The Barcelona Lighthouse
Originally named the
Portland Harbor Lighthouse, the Barcelona Lighthouse is located approximately 20 miles
west of Dunkirk, New York, on NY Route 5, just north of NY Rt. 394. Now a private
residence, it was one of the earliest lighthouses on the Great Lakes. It was built
in 1829 after Congress appropriated $5,000.
boulders and stones were used to construct the 40-foot high tower and adjacent keeper's
quarters. The quarters boast walls 20-inches thick, and the base of the tower is
22-foot in diameter. It was originally illuminated by eleven patent lamps, each with
a 14-inch reflector fueled by oil. The Barcelona Lighthouse became the first public
building in the United States illuminated by, and is believed to be the only lighthouse in
the world to have been lighted by, natural gas.
entered the gaslight era after the discovery of a nearby "burning spring".
Containing natural hydrogen gas conveyed to the lighthouse through hollowed wooden
pipes, this spring would serve as the main energy source for the light for the next nine
years. When the pipes would occasionally fill with water, it was necessary to use
oil for a short time, until the water subsided. In 1838, the gas well produced only
sporadically, and the lighthouse reverted to oil use exclusively.
Decommissioned in 1859
by the Lighthouse Board when it discovered that Barcelona did not possess a harbor, and
sold at auction in 1872, the tower and dwelling house remain to this day an excellent
example of an early Great Lakes lighthouse. It is currently outfitted with a wooden
framework lantern at the top, to suggest the tower's original function.
Although this light is
now a private residence, it can be easily seen alongside NY Route 5.
Return to the New York State Lighthouse