Oakland Harbor: First to be Sold at Auction
California’s first Oakland Harbor Lighthouse, a structure built on stilts, was lighted on January 27, 1890. When underwater worms began eating the wood stilts, the government brought in rocks to prop up the stilts. However, it was soon realized that effort was fruitless, so a new lighthouse was built nearby that was first lighted on July 11, 1903. The old beacon went dark and sat empty until the government declared it a hazard to navigation. In February 1905, the government held an auction to get rid of the old lighthouse with the stipulation that the winner was required to demolish the structure and leave no trace that it was ever there. The 1890 Oakland Harbor Lighthouse thus became the first offshore lighthouse in the United States to ever be sold at auction. A local newspaper wrote, “The passing of the old light will be a source of regret to all lovers of the bay.”
Winter’s Ice and Sleigh at a Lost Lighthouse
A horse-drawn work sleigh is shown here traveling over the frozen waters Lake Ontario with the long lost, and forgotten by most, Oswego Inner Lighthouse in the background. However, we don’t know what the photograph was taken for, or the year when the photo might have been taken. The Oswego Inner Lighthouse was dismantled in 1929. Research shows that Lake Ontario froze over in the winters of 1873/1874, 1892/1893, and 1911/1912, so the photo could date from any of those three times in history. The next question would be: what had the work sleigh been carrying at the time, or what was it on its way to transport? If any of our readers can help solve this lighthouse history mystery, we’d love to hear from you.
Dog Island Destroyed by Hurricane
Located in northwest Florida in the Gulf of Mexico near Apalachicola, the Dog Island Light Station, established in 1839, seemed to be a doomed location from the very start. The first tower, a 50-foot-tall, brick tower was so badly damaged by a storm in 1842 that it was replaced in 1843 by a 40-foot-tall, wooden tower that was destroyed in an 1851 hurricane. That same year, it was replaced by the 40-foot-tall, brick tower shown here. Unfortunately, a storm in 1872 undermined the base of the tower so much that it was feared that it would topple over. So, the government removed the lens and the lantern and placed it on top of the keeper’s dwelling, until Congress would approve funds for a new tower to be built. However, on September 18, 1873, another hurricane struck the area again, and both the tower and keeper’s house were destroyed. Amazingly, the keeper and his family survived, but a newspaper reported that the high wind had ripped all the clothing off the keeper’s wife, leaving her totally naked. Although Congress approved money for a new lighthouse, it was decided that there was no longer enough commerce to warrant a new structure at the site, and instead, they opted for a new 100-foot-tall, iron lighthouse to be built in Carrabelle, Florida.
Female Keeper Killed at Choctaw Point Lighthouse
The Choctaw Lighthouse was built in 1831 at Choctaw Pass in the Gulf of Mexico about two miles from Mobile, Alabama. In its short life, the conical, brick tower only had four lighthouse keepers, two of whom were women.This artist rendition of Alabama’s Choctaw Point Lighthouse was published in Ballou’s Pictorial Drawing Room Companion of Boston, Massachusetts. The newspaper-style magazine was published from 1851 to 1859 to specifically help Americans learn about various parts of the nation, focusing heavily on historical sites. The magazine described the locality of the lighthouse as “quite picturesque,” however, “the tide would often flow over the Point leaving large amounts of driftwood.” In 1842, when lighthouse keeper Anthony P. Philbert died, the government appointed his wife, Carmelite, as his replacement. She was on duty in 1852 when a hurricane caused rushing water to strike the light station, heavily damaging it. Although the keeper’s house and tower survived the storm, lighthouse keeper Carmelite Philbert did not. Elizabeth Michold was the last keeper to serve at Choctaw Point Lighthouse. She was on duty on November 3, 1862 when the Confederates did what the storms and tides could not, and the lighthouse was destroyed. It was never rebuilt. The site was later used as a buoy depot, and for railroad wharves, but no trace of the lighthouse exists today.
Keeper Lost His Life at New Haven
The New Haven Outer Breakwater Lighthouse, built in 1899, was originally name the Sperry Lighthouse after Congressman Nathaniel Sperry, who was responsible for much of the development of Connecticut’s New Haven Harbor. Its name was changed in 1912. On January 8, 1907 after dropping a workman on shore, Samuel A. Armour, who had been the keeper since 1902, made a fateful decision to attempt to get back to the lighthouse in the station’s small boat. Despite howling winds and raging seas, keeper Armour decided to make the trip back to the lighthouse because his assistant keeper was in the hospital, and his wife, Rose, was alone at the lighthouse. It was a decision that he never should have made. He never made it back and his body was never recovered. Armour was replaced by William L. Tutty, who was promoted and transferred from assistant keeper at the nearby Southwest Ledge Lighthouse. Tutty must have liked the job, because he served as the keeper of the New Haven Outer Breakwater Lighthouse for the next thirteen years. Around 1930, it was discovered that the foundation of the tower was severally compromised. In the interest of safety, the light was moved to a skeletal, automated tower built near the lighthouse. In 1933, the tower was sold to a private individual who dismantled it, presumably to sell it for scrap metal. The New Haven Outer Breakwater Lighthouse is shown here with the skeletal tower that replaced it.
The Lost Pierhead Lighthouses of Dunkirk
As far back as 1828, a light of some kind has been at the end of the pier on Lake Erie in Dunkirk, New York. The pier lights were always cared for by the keeper of the Dunkirk Lighthouse that is on the shore. Today, the pier is marked by a nondescript cylindrical aid to navigation.
This story appeared in the
Jan/Feb 2023 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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