The Barcelona Lighthouse

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            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. 

            Local 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. 

            It 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.

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