The city of Dunkirk is located just south of Buffalo, NY.
Shortly after the Erie Canal opened, Dunkirk emerged as the
main port city of New York's southern tier. The original
lighthouse was built in 1826 at Point Gratiot.
In 1857, the tower was rebuilt to house a
fixed third-order Fresnel lens. In
1875-1876, a 61-foot stone tower and a beautiful Victorian
residence were constructed to replace the original tower,
which was threatened by erosion. These structures still
stand today. Bricks from the original keeper's house formed the foundation
for the new house. The old cylindrical tower was moved adjacent
to the new keeper's residence. A square tower was built around the old
tower "to be more compatible with the keeper's house."
(Tinney, Burdett-Watkins, p. 13; Seaway Trail Video)
The waters of Lake Erie off Dunkirk have been the site of
several notable shipwrecks. The lake's first steamboat, the
Walk-on-Water, was lost to a storm in 1818. In 1841
the Erie burned with the loss of 141 lives. The
fire was blamed on painters who stored turpentine and varnish
on the deck above the ship's boilers. In 1893, the steamboat
Dean Richmond, which carried sacks of meal, flour,
copper sheet, and gold and silver bullion, sank off Dunkirk.
Dunkirk residents salvaged hundreds of bags of damp flour
after the wreck. In 1897, the freighter Idaho was
lost. Some of its cargo of Christmas items, including slabs
of chocolate, were recovered by the locals.
Several pier lights have marked Dunkirk Harbor. The first two
collapsed under the weight of winter ice. The third was removed
and a skeleton tower was built to mark the mouth of the
harbor. This was later replaced by the present tower - a
cylindrical cigarette-like white tower with a red band.
In 1984, the grounds of the lighthouse were leased by the
Coast Guard to the Chatauqua County Armed Forces Memorial
Park Corporation, a non-profit organization. The lighthouse
and grounds are now The Dunkirk Lighthouse Museum,
which houses displays on
maritime history , branches of the armed forces, and restored
rooms of the keeper's house. The grounds house the 1939
tower, a 1925 skeleton tower light from Grand Island, NY, and one of the
Buffalo "bottle lights."
Seaway Trail Lighthouses (2nd Edition), Tinney, Burdett-Watkins, p. 13
Lighthouses of the Seaway Trail (video)
Eastern Great Lakes Lighthouses - Ontario, Erie, and Huron, Roberts, Jones pp.29-30