Fire Island Lighthouse
The Fire Island Lighthouse is the most iconic and historically significant Fire Island landmark. It was often the first sign of arrival to America that European immigrants saw when traveling via transatlantic ships in the 19th Century, making it a very potent symbol of Long Island’s maritime heritage. The lighthouse was originally built in 1857 to replace one constructed a few decades prior that had been deemed ineffective in adequately preventing shipwrecks due to its lack of height at only 74 feet. The present Fire Island Lighthouse is 168 feet tall. In 1891 its signature black and white “day-mark” bands where applied.
In 1973 an unmanned strobe light was placed on the nearby Robert Moses State Park water tower and the Fire Island Lighthouse was officially decommissioned on December 31st of that year. By 1981 the lighthouse was in such a state of disrepair that demolition was being considered. However devoted citizens both on Fire Island and the mainland rallied to save it and formed the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society.
Among the people’s arguments to keep the lighthouse standing was the fact that the water tower strobe failed to illuminate the Great South Bay as well as the ocean. The Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society successfully entered the Fire Island Lighthouse on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 and the beacon was relit in 1986.
Today the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society remains very active. With a public museum where the Keeper’s quarters once were and an observatory that offers breathtaking bird’s eye vistas, Fire Island Lighthouse is now the most visited lighthouse in the United States.
In 2011 the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society completed construction of the “Fresnel Lens” building: A replica of the generator building that once stood on the grounds to house the magnificent lens that stood atop the lighthouse between the year 1858 – 1933. This lens had been exhibited at the Franklin Museum in Philadelphia for many years and is now back home.