Fire Island Lighthouse is an important aspect of Long Island history. The first Fire Island lighthouse was built and completed in 1826. The structure was only 74-feet high and octagonal pyramid shaped. The structure was cream-colored and made of Connecticut River blue split stone. Only being 74-feet high, the lighthouse was ineffective for its purpose of guiding transatlantic ships coming to the New York Harbor. Due to its ineffectiveness, this lighthouse was removed and the materials were reused to build a terrace on the new lighthouse. All that remains of the original lighthouse structure is a ring of bricks and stones.
With the need of a useful lighthouse for transatlantic ships, Congress appropriated $40,000 for a new structure in 1857. This new structure would be over double the height of the original, at 168 feet tall. After its completion, it was officially in use and lit on November 1, 1858. This new tower was made of red bricks which were painted a creamy yellow color and eventually again in August of 1891, it was repainted to alternating black and white bands which still remains its colors.
The lens that was fitted to the tower was called the First Order Fresnel Lens which released a white flash once a minute. The Lens was connected to a Funk Lamp with 5 concentric wicks which caused the illumination inside the lens. Since the lens was fitted to the tower, various different fuels were used with whale oil, lard oil mineral oil and kerosene being the most commonly used. Electricity was not reached to the tower until September 20 of 1938, and ironically the next day a hurricane struck cutting out the electricity, making the lighthouse’s electrification process delayed.
The lighthouse was decommissioned as an aid for transatlantic ships on December 31 of 1973, but the structure was left remaining and use of the light house and its tract, which spans approximately 82 acres, was temporarily given to the National Park Service for five years. Eventually, the tract was declared by law to be within the boundaries of the Fire Island National Seashore in 1979.
The year 1982 marked the creation of the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society which successfully raised over 1.3 million dollars. The money raised was to restore and preserve the lighthouse.
Two years later, in 1984, the Fire Island Lighthouse was marked as a historic site and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The restoration and preservation team decided to restore the lighthouse to its condition at the time of electrification, which was in 1939 due to delay from the hurricane.
The restoration was eventually completed and on Memorial Day of 1986, the lighthouse was relit and was reestablished as an official aid to navigation for boaters.
December of 1996, the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society was able to gain control over maintenance and operation of the Lighthouse and the Keeper’s Quarters. These aspects of control were through an agreement with the National Park Services, but did not give the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society ownership of the historic site.
The lighthouse is currently lit by two 1000-watt bulbs. These rotate in a counter-clockwise direction which gives the appearance of flashing lights every 7.5 seconds. The light from the lighthouse is visible for approximately 21-24 miles.