Photo of the Week



“Our History, Our Heritage, Our People”


Fire Island Lighthouse, by Night, 1906

by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian  

Fire Island Lighthouse by Night, 1906. Postcard by the Illustrated Post Card Co., New York. It was sent to a NYC address on August 14, 1906, with the handwritten note: “Say Dutch, we will have a drink on…Beer Lehr & Beer Lehr.” (Image from the Fire Island Postcard Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives.)

Fire Island Light was an important landmark for transatlantic ships coming into New York Harbor at the turn of the twentieth century. For many European immigrants, the Fire Island Light was their first sight of land upon arrival in America.

The first lighthouse built on Fire Island was completed in 1826–a seventy-four-foot tall octagonal pyramid. This tower was removed, and its stone was used to build the terrace for the present-day lighthouse. In 1857 Congress had approved the funds to build the new 168-foot tall tower, which was lit for the first time on November 1, 1858. It was made of red brick and was painted a creamy yellow color. In 1891, it was painted in the familiar white and black bands.

The Fire Island Lighthouse was decommissioned as an aid to navigation in 1974, and in 1979, the tract was declared by law to be within the boundaries of the Fire Island National Seashore. In 1982, the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society, formed to save the lighthouse, successfully raised over $1.3 million for its restoration and preservation. Two years later, the lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1986, the Fire Island Lighthouse was relit and reinstated as an official aid to navigation. Today the light is lit by two 1000-watt bulbs that rotate in a counter-clockwise direction, giving the appearance of a flash every 7.5 seconds. The light is visible for approximately twenty-four miles.The Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society owns and maintains the lighthouse.

Suggested Readings: Carole Perrault, Fire Island Lighthouse and Keeper’s Dwelling (National Park Service, 1993); Harlan Hamilton, Lights and Legends (Wescott Cove Pub., 1987); Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society site (


Beyond the Gates: See the exhibit in our Gish Gallery beginning Weds., Feb. 2, during normal operating hours.



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Suffolk County Historical Society
300 West Main St.
Riverhead, NY 11901



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