Posted/Updated by Bryan Penberthy on 2015-09-12.
By the late 1800s, there were a several lighthouses on the southern shore of Lake Ontario between the Niagara and Genesee Rivers, a span of over 82 miles. In 1896, the Lighthouse Board established the Braddock Point Lighthouse to be a major coast light, guiding ships looking for the Rochester Harbor, or those heading west to the Welland Canal.
The first mention of the Braddock Point Lighthouse appears in the 1889 Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board. The entry stated:
Braddock's Point, Lake Ontario, New York - While there are several small lights between Thirty-Mile Point light and Oswego light, there is no light of any importance in this stretch of about 100 miles which can be used by vessels going up or down the lake as a coast light. For some time efforts have been made by navigators to accomplish the establishment of an additional light of such height and brilliancy that it can be used as a point of departure. It is therefore recommended that a third-order light-station be established between Genesee and Oak Orchard light-stations somewhere in the vicinity of Braddock's Point, at an estimated cost of $20,000.
The following year, the Lighthouse Board reiterated the request, and updated it to include the addition of a steam fog signal and upped the estimated cost to $24,300. The establishment of the station was authorized by an act of September 29, 1890, but no appropriation was made at that time.
Congress finally appropriated $20,000 on March 3, 1891. A visit to the location allowed a site to be selected. The position selected was actually west of Braddock Bay on Bogus Point, so called as it was a drop-off point for counterfeit smugglers from Canada.
After filling out the paperwork and having all legal documents filed, the federal government, had taken possession of the property. Despite the cessation of jurisdiction over the site being asked for, it had not yet been granted by the State of New York. The Lighthouse Board had to wait until December of 1891 legislative session to approve the cessation.
Cessation of jurisdiction was received in May of 1992. By the end of 1893, the site was surveyed, boundaries were marked, the location was selected, and designs for the tower and dwellings were being prepared by Lt. Col. Jared A. Smith of the Army Corps. Of Engineers.
A contract calling for the construction of the keeper's dwelling, tower, and shed had been signed on June 25, 1895 and allowed the contractor nine months to finish the work. The Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board for 1896 had the following entry:
1202. Braddock Point, Lake Ontario, New York - The keeper's dwelling, tower, and woodshed were completed. A brick barn being built is to be completed in August, 1896. Metal work for an iron oil house was furnished by contract. The grounds were graded and sodded and walks and driveways were made. A fence was built on the south boundary line and along the public highway on the west or front of the lot, and a 5 5⁄8-inch well was drilled 105 feet (93 feet in solid rock.) The three and one-half order lens recently used at the Cleveland (Ohio) main light-station, now discontinued, was placed in the tower lantern. The station will be ready for lighting by the middle of August, 1896.
The Cleveland Main Lighthouse was discontinued on September 15, 1893 and then damaged by a fire several years afterwards. The dwelling was still used for the keepers of the breakwater lighthouses, however, it wasn't ideal as it afforded no views and was quite distant from them. The Lighthouse Board had recommended the construction of a new dwelling at for the breakwater keepers and sale of the old Cleveland Main Lighthouse.
As such, they authorized the removal and reuse of several key components of the tower, including the lantern, iron staircase, iron window frames and sashes, and finished stone of the upper portion of the tower. Items that were installed in the Braddock Point Lighthouse.
The light at the Braddock Point Lighthouse, when completed, was the tallest lighthouse on Lake Ontario, at 97 feet. The light was first exhibited on the night of August 17, 1896. By the end of the year, the brick barn and a square iron oil house were completed.
In 1899, the 180° 3 ½ order Fresnel lens from the Cleveland Main Lighthouse was removed. It was substituted with a 270° 3 ½ order Fresnel lens, making it visible from all points of approach from the lake.
The following year, some landscaping was performed. This work included bringing in some 140 loads of dirt to level the grounds, thus allowing the area to be graded and seeded. Additionally, some 720 square feet of brick walks were built to connect the buildings.
1896 Braddock Point Lighthouse
By 1902, the lantern had developed a leak and required extensive work to repair it. The Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board had the following entry detailing the work carried out:
71. Braddock Point, Lake Ontario, New York - To stop leaks in the tower it became necessary to remove and replace the entire lantern, lantern deck, parapet gallery deck and rails, and all connecting iron-work. All the ironwork was cleaned and repainted, and all joints were bedded in cement made of red and white lead. The 3½ order lens light was discontinued while the tower was being repaired, from May 8 to June 30, 1902, during which time a lens-lantern light was exhibited from the northern face of top of the tower. Various repairs were made.
In 1905, some 175 running feet of woven-wire fence were erected along the westerly boundary line of the lighthouse lot. A little over a decade later, in 1916, the old brick face of the tower was removed and replaced with a new brick face at a cost of $1,974.
To increase the intensity of the light, the Braddock Point Lighthouse was changed from an oil-wick lamp to a more efficient and brighter incandescent oil vapor lamp during the 1915 season. The light was electrified in 1926, replacing the oil vapor lamp.
The lighthouse was automated in 1947 when keeper Claude Jacox retired, having served Braddock Point for 12 years. Although the lighthouse was automated, the Coast Guard still had a member, Robert Millar, stationed in the dwelling to take care of the property.
When Robert Millar left the Braddock Point Lighthouse in 1950 for another assignment, a "NO TRESPASSING" sign was put up. It did little as vandals took over, breaking into the property, using the station as a duck blind, and wreaking havoc on the dwelling. Some places inside the dwelling were knee-deep in plaster and broken glass.
Although the lantern was removed in 1902 and many repairs were carried out, one can't help but question if the tower was correctly repaired. By the early 1950s, the tower had many cracks and fissures, some running nearly the full length of the tower.
As the cracks were a major safety issue, the Coast Guard placed a work order in late 1953 to have the top 84 feet of the tower removed. The final day the light was exhibited from the tower was January 1, 1954. A few months later, a 50-foot steel skeleton tower with an automatic beacon was established nearby, and a portion of the tower was torn down.
As it was no longer needed by the Coast Guard, the entire property was put up for auction by the General Services Administration in 1956. Walter and Kay Stone placed a bid of $14,500 on the property in April 1957, which was accepted. Though they originally planned to use it as a summer home, upon seeing the exceptional architecture and beauty, decided to do a full scale restoration.
After the purchase, Mr. Stone stated "We knew that there was a lot of work involved, but we never thought it would involve a lifetime." Over the years, they replaced the roof, the electrical, the plumbing, and changed over the heating from oil to gas.
After living in the lighthouse for nearly thirty years, to be closer to their grandchildren, the Stones placed the house on the market in 1985. By February 1986, the property was sold to Robert and Barbara Thulin.
After living in the lighthouse for two years, the couple, using original Coast Guard blueprints, undertook a meticulous renovation lasting eight years. Their restoration included rebuilding a portion of the tower and adding a faux lantern. On February 28, 1998, the lighthouse was lit once again, and added as an aid to navigation.
After living at the property for nearly two decades, the Thulins placed the 3,000-square-foot keeper's dwelling, tower, 1,800-square-foot carriage house with six-car attached garage, all sitting on a little more than one acre for sale in 2006.
Originally asking $1.9 million, after a few months, the property was reduced to $1.5 million. Don Town, a B&B owner in Florida, while doing a web search for "old homes that were for sale," came across the property and was immediately interested.
After traveling to the Hilton, New York, Don and Nandy Town purchased the property in 2009. The Town's short term plans were to put together several open houses, and gather history and old photos of the lighthouse. Their long term goal was to use it as a bed and breakfast, which approval for was negotiated in the purchase.
In March of 2015, the Towns put the property on the market. Having owned the lighthouse since 2009 and spending nearly $1.5 million over the years to restore the property to its Victorian roots, they are ready to move on to another venture. "No corners have been cut," Don Town was quoted when speaking of the restoration.
While the bed and breakfast is up for sale, the Towns will continue to operate it until it sells. So book your overnight stay in the Victorian era mansion that is the Braddock Point Bed and Breakfast where you can walk up the steps to the lantern, and imagine yourself tending the light.
Note: The lighthouse is private property, please respect this and do not trespass.
Directions: Take Lake Ontario State Parkway to Lighthouse Drive, then a right onto Clearview Ave. When photographing, please take into account that this is a private residence and DO NOT TRESPASS.
There is a small sign designating a park just before the lighthouse. The park is called Bogus Point Park. See this sign. There is a small strip of land that goes between two houses all the way to the lake. This area will allow you to get good shots of the lighthouse from the lake. As the area is parkland, it is open to the public.
Access: The lighthouse and grounds are privately owned. If you would like to stay at the lighthouse, you can book an overnight stay at http://braddockpointlighthouse.com.View more Braddock Point Lighthouse pictures