Montauk Point Lighthouse
Montauk, New York
- Site Established: 1792
- Current Bldg. Erected: 1796
- Height of Light Structure: 110.5 ft.
- Focal Plane of Light: 168 ft.
- Active: Yes
- Lens: VRB-25
- Beacon Visibility: 19 Nautical Miles
- Information: 631-668-2544
Historic Significance Score: 5
Native Americans were definitely accustomed to the beauty of the eastern most point of Long Island as the name Montauk came from their translation meaning “Hilly Country”. Historians establish that Native Americans occupied this point 3,000 years before the first European settlers.
Turtle Hill, the hill upon which the future lighthouse would sit, was used by Native Americans as a lookout point where they would build watch fires to guide their canoes safely home.
The heritage of the location wasn’t lost on the British troops who kept the signal fires going for their vessels all through the American Revolution.
The Montauk Lighthouse was authorized by the Second Congress, and commissioned by the signature of George Washington who predicted the light would stand for 200 years. John McComb, the extremely skilled architect who would build this great beacon as well as the Cape Henry and Eaton’s Neck Lights, made Washington’s words a reality. The project took close to four years to complete.
The lighthouse has seen some naval tragedies. The captain of the vessel the John Milton mistook the Montauk Lighthouse for the then existing Shinnecock Light in February of 1858, and ran his vessel aground killing all 33 aboard.
Within the 4 years of WWII, Nazi subs sank 4 Allied vessels off the coast on Montauk.
Montauk is the fourth oldest active light in America, and this 18th century light also served as the first viewable symbol of the new world to millions of European immigrants who were headed to New York Harbor. It stood even prior to the Statute of Liberty (which was built in1886).
Long Island poet Walt Whitman penned the poem From Montauk Point at Montauk Lighthouse in 1888.
The Montauk Historical Society took over the lighthouse’s maintenance in 1986 and has done a 5 star job preserving this beautiful light for posterity.
Majesty Score: 5
Perched high upon Turtle Hill the Montauk Lighthouse receives a 5 for majesty! When looking at the lighthouse high upon the hill from the lower parking lot, the biblical phrase the “shinning city on the hill” comes to mind. (see right) The lighthouse’s location out on the point really underscores its majesty and highlights it as a protector to all.
Water View Score: 5
Surrounded by ocean on three sides, the Montauk Lighthouse has one of the best water views of any lighthouse on the East Coast of America. The waves crash against three sides of the lighthouse which is protected by a surrounding rock barrier which protects the lighthouse’s perch from the erosion of the punishing ocean. This rock formation was designed with a flat sidewalk-like section that allows visitors to walk completely around the peripheral of the lighthouse and experience the power and beauty of the ocean.
A visitors’ center, gift shop and small snack bar one block north of the lighthouse has a detailed map of the water view that will easily point out the distant viewable land masses of Block Island and Connecticut that can be seen on a clear day.
Preservation Score: 5
John McCombs was such a gifted architect that his work needed no renovation until 1860, at which time the tower height was raised.
In 1998, a major renovation was undertook to preserve the lighthouse. A bronze wall plaque inside the keeper’s house will show you that it was supported by major east end money as the names of Steven Spielberg and Billy Joel are listed.
Surrounding Area Score: 5
A story that confirms the beauty of Montauk is that millionaire real estate tycoon Carl Fisher in the 1920’s fell so in love with the area that he was determined to mirror the success he had in developing Miami Beach and make Montauk into the Miami Beach of the north.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, the stock market crash came in 1929, and his dreams were snuffed out but reminiscences of his dream are still tangible as Montauk Manor gives testament to Fisher’s work.
Many wealthy, present day celebrities who can choose anywhere in the world to have their summer homes confirm Fisher’s opinion of this east end area of Long Island as awe-inspiring beautiful as the afore mentioned Steven Spielberg joins singer Paul Simon, Jerry Seinfield, Sting, Alan Alda and countless others as East End residents.
When driving through the quaint towns of the Hamptons and the scenery out to Montauk Point, this opinion of scenic beauty will be reinforced many times over. One warning: There is only one major road out to the Hamptons and Montauk (Route 27). It is a single lane road after you reach the Hamptons that one should avoid eastbound on Friday night or Westbound on Sunday night during the summer months.
There is also a fantastic harbor area in Montauk, where restaurants are plentiful and you can watch the casual boaters and fishing boats come in at 6 PM while enjoying dinner. There are a few beautiful parks as well and Montauk Downs for golfers.
Today, Montauk is one of the most beautiful places in America. The vegetation and scenic overviews drew internal comparison thoughts to Bermuda, less the teal water.
Accessibility Score: 5
The Montauk Historical Society has done a incredible job with this lighthouse!
The keeper’s house is a museum and the tower is open for climbing, Climb the 137 steps in all to a beautiful awe-inspiring Atlantic Ocean view. (see below) There are 8 rooms in the museum you can tour and the lighthouse is open daily from mid-May until early October. There are admission and parking fees, please consult the below link.
Beacon Score: 3
The current lighthouse has a VRB-25 beacon that flashes every 5 seconds. The lighthouse museum has a 3.5 order Fresnel bivalve lens that was removed from the tower in 1987. Montauk Point Lighthouse actually utilized whale oil to light its tower lantern for more than the first 50 years of its existence.