In 1836-1837, locals purchased lots in Port Ontario along the
Salmon River, in anticipation of a major port. A government
engineer had surveyed the land and recommended creation of a
harbor here. The lighthouse was constructed in 1837 in
expectation of this development.
The development never occurred. A railway in nearby Pulaski,
as well as the creation of a spur of the Erie Canal into
Oswego, diverted development elsewhere. The lighthouse was
discontinued in 1859. The last keeper, Lucius B. Cole, maintained
the building even after the lighthouse was discontinued.
Accumulation of silt in the harbor eventually
blocked the passage of all but small
vessels. (A federal safe harbor was dredged in 1987.)
The lighthouse lantern room is believed to be one of only
four such still in existence - and only one other is
serviceable. Because it was discontinued prior to the
general installation of Fresnel lenses in U.S. lighthouses,
the "birdcage" lantern room was never rebuilt to accommodate
the new lenses.
The lighthouse was eventually sold to a hotel in 1895.
The building served as part of the hotel complex - famous for
its German cuisine and Prohibition-era smugglers.
In 1987, after extensive restoration, the lighthouse
was opened for overnight stays. The lighthouse was opened after substantial
restoration. According to the Keeper's Log, Jim Walker, who
first opened the lighthouse said "We started working on one thing at
a time ... We wanted to do things right, all the way around."
The owners, with the
cooperation of the Coast Guard, relit the lamp with a modern optic
Seaway Trail Lighthouses (2nd Edition), Tinney, Burdette-Watkins, p. 31
Lighthouses of the Seaway Trail (video)
The Keeper's Log Fall 2003