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Although no longer serving as a navigational aide, the Buffalo Main Light remains one of Buffalo's most iconic landmarks. It was built in 1833 and is the oldest structure in the city still standing on its original site. It is located in Buffalo Lighthouse Park, which is adjacent to a U.S. Coast Guard station at the mouth of the Buffalo River. The park includes several historical markers, an anchor, a buoy, a fog bell, and the North Breakwater Bottle Light, which resembles a bottle and was moved here in 1985. The park is open seasonally and visitors can reach the light walking on a path from the end of Fuhrmann Boulevard. The light is octagonal in shape and built with limestone and cast iron. It reaches a height of 60 feet and rests on a stone molehead base. The lantern is ten-sided and is made of iron, brass, and copper. The light was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

The Buffalo Main Light is the oldest structure in the city still standing on its original site. It was built in 1833 and is located in Buffalo Lighthouse Park.

Sky, Lighthouse, Cloud, Building

This interpretive panel shows a map of the city's lighthouses including Buffalo Main Light.

Map, World, Font, Tree

Although plans for constructing a lighthouse in the Buffalo area went into place as early as 1811, this particular structure was not built until over two decades later. The reasoning was partially due to the War of 1812; with British soldiers closing into the continent from Lakes Erie and Ontario, building a lighthouse was understandably not highest on citizens' list of priorities. At the end of the war, an earlier version of this lighthouse was built but by the mid-1820s was considered difficult to see from its position. The population in Buffalo increased significantly and as a result the amount of smoke generated from the city obscured it. The current one was designed, funded, and scheduled to be constructed by 1829. It was several years late, but it was finally completed in 1833.

Over the years, the light has undergone numerous upgrades, from having its outer walls repainted to receiving new and improved types of lenses. In 1852, it was one of twenty selected to be outfitted with a third-order Fresnel lens but that wasn't installed until 1856. The work included building an additional story of casement windows and the present lantern structure, which was needed to fit the lens which was bigger than the previous one. In 1868 a 2,500-foot breakwater was built in the harbor. Four years later, a new breakwater light was built, which decreased the need for the Buffalo Main Light. In 1914 it was finally was deactivated. The lens was removed and installed in the North Buffalo Breakwater Bottle Light, which had become the city's primary lighthouse.

The U.S. Coast Guard used the Buffalo Main Light for storage and in the 1950s planned to tear it down as part of a plan to widen the mouth of the river. Locals resisted the demolition, however, and started a campaign to save it. It was restored in 1962. The third-order Fresnel lens used in the light is now on display at the Buffalo History Museum.

The Buffalo Lighthouse Association was established in 1985 to preserve and restore the light. In 1987, the fourth-order Fresnel lens that was housed in the South Buffalo Lighthouse was installed (and lightly lit). Visitors were allowed to see the light up close until the September 11th attacks in 2001 when the grounds were closed to the public. In 2011, after several years of planning, the Coast Guard relinquished several acres to establish the park. In 2013, the fourth-order Fresnel lens was in poor shape and removed and a replica third-order lens was installed in its place. It is lit but is not meant to aid navigation.

"The 1833 Buffalo Lighthouse." The Historical Marker Database. Accessed June 27, 2022.

"Buffalo Main Light (1833)." Buffalo Lighthouse Association. Accessed June 27, 2022.

"The "Buffalo Lighthouse." The Buffalo News. August 23, 1998. Last Updated July 23, 2020.

"Buffalo Lighthouse Park." Buffalo Rising. October 4, 2016.

"Buffalo Main Lighthouse." US Lighthouse. Accessed June 27, 2022.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

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The Historical Marker Database: