Digest>Archives> Nov/Dec 2013

Coffee Pot Lighthouse Sold


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This old image of Orient Point Lighthouse was ...

With the federal government’s sale at auction of New York’s historic 1899 Orient Point Lighthouse for $252,000.00, another slice of America’s maritime history has fallen into private ownership.

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Close-up view of Orient Point Lighthouse in 1945 ...

Years ago, because of its appearance, the Orient Point Lighthouse was the first of the spark plug looking lighthouses to be referred to as a “Coffee Pot” lighthouse, something that many of the younger generation might have trouble relating with.

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As shown here, Orient Point Lighthouse suffered ...

In 1971 when the Coast Guard announced that a U.S. Navy team was going to blow up the Orient Point Lighthouse in a demolition exercise, a furious and tremendous public outcry put an immediate stop to it. So, by 1974 the Coast Guard hired the firm of Chesterfield Associates to make structural and other repairs to the lighthouse. At that time they also removed the heavy duty davit and the rusted out canopy over the lower outer deck, which totally altered the look of the lighthouse, forever taking away its coffee pot appearance.

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Orient Point Lighthouse as it appeared during its ...
Photo by: Eleanor M. Tremblay

On July 31, 1999, to celebrate the 200 years of service of the Orient Point Lighthouse, the East End Seaport and Marine Foundation, supported by the United States Coast Guard, placed a giant five-foot high banner around the lighthouse that stated, “100 Years – 1899-1999.” The festivities included VIP transportation to the lighthouse on the Coast Guard’s buoy tender, Katherine Walker, named after the famous lighthouse keeper of Robbins Reef Lighthouse. The celebration festivities also included a gun salute by the Groton Saluting Battery, a Coast Guard fire boat demonstration, an observation boat trip, limited access to the lighthouse, and a commemorative luncheon.

But, just a few years later no one seemed to care any longer about the lighthouse, which soon again fell into disrepair. The Coast Guard did some repairs in 2000, but it was finally declared excess property. In spite of all the speeches, publicity, and talks of about of opening the lighthouse to the public at its 200th anniversary celebration, when the federal government offered to give the lighthouse for free to any qualified nonprofit or other government entity, none came forward. All of them remained silent. The public outcry that saved the lighthouse from demolition in the 1970s was gone, with many of those voices having passed on. The next generation simply didn’t care or assumed someone else would step forward.

So in 2012, with little or no fanfare, the lighthouse was auctioned off for $120,000, but the buyer failed to close on the sale, forfeiting his deposit. Again this year, the government again put the lighthouse up for auction and this time it sold for $252,000.

If he were alive today, we wonder what Ole Nicholas Alfred Anderson, the first keeper of Orient Point Lighthouse, who served there from November 1, 1899 to September 1, 1901, would have to say about this. Interestingly, when Anderson left Orient Point Lighthouse, he became the keeper of the Bridgeport Harbor Lighthouse in Bridgeport, Connecticut, a lighthouse that no longer stands. He later served for many years as the keeper of the Twin Lights of Navesink in Highlands, New Jersey, where if he were alive today, he would be proud of the legacy that he left at the lighthouse which is now a first class museum site.

This story appeared in the Nov/Dec 2013 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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