It may be adjacent to all the summer hubbub in the Hamptons, but at the easternmost tip of Long Island, on Turtle Hill, the peaceful, historical Montauk Lighthouse might as well be on another planet. One of the most picturesque monuments on Long Island, this National Historic Landmark was the first lighthouse to be built in New York State and is the fourth oldest lighthouse in the United States. The lighthouse was authorized by the Second Congress in 1792, under President George Washington, and construction was completed on November 5, 1796, making it the first public works project in the U.S. The lighthouse became operable when it was first lit in April 1797. An important part of our island’s history, the lighthouse makes for an impressive tour stop and makes itself known by its light, which flashes every five seconds and can be seen at a distance of 19 nautical miles.
In addition to the Sprint Triathlon & Relay, Lighthouse Weekend is held the weekend of August 17 and 18 this year, and it looks like it’s set to be a great weekend, with lots of activities for the whole family. This year, the features of the weekend include colonial toys and games, boat safety and knot tying by U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, a book signing by Henry Osmers, the author of On Eagle’s Beak: A History of the Montauk Lighthouse, leather crafting, traditional pottery, face painting, signing of artwork by famed local artist Terry Elkins, presentations by Kings of the Coast Pirates, and trap fishing by Town Co-Historian Stuart Vorpahl.
The lighthouse isn’t just an important reminder of Long Island’s history; it played a critical part in our nation’s history, as well. It was taken over by the U.S. Army as part of the Eastern Coastal Defense Shield during World War II. Camp Hero, a military base, was stationed adjacent to Montauk Lighthouse during the war. The United States Coast Guard took over the maintenance of the lighthouse until it was automated in 1987.
Today, Montauk Lighthouse boasts a plethora of fun activities for the summer, as well as year round. The landmark serves as a beautiful and unique venue for weddings and other special occasions. In addition, the lighthouse offers tours to schools and groups of twenty people or more. The Second House Museum opened for summer on Memorial Day Weekend. On Sunday, July 21, the 18th Annual Montauk Point Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon & Relay was held. All proceeds from the race were donated to the Montauk Point Lighthouse Museum. The race consisted of a 1/2 mile swim, a 14 mile bike and a 3.1 mile run, and finished at the top of Turtle Hill at the Lighthouse.
Of course, the Montauk Lighthouse can be enjoyed year-round, not just in the summer. In November, Lighting the Lighthouse 2013 is held Thanksgiving Weekend, on Saturday, November 30. The lighting signifies the beginning of the holiday season. The President of The Montauk Historical Society, said, of the lighting, “This is our gift to Montauk and the entire Long Island Community.” The lighthouse is beautifully decorated by Looks Great Services. Guests can come watch the lighting and enjoy caroling, holiday music, and a special appearance from Santa Claus! After the lighthouse is decorated, there is a special Christmas at the Lighthouse celebration, scheduled for Sunday, December 1. The free event features pony rides and photos with Santa.
Montauk Lighthouse is owned and operated by the Montauk Historical Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the history of Montauk. The Montauk Historical Society took over Montauk Lighthouse in an effort to preserve it, after the Coast Guard considered tearing it down due to fears of erosion in 1967. Montauk Lighthouse’s preservation is made possible by donations to the Lighthouse Fund. For more information or to make a tax-deductible donation, you can send a check to MHS Lighthouse Museum at P.O. Box 943 Montauk, New York 11954 or call 1-888-MTK-POINT.
The Montauk Lighthouse’s summer hours are 10:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10:30 a.m.–7 p.m. Saturdays, and 10:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Sunday.