Governor Announces Plan to Restore, Protect Montauk Point Lighthouse

Montauk Point Lighthouse
Montauk Point Lighthouse, Photo: David Taylor

A project to safeguard the historic Montauk Point Lighthouse and its surrounding property from shoreline erosion could begin as early as this spring. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced this week that a $30.7 million contract has been awarded for the project that will take about two years to complete. 

The Montauk Point Lighthouse was the first lighthouse to be built in New York State, and is one of the few remaining 18th century American lighthouses. One of the best known in the country, it is a National Historic Landmark on both the Federal and State Registers of Historic Places. 

“The historic Montauk Point Lighthouse is a New York treasure, but erosion and the weight of years are threatening to wash it away,” Cuomo said in a statement. The State is committed to working with our federal partners to prevent that from happening and preserve this landmark for future generations of New Yorkers to explore and enjoy. With this development, on-the-ground work can begin this spring to advance restoration, ensuring that this George Washington-commissioned lighthouse—New York’s first—remains a beacon for all to see.”

When the lighthouse was completed in about 1796, it was just 300 feet from the bluff. As the edge has receded over the years, it has become more and more dangerous, despite the complex’s popularity with sightseers, fishermen and surfers. The lighthouse is now less than 100 feet from the bluff. Stonework revetment meant to prevent the lighthouse from falling into the ocean, has deteriorated.

“The Montauk Lighthouse is an important historic landmark as well as a Long Island icon and tourist attraction,” East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said. “East Hampton cherishes preserving its history, and I am happy to see this important project move forward.”

H&L Contracting of Bay Shore, which was awarded the contract, is tasked with restoring the approximately 1,000 linear feet of stone revetment to protect not only the lighthouse tower but the entire complex, which includes the Keeper’s House, the Fire Control Tower, and the garage, which served as an earlier Keeper’s House, all next to the Montauk Point State Park. Five- and 10-ton existing armor stones will be removed and reused, while new 10- and 15-ton stones will be placed, along with vegetation on the upper crest. 

The Montauk Historical Society owns the lighthouse property (The U.S. Coast Guard transferred ownership to the organization in 1996). The society will continue to maintain the site after the completion of the project, which will ensure the complex remains a tourist attraction and educational site. 

“The Montauk Point Lighthouse is the historic gem of Long Island,” said Colonel Matthew Luzzatto, the Army Corps commander in the New York District. “For decades it has served as a beacon for mariners and facilitated the commerce that made New York State one of the most prosperous States in the Union. . . We look forward to making sure this important part of American History remains a symbol of our strength and American military engineering excellence for the next 100 years.” 

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