Digest>Archives> Jan/Feb 2005

Rebuilding the Past

By Bill Edwards


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Probably one of the last photographs taken of the ...

The original Oak Orchard Harbor Lighthouse in Point Breeze, New York, stood on the west side of the Oak Orchard River, along with the lightkeeper's house, between 1871 and 1916. The keeper's house, now a private residence, remains intact on Archbald Road on Lake Ontario.

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Postcard image of Oak Orchard Harbor Lighthouse ...

In 1867, a grant of $87,000 was made to the port. Two piers, each 1600 feet in length, along with the lighthouse, keeper's house, and an elevated walk over one of the piers to the light, were constructed by 1871. Once completed, this structure was recorded as U.S. Light List Number 2365, and its light was visible for nine miles.

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Leisurely boating at Oak Orchard Harbor circa ...

The square pyramidal lighthouse rested on the north end of the west pier, stood over 32 feet tall, and was constructed of wood with the lantern made of iron. Wooden ship ladder steps led to the landing, which housed the light. The first floor of the lighthouse was fitted with a locker, a closet with hooks and shelves, and a worktable. The second floor housed the lantern, with two lockers and a bunk.

The piers were maintained until 1905 when they were abandoned by the U.S. government. During a storm in 1914, a large hole was washed through the west pier. Another storm in December of 1916 swept away the lighthouse and what had remained of the piers.

The Oak Orchard Harbor Light Committee was formed in 2003 as part of the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce. Their goal is to rebuild the Oak Orchard Harbor Lighthouse.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation has given the committee the go-ahead to reconstruct the lighthouse on the east side of the river at the mouth of the harbor, on state-owned land that is now leased by the county.

The organization has also jumped the first hurdle in becoming a chartered museum under the NYS Education Department. The Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York has just recently voted to grant a provisional charter to the Oak Orchard Lighthouse Museum. The purpose of the museum would be to rebuild and maintain a historically correct lighthouse and establish and maintain a collection relating to the rich maritime and local history of the area, as well as conducting educational program for the public.

The group will strive for historical integrity in reconstructing the building. Although present plans do not call for its light to be used

as a navigational aid due to the cost and paperwork involved, they will try to maintain most other aspects of its construction as are currently known.

The grassroots community effort is relying solely on its volunteers, fundraising revenue, and donations from the public for all phases of this project.

For more information, you may write to: The Oak Orchard

Harbor Light Committee, P.O. Box 436, Albion, NY 14411. On the web at: www.oakorchardlighthouse.com. You may also contact Chairperson Peg Wiley directly at (585) 682-4552 and e-mail to: boating1@rochester.rr.com.

This story appeared in the Jan/Feb 2005 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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