1838 Selkirk Lighthouse

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5 Lake Road Extension
Pulaski, New York United States
43° 34' 28.53'', -76° 12' 8.31''
Oswego Harbor
1838 Selkirk Lighthouse
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History Of Selkirk Lighthouse

Early History The site, at the convergence of the Salmon River and Lake Ontario and which eventually became home to the Selkirk Lighthouse, was visited first by Champlain and the Hurons in October, 1615. The land north of the Salmon River was purchased from the Oneida, Onondaga and Cayuga tribes by New York's Governor George Clinton in 1788. The first permanent white settlement was established at the mouth of the Salmon River in 1801. Initially, the fantastic Atlantic Salmon fishing was the main economic attraction, while some settlers undertook farming nearby. Before long it became a haven for smugglers, particularly during the War of 1812. In the early 1830's, a government engineer determined that the harbor was deep enough to safely harbor 30 ships. On September 1, 1837, the Federal Government purchased the land. The engineers' recommendations started the development of plans for a lighthouse complete with a Customs Office, and for the dredging of a channel along the south side of the estuary known as Selkirk Lake, nearly a mile upriver at the NY State Route 3 bridge. Proposal Jacob Gould who was Superintendent of Lighthouses on Lake Ontario published an official notice on September 4, 1837 stating: "Proposals will be received by me at Rochester until the 10th day of October next, for building a Dwelling and Beacon Light House on Lake Ontario, at the junction of the Salmon River with said Lake in the village of Port Ontario, in the county of Oswego, in said state, of the following description, viz: - The dwelling house to be of stone, 25 feet wide by thirty feet long from outside to outside. The outside walls to be eighteen inches thick, laid in good lime mortar, and pointed in good & workmanlike manner.” The Builders The local contractors who successfully bid the job were Joseph Gibbs and Abner French, although a local stonemason, Jabez Meacham, actually did most of the work. Abner French was elected first president of Pulaski on its incorporation in 1832, and was also the founding father and prime mover in spreading the Masonic movement throughout the eastern basin from Pulaski, where he founded Fellowship Lodge #288 on June 5, 1817. John Box, a blacksmith from Port Ontario constructed the wrought iron railings that both support the lantern structure and secure the platform around its outside. Lighting Systems The original light was identical to the one in service at Horse Island Lighthouse, a 14" diameter parabolic reflector/lamp system utilizing eight lamps and reflectors, showing a fixed white light for 14 miles. Four reflectors faced the lake and two were positioned on each side. This apparatus initially burned whale oil from a 24-hour reservoir and utilized a secondary frost lamp in particularly cold weather to warm the main lamp, assisting combustion in temperatures that would thicken fuel standing in the reservoir. The 1858 Light List reports that the lamp system was upgraded during 1855 with replacement of the reflectors by a Hains Mineral Oil fountain lamp, a single burner, and a 270-degree, 6th order Fresnel lens, 18" in height and approximately 12" in diameter. Keepers Lewis Conant became Selkirk's first keeper upon its activation in August 1838. He was relieved by Lucius B. Cole on July 20, 1849. Charles M. Lewis assumed command on October 6, 1854 and was relieved by A. H. Weed on March 2, 1857. Operating during the shipping season, keepers were paid $350 per year for 8 to 9 months of duty, then returned to their normal homes in the Pulaski/Richland area for the winter. The Lighthouse was officially de-activated in 1858, although Coast Guard records describe its apparent conversion to Lake Ontario's second activated lifesaving station at the beginning of the annual navigation season on April 1, 1877. Designated Historic Landmark The Selkirk Lighthouse was certified a "Designated Historic Landmark" by the Heritage Foundation of Oswego, NY in November 1976 and elected to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in March 1979. Official Re-activation On ?August 6, 1989 the Lighthouse was officially re-activated as a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Class II Aid to Navigation. Official Path Through History site designation In 2016 the Selkirk Lighthouse requested and was granted inclusion in the prestigious New York State Path Through History program?.

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