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The Fire Island Lighthouse stands just to the east of Robert Moses State Park. At the Robert Moses water tower, go east to Parking Lot #5. There is sometimes a parking fee; traffic can be heavy during summer beach season. Park on the east side of the parking field and walk along the boardwalk to the lighthouse. The tower was built in 1858 to replace a shorter lighthouse nearby that dated to 1826. Next door is the light-keeper's house from 1859. In 1974, the light station was decommissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard. A voluntary effort raised over a million dollars to save and restore the lighthouse, and the Coast Guard returned the tower to active duty in 1986. The light station is within the Fire Island National Seashore, administered by the National Park Service. The Coast Guard signed over operation of the lighthouse to the Fire Island Preservation Society in 2006. The Fire Island lighthouse, at 168 feet, is the tallest of Long Island's 20+ lighthouses!

Oct. 1979 photo of Fire Island Light Station for NRHP, looking NNW (Neal R. Bullington)

Lighthouse, Plant, Building, Sky

Close-up view of Fire Island Lighthouse in Dec. 1978, looking E (Bullington)

Lighthouse, Sky, Tower, White

The first lighthouse on the island was built in 1826 at what was then the western tip of the island; its foundation is around 200 yards southwest of the current lighthouse. The Fire Island light is between lighthouses at Sandy Hook to the west and Montauk Point Light to the east. There is a shoal about a mile offshore from Fire Island that has been the cause of many shipwrecks. A new lighthouse tower was built in 1858 of brick. Due to littoral drift - the migration of sand to the west end of the island - the newer lighthouse is about six miles east of the island's western end. The new tower was constructed 80 feet taller than its predecessor; it measures 140 feet from foot to the granite cornice, with another 24 feet in height to include the watch room and the lantern. The tower is 32 feet wide at the base and 15 feet wide at the top. There is a hollow central column of cast iron. The red brick was coated with a cement wash by 1876, making it appear cream-colored. A new paint job in 1891 with Black asphalt paint overpainted in white created a Black and white striped pattern. In 1912, the tower was coated in reinforced concrete and the Black and white stripes were recreated; the original Doric column details were obscured by the new finish.

The First Order Fresnel lens that was used in the lighthouse from 1858 to 1933 was more powerful than the 1826 lens and is on display in the Lens building, adjoining the tower. Its beacon was visible for about 22 nautical miles. To light the beacon, whale oil was burned until 1867; lard oil was used until 1884; mineral oil (kerosene) up to 1907; incandescent oil vopor until 1939; and finally, electricity. Oil was stored in the adjacent keeper's house, built in 1859. Both structures are built on a platform; the 15-foot tall platform is faced with stone from the original lighthouse and keeper's house. A covered passage used to connect the tower to the house. By the early 1980s, the two-story keeper's house was divided into two apartments and contained 13 rooms. A telegraphic branch of Western Union was installed in 1878, and a telephone was added in 1898.

On a clear day, the New York City skyline is visible from atop the lighthouse, after you climb 156 cast iron steps! The preservation society is currently restoring the steps - see the website for their Adopt A Step program. There are exhibits in the keeper's quarters on the history of the light station. You also can walk to a boathouse to view a surf boat and lifesaving equipment of the U.S. Lifesaving Service.

The Fire Island Lighthouse was preserved due to a local effort, the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society. Admission to the lighthouse tower tour costs $10 for adults and $5 for seniors, veterans, and children age 12 and under. The museum in the keeper's quarters and a gift shop is open for free year-round during normal operating hours. Children must be at leat 42 inches tall to tour the lighthouse tower.

Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society. Home, Fire Island Lighthouse. May 22nd 2021. Accessed May 22nd 2021.

Kesselman, Steven. NRHP Nomination of Fire Island Light Station. National Register. Washington , DC. National Park Service, 1981.

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