The Montauk Lighthouse is one step closer this week to obtaining landmark status, which would make it eligible for grants that could be used for restoration projects, programs, and exhibits, and help preserve its historical significance.
The National Park Service advisory board’s landmarks committee recommended last Thursday that the Lighthouse be added to a list of national historic landmarks. It would be the eighth site in Suffolk County so designated and the third on the South Fork. The Jackson Pollock house and studio in Springs and the Moran house in East Hampton Village are already listed, The next step is final approval from Ken Salazar, secretary of the interior, which is expected to sail through.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who recently visited the South Fork to speak with fishermen, made the announcement in a press release last week. She noted that the hamlet’s most famous tourist attraction was one of the first coastal lighthouses authorized by Congress.
“The iconic Lighthouse’s importance is indisputable. I will urge Secretary Salazar to approve the status for this site, an iconic part of Long Island’s landscape,” she wrote.
In May, a small group of Lighthouse officials drove to Washington to plead the case for landmark status. The trip was the light at the end of a six-year lobbying effort, which included the submission of a statement proving the Lighthouse is significant in the United States. The group provided documentation that, in addition to being authorized by George Washington and built in 1796, the beacon helped guide ships from Europe to New York City, which then became a leading coastal seaport.
More than 5,000 spectators gathered near the Lighthouse on Nov. 26 to witness the holiday lights being turned on. Joe Gaviola, a board member of the Lighthouse committee, told the crowd that it costs over $1 million a year to operate the Lighthouse and its museum. He noted that the original document with George Washington’s signature is on display in the museum, and he urged the crowd to see it for themselves.
Although the committee was buoyed by the imminent listing of the Lighthouse as a national landmark, is was disappointed this week when it learned its request to install a replica of the original Fresnel prism light in the Lighthouse had been denied by the Coast Guard.
The committee had argued that the Fresnel light would be brighter and would be of more help to fishermen and other boaters. The Coast Guard said that because the Lighthouse continues to be a major seaport aid, it is prohibited from installing non-standard, non-certified optics.