For more than 80 years, the Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse served as an aid to navigation along the southern shore of Lake Ontario.
Now it could fill that need again, under somewhat different circumstances.
From 1875 to 1958, the lighthouse was a welcome sight to boaters and to area residents who watched its beacon slice across the water day after day, year after year.
Ever since the U.S. Coast Guard decommissioned it in 1958, the lighthouse stood along the shoreline serving no one, casting nothing but a shadow during the daylight hours.
But thanks in part to a strong group concerned about the lighthouse, located at Golden Hill State Park in Barker, the structure may once again provide a private aid to navigation. After deactivating the lighthouse, the Coast Guard placed an automated light on a steel tower. However, there are plans to turn that light off as a cost-cutting move.
Therefore, the Friends of the Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse are working with the Coast Guard to have the lighthouse back in service by the beginning of the next boating season. "What makes a lighthouse is having a light in it," said the group's president, Mary Ann Costello.
But replacing the light is just one effort the group has planned for the building, which is listed with the National and New York state registries of Historic Places. The group wants to add a handicap-accessible entrance, reinforce floor supports weakened by dry rot and reinstall plumbing and heating to the second floor to further enhance the 122-year-old structure.
The Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse was built after several tragic shipwrecks occurred just offshore because of a dangerous shoal and a sandbar, which has since eroded.
Formed in 1996, the Friends of the Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse boasts a membership of more than 175 people from across the country. Ms. Costello said a core group of 25 members is committed to restore the structure to its original character. Some members put out a newsletter; others, like Bob Schumacher, have spent hours trying to track down the lighthouse's Fresnel lens.
The Fresnel lens magnified the light from the original kerosene lamp so boaters could see the lighthouse beacon up to 16 miles away. "There are a lot of theories on what happened to the lens," said April Gow. "But one way or another, we'll trace it down."
The lighthouse received national exposure in 1995 when it was placed on a commemorative stamp issue of Great Lake lighthouses.
Park manager Tom Harris said that created more interest in the lighthouse, which the group has been able to sustain. "We get more and more visitors each year," he said.
To have the lighthouse turned back on, the group is paying about $400 for its own automated lens and will also have to pay for the electricity.
"We're just going to have to keep selling T-shirts to help raise funds," Ms. Costello said.