, Mrs. Costello noticed the front of the barn on fire, which then spread to the lighthouse and dwelling.
By August of 1975, the lighthouse was up for sale again with an asking price of $75,000. The lighthouse ended up changing ownership a few more times over the years before ending up on the market again in 1998.
The Faust Family from New Jersey purchased the lighthouse for $272,500 in 2002 and planned to use it as a summer home. Sherry Faust said the purchase reminded her of the movie, The Money Pit.
As they started restoration, they ran into many issues. She detailed what they went through in the article "Stony Point Renovation" at Lighthouse Digest. Some of Sherry comments from the article are included below:
"The ceiling in the living room was wavy, but when they took that down, there was a false ceiling, there was another one above it. When they took that one down, it was like 'Oh my...' the main beams had been taken out! Beams that should have not been cut for plumbing. So we knew at that point that everything was going to have to come out. They gutted the whole entire thing."
The Faust's met with architects that came out to the lighthouse and after going through the dwelling determined that it was not structurally sound, though the tower was fine.
To rebuild the dwelling, the entire roof and second floor were torn away. At that point, Sherry noted that the neighbors thought the new owners were tearing the historic lighthouse down and began to worry.
The Faust Family ended up rebuilding the dwelling exactly as it was, with the exception of making the dormers a little bigger and removing the fireplace chimney. However, during the process, they reused as much as possible.
During the restoration, the Fausts had the lantern rewired for electricity and plan to ask the Coast Guard if they would be willing to relight the lighthouse. If their request is declined, the plan to put some sort of light in there so it will no longer be dark.
Although the Fausts use the lighthouse as a summer home, they plan to use it as a year-round residence at some point in the future.
One of the lenses used in the Stony Point Lighthouse is now on display at the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park on the Buffalo Waterfront. While visiting there over the summer of 2014, I noticed a flashing red light coming from a lens.
Upon closer inspection, I spotted a plaque that stated:
Stony Point Light
on Lake Ontario
This 35 MM single
lens was made in France
Note: The lighthouse is private property, please respect the owner's privacy and do not trespass.
- Annual Report of the Light House Board, U.S. Lighthouse Service, Various years.
- Various Government Documents, Federal & State Governments, Various dates.
- "Stony Point Renovation," Bill Edwards, Lighthouse Digest, October 2003.
- "Local Man Buys Lighthouse," Staff, Webster Herald, October 21, 1964.
- "Fire Destroys Old Stony Point Light," Staff, Watertown Daily Times, June 27, 1968.
- "Lightkeeper To Retire," Staff, Oswego Palladium-Times, January 5, 1942.
- "Change Stony Point Light," Staff, Oswego Palladium-Times, May 26, 1926.
Directions: The lighthouse sits off of the Seaway Trail (Route 3) in Henderson Harbor. Follow Military Road(Route 178) west, until Lighthouse Road splits off of it on the left. Follow Lighthouse Road all the way to the end (Watch carefully as it will split off to the right, and it will lie just in front of you. This lighthouse is private property, so please do not tresspass. You can easily take some nice pictures from the road.
Access: The lighthouse is privately owned. Grounds and tower closed.
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