The first time the Oak Orchard Lighthouse was built in 1871 at Oak Orchard Harbor, Point Breeze, it was built by federal employees using federal funds. A utilitarian building, the lighthouse was built to accommodate commercial shipping. The second time the Oak Orchard Lighthouse was built – in 2010 – it was built by a community dedicated to preserving and sharing its heritage and its maritime history with the world, using monies raised over 8 years of feet-to-the ground fundraising efforts. The historic reconstruction will help light the way to the future of Orleans County as tourist destinations and eco-travel become the hope for an economic revival in western New York. Framed by the Great Lakes of Erie, Ontario, and the Erie Canal, the shoreline of western New York is rich with opportunities for heritage travelers and eco-tourists.
The Oak Orchard Lighthouse, built identical to the first nearly 140 years later, will indeed last longer than the first lighthouse that was built 1600′ out into unpredictable Lake Ontario on a stone filled wood framed pier. While it took 46 years for Lake Ontario to lay claim to the original lighthouse, this full scale replication will survive, as it has been built on the shoreline protected from the deep water wrath of Lake Ontario in the Orleans County Marine Park at the northeast corner of Oak Orchard Harbor in Point Breeze.
The Oak Orchard Lighthouse at Oak Orchard Harbor in Point Breeze, Orleans County, New York is alight. The historic replica of the wood, pyramidal lighthouse is complete. Fortunately, a fully detailed survey was performed in 1909 on the 1871 built lighthouse by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce and Labor, Light-House Establishment, entitled “Description of Light-House Tower, Buildings and Premises at Oak Orchard, N.Y., Lake Ontario”. The document provided the blueprint for reconstruction of the original lighthouse, which sat on a stone filled timber crib 1000′ off the shore and was lost to the dark and deep waters of Lake Ontario in a December gale, 1916. The full scale replication sits on solid ground in the Orleans County Marine Park on the north-east point of Oak Orchard Harbor. During its 2010 debut summer, the newly rebuilt lighthouse hosted over 1000 visitors from around the world.
The original light was of the 4th Order, manufactured by Barbier, Benard & Turenne, Paris, with a 360* lens lantern, fixed white light characteristic, with a 5 day tank attachment. The light in the historic re-construction is an Automatic Power Model 250 AC Marine LED Lantern with a 250 mm Fresnel 360* lens. The light is currently regulated as a Private Aid to Navigation with a 2 Nautical Mile limit, and permitted to operate from April 1 to November 1 by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Coast Guard.
Built by community determination and the efforts of the Oak Orchard Lighthouse Museum Committee, partnering with New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and Orleans County. Chatfield Engineers, PC; Simbari Designs, Architect; Nathaniel General Contractors; All firms Rochester, NY.
Submitted by Peg Wiley,
former President of the Oak Orchard Lighthouse Museum