30-Mile Point Lighthouse was built in 1875 and was lit for the first time on April 27, 1876. The lighthouse was built to protect ships on Lake Ontario from a shallow sandbar the extended from 30-Mile Point. A number of historic shipwrecks occurred not far from here before the lighthouse was constructed. The United States Lighthouse Service operated the lighthouse until July 1, 1939, when the United States Coast Guard took over the administration of America's lighthouses.
This third-order fresnel lens magnified a simple lard oil or kerosene flame bright enough that it could be seen up to 16 miles away on a clear night. The one-ton lens stood six feet tall. A system of counterweights and cables, much like those in a grandfather clock, slowly rotated the lens, making the light flash periodically.
In the early 1930s, municipal electricity was extended to 30-Mile Point. The tower's kerosene burner was replaced by a 500-watt lightbulb pictured here. The frenel lens continued to magnify the light.
Lighthouse keeper Glenn Seeley stands on the porch in his keeper's uniform ca. 1903. The keeper's most important duty was ensuring that the light remained lit. The keeper and his assistant alternated 24-hour shifts, checking the light every three hours and making a weather log every four hours. Other duties included winding the lens's clockwork mechanism, filing the oil reservoir, trimming the light's wick, and polishing the lens.
30-Mile Point is the northernmost point of Lake Ontario's south shore, making it an important landmark when navigating the lake. All lighthouses had a characteristic that allowed seaman to identify them. The characteristic included the light's color, the frequency on its flash if it has one, and any fog signal that the lighthouse might have. Map modified from a larger map of the 10th Lighthouse District, in the 1894 Annual Report of the Light-House Board Annual Report. Courtesy of the New York State Library.
30-Mile Point lighthouse as it appeared from the lake in 1986. Photograph by Lorraine Wayner, Town of Somerset Historian.