Tall and proud, Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse towers over Lake Ontario's shoreline. Its colorful history begins with a shoal and an elusive sandbar that once existed thirty miles east of the Niagara River. At least four ships have sunk in these treacherous waters, the first belonging to the French explorer LaSalle, in 1678. In 1780, the H.M.S. Ontario met its fate in a Halloween blizzard. It carried 88 passengers and an army payroll estimated at more that $15,000 in gold and silver. Debris washed ashore the following day but no survivors or gold were ever found. The Mary, loaded with merchandise for the Niagara region, sank in 1817. In 1834, a local farmer searching for his cows near the mouth of Golden Hill Creek reported seeing men disembark from a ship, row up the creek a short distance and unearth a chest from the creek bank. Frightened, the farmer stood helplessly by as they silently spirited the chest away. Treasure hunters believe the story and continue to dig along the creek.
From the Pier
Is this why this section of Niagara County's Town of Somerset is called "Golden Hill"? Actually, it is more likely that the true story tells of a one-acre island covered with goldenrod blooms that once existed at the mouth of the creek. Long since eroded away, its "golden" appearance may have suggested the name. Maps of the early 19th century bear the name "Golden Hill" - perhaps so named by French explorers.
Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse was built in 1875 at a cost of $90,000. The stone for its 70 foot tower and attached keepers quarters was imported from Chaumont Bay at the eastern end of Lake Ontario.
The Third Order Fresnel Lens was housed in the lantern room. This six-sided lens was so powerful that it magnified a kerosene flame to more than 600,000 candlepower. Its beacon was visible for eighteen miles. A precision clockwork movement of counterweights turns the lens which originally cost $3,300. In later years the clockwork was electrified and a 500 watt bulb replaced the kerosene lamp.
Over the years, the
lighthouse was staffed by brave and hard working keepers and their families.
From 1875-1935, these personnel served under the jurisdiction of the U.S.
Lighthouse Service which, in turn, reported to the U.S. Congress. In 1935,
the Coast Guard took over responsibility; increased the size of the keepers
house for two families, added a foghorn building and operated the lighthouse in
a military manner.
In 1958, the Coast Guard removed the lens and decommissioned the light. A steel tower with an automatic beacon replaced the light in the lantern room. In 1984, the United States turned over the lighthouse, the surrounding property and associated buildings to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The lighthouse was soon entered upon the National and NYS Registry of Historic Places.In recent years, Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse has enjoyed a rebirth under the stewardship of the New York State Parks System. In 1994, the NYSOPRHP received a grant provided by the Environmental Quality Bond Act of 1986. These funds were used to restore the lighthouse roof to slate and purchase a new furnace for the building. The Golden Hill State Park Staff has spent many hours replacing windows and storms, painting the exterior trim and refinishing the beautiful oak floors and entry doors. In 1997, wiring was replaced in the building and emergency lights added.
|The horse stables and barn, constructed at the same time as the lighthouse. Inside the barn were horse stalls and ample storage for the straw and feed. The horses and carriage provided contact with the outside world and were an important part of life at the lighthouse.|
These improvements, along with a national resurgence of interest in lighthouses have brought many new visitors to Eastern Niagara County. in 1995, a special Celebration Day was held to commemorate the issuance of the First Class Postage Stamp designed by Howard Koslow, of Tom's River, NJ. Over 5,000 visitors enjoyed the festivities and friendship at Golden Hill that day.
Initially a dream of local residents and chartered by the NYS Education Dept. in 1996, members actively participate in fundraising, grant writing, and restoration. A primary goal is to return the Great Lakes Maritime history to Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse so future generations may appreciate the significance of past eras in American history. Members assist the park interpreter with tours and programs that enthrall visitors of all ages.
|This white building is a small workshop with a coal storage bin that is still stocked. The lighthouse was heated by coal and wood which was carried from this building.|
|This round building houses a well and pump. It was necessary to carry drinking water into the lighthouse before there were electric pumps and water lines.||The original two-holer outhouse with plastered walls.|
In July of 1996, the organization sought and received a grant from the Rural Preservation league of NYS in the amount of $4,000. The International Chimney Corp. of Buffalo, NY was selected to complete a detailed assessment that would ascertain the condition of the building. This report identified specific areas of concern and has been used for developing a long range plan for the future restoration projects at the lighthouse. Fundraising is an ongoing necessity to accomplish these goals and the Friends of the Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse sponsor yearly events with this in mind. A small gift shop at the campsite office is a cooperative effort that helps park patrons remember their visits with souvenirs.
|Before this building was converted to a Visitors
Center, it was the Foghorn Building for the U.S. Coast Guard.
You can still see the large portholes facing the lade which are now
sealed. Inside the building was compressed air tanks boxed into
the ceiling. These serviced the foghorn. The emergency
generator system was gasoline powered and could supply the house with
emergency power. The converted seating benches once supported
The steel tower behind the Fog Horn Building replaced the light in the lighthouse lantern room in 1958, when the lens was removed and the light decommissioned.
|This red, circular building once stored flammable
liquids - such as the kerosene which powered the light in the years
|Once the most powerful light on Lake Ontario, and the fifth most powerful on the Great Lakes, the new light was re-lit and is maintained by the Friends of Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse.|
Built in 1875, Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse originally provided keepers quarters for the lighthouse keeper, assistant keeper and their families.
The Lighthouse Cottage is located on the second floor of Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse. It features a private entrance, three bedrooms with queen size beds, a kitchen equipped with a refrigerator, electric stove, microwave, coffee maker, cooking utensils, silverware and dishes, and a full bath with an old fashioned bathtub that gives a flavor of yesteryear.
The relaxing living room features a couch, two chairs, a beautiful cherry finished electric fireplace where you can sit and reminisce abo9ut what it was like to live and work in an authentic lighthouse. The park will provide blankets, spreads and pillows. Please provide your own queen size linens and bath towels.
There is a beautiful view of Lake Ontario and Golden Hill State Park from the cottage windows. If you enjoy sport fishing in Lake Ontario, there is a dock and boat launch available, although there is no overnight tie-ups permitted.
Rates and availability call (716)-795-3885.
Built of hand-carved limestone, at a cost of $90,000, the tower is more than 60-feet high, and houses a 600,000 candlepower Fresnel Lens inside its 8-foot diameter lantern room. The beam from the 2000-pound lens can be seen 16 miles to sea. In 1885, the kerosene flame was replaced by an electric light, making it the strongest light on Lake Ontario, and the fourth-strongest on the Great Lakes.
Pictures of the outer buildings.
Click on an image to enlarge.