Historical Braddock Point
Lighthouse, established by the United States Lighthouse Establishment
(USLHE) in 1896. This majestic jewel has been restored to its
original Victorian grace and splendor.
Braddock Point Lighthouse
in 1933 Photograph courtesy National Archives
Built in 1896, Braddock Point
lighthouse is actually west of Braddock Point in an area known
as Bogus Point. It was known as Bogus Point because it was a drop
off point for counterfeit smugglers coming across Lake Ontario
from Canada. When originally built, the 3.5 order Fresnel lens
provided the brightest light on the entire lake with a range of
over 14 miles. The original staircase was acquired from the Cleveland
Lighthouse when it was demolished in the late 19th Century. The
innkeeper quarters is in the style of the late Victorian era and
is considered quite ornate for a government building.
The howling winds and powerful
winter storms took its toll and cracks began to appear in the
magnificent tower after only a few years in service. Eventually,
most of the tower was removed and replaced with a skeleton metal
tower that was used until the early 1950s. In the following years,
the property was closed and neglected and was used by hunters
as a duck blind. All the windows were broken and it endured significant
water damage and was considered a haunted house by the local children.
Braddock Point Lighthouse
circa 1897 Photograph courtesy National Archives
Fortunately, the US government
sold the property to private hands and over the next 50+ years
the process of restoration took place. Each of the next (3) families
that have called this home have taken on the tremendous task of
bringing bringing Braddock Point Lighthouse back to life. Today,
the innkeeper's quarters have been completely restored back to
the original government blue
prints. The tower, while not completely original- has been rebuilt
as a tribute to the original grand tower with the original staircase
The light to Braddock Point
was turned back on 20 years ago and is now one of the very few
privately owned, fully functioning lighthouses in the United States.
The new owners, Don and Nandy Town have added many enhancements
while remaining true to the original vision of this historical
treasure. As experienced Bed and Breakfast owners, they have brought
their expertise to
Braddock Point. In the summer as well as select times throughout
the year, Braddock Point is open seasonally and on a very limited
basis to guests to come and visit and stay overnight.
of Congress necessary for the creation of the Braddock Point Lighthouse.
Description by www.LightHouseFriends.com
While there are several small
lights between Thirty-Mile Point light and Oswego light, there
is no light of any importance in this stretch of about 100 miles
which can be used by vessels going up or down the lake as a coast
light. For some time efforts have been made by navigators to accomplish
the establishment of an additional light of such height and brilliancy
that it can be used as a point of departure. It is therefore recommended
that a third-order light-station be established between Genesee
and Oak Orchard light-stations somewhere in the vicinity of Braddock’s
Point, at an estimated cost of $20,000.
The above recommendation for
the establishment of a significant light along the southern shore
of Lake Ontario was originally made by the Lighthouse Board in
1889 and repeated again in 1890 before Congress approved an act
on March 3, 1891 appropriating the necessary $20,000. The Attorney
General of the United States approved the purchase of five-and-a-half
acres of land on Bogus Point, just west of Braddock Bay, from
James Worboys for $500, and the land was then ceded to the federal
government by the State of New York in May 1892.
Lieutenant Colonel Jared A. Smith used the Cleveland Lighthouse,
built in 1872 and considered by many to be one of the most beautiful
lighthouses in the United States, as the basis for his plans for
Braddock Point Lighthouse. Perhaps this was because Cleveland
Lighthouse, rendered unnecessary by harbor lights, had been deactivated
at the close of navigation in 1892 and was scheduled to be torn
down in 1895, making the tower’s lens, lantern room, and
decorative metalwork available for use elsewhere. Both of these
towers and dwellings were built in the Victorian era and definitely
showed signs of the then popular architectural style.
built in 1872 was the basis for plans for Braddock Point Lighthouse.
Photograph courtesy National Archives
A contract with A.J. Serius
& Son of Youngstown, New York for construction of the keeper’s
dwelling, tower, and a woodshed for Braddock Point was approved
on June 25, 1895 and called for the buildings to be completed
within nine months. When finished, the octagonal, ninety-seven-foot
tower was nearly identical to the one at Cleveland, while the
residence, though similar in style, was significantly different.
According to the records of the Lighthouse Board, the “lantern,
iron stairway, iron window frames and sash, finished stone of
the upper part of the tower, and the lens” were removed
from Cleveland Lighthouse and transferred to Braddock Point. A
two-and-a-half-story redbrick dwelling, decorated with stone trimmings,
was attached to the Braddock Point’s redbrick tower and
had a hall and six rooms on the first floor and three bedrooms
and a bath on the second floor. The light from the tower’s
third-and-a-half-order Fresnel lens was exhibited for the first
time on August 17, 1896.
Lighthouse circa 1897 Photograph courtesy National Archives
Around the same time as the
inaugural lighting, a brick barn was completed, a 5 5/8-inch well
was drilled to a depth of 105 feet (93 feet through solid rock),
and a square, iron oil house was erected at the station. In 1899,
the tower’s Fresnel lens, which was visible over an arc
of 180°, was removed and replaced with a 270° Henry-Lepaute
Fresnel lens of the same size that could be seen from all points
of approach from the lake.
The Annual Report of the Light
House Board for 1902 had the following entry for Braddock Point:
“To stop leaks in the tower it became necessary to remove
and replace the entire lantern, lantern deck, parapet gallery
deck and rails, and all connecting ironwork. All the ironwork
was cleaned and repainted, and all joints were bedded in cement
made of red and white lead. The 3 ½ order lens light was
discontinued while the tower was being repaired, from May 8 to
June 30, 1902, during which time a lens-lantern light was exhibited
from the northern face of top of the tower.”
A new oil house was built
at the station in 1913, and on June 16, 1915, the intensity of
the light was increased by changing the illuminant from oil to
incandescent oil vapor. In 1925, the light’s intensity was
increased further through the installation of electricity, and
the characteristic of the light was changed at this time from
fixed white to a group of two flashes every six seconds through
the use of an ordinary sign flasher.
Face brick on the tower was
replaced in 1916. This might have been due to poor quality brick
or a result of the leaks the tower suffered. Either way, the tower
had structural issues, as by 1951, scores of cracks and fissures,
some as long as fifty feet, snaked up the sides of the lighthouse.
Shortly after the Coast Guard deactivated Braddock Point Lighthouse
on January 1, 1954 and replaced it by a fifty-foot skeletal steel
tower, the upper half of the tower had to be removed due to extensive
structural damage. Once again, the United States had lost one
of its most ornate lighthouse towers.
Braddock Point Lighthouse had just four keepers during the fifty-four
years it was staffed. Frank Coleman was in charge of the light
from 1896 to 1929, when Michael Fitzpatrick transferred in from
Fair Haven with his wife and seven children. In May 1899, Keeper
Coleman was cleaning windows in the lighthouse when he fell and
“sustained a compound fracture of both bones of the right
leg.” One bone was driven through the flesh three inches.
A newspaper article estimated that before the light was electrified
in 1926, Keeper Coleman had walked roughly 700 miles during his
twice-daily trips up and down the tower.
After retiring, Frank Coleman
reminisced about his time at the lighthouse: “My first inspector
was Captain Gridley of the navy. He was a real man for you. Do
you remember him—the fellow who fired the first shot at
Manila when Admiral Dewey said. ‘You may fire when you’re
ready, Gridley’? Yes, sir, that was my first boss and a
man never had a finer one.”
Kepper Michael Fitzpatrick
retired in 1935, after six years at Braddock Point, and was replaced
by Claude Jacox, who ran a jewelry business out of the lighthouse.
During the early 1940s, ads like the following appeared regularly
in local newspapers:
FOR SALE—New wrist
watches, all the leading makes; trade in your old watch. Call
on me for anything to do with watches, new cases or repairing.
Claude Jacox, right in the Braddock Point Lighthouse, Hilton,
After retiring in 1947, Jacox
opened a jewelry store in nearby Hilton, but passed away in 1949
at the age of just sixty-three. The light was automated at the
end of Jacox’s tenure, but coastguardsman Robert Millar
moved his wife and five children into the lighthouse to look after
After Millar left the station
in August 1950 for another assignment in Michigan, duck hunters
and other trespassers mistreated the vacant dwelling. Windows
were knocked out, exposing the interior to the weather, and soon
the structure was knee-deep in plaster and broken glass.
The dwelling, thirty-foot
tower, 4.7 acres of land, 1,200 feet of lakefront, and the carriage
house were sold to Walter and Kay Stone for $14,500 in April 1957.
“I’ll never forget my first sight of this place,”
Kay Stone recalled. “There it sat on that long, lonely,
desolate stretch of beachland – a huge, hulking brick structure
with all the windows boarded up. Brush and weeds had overgrown
the land leading up to it so that it was barely possible to approach
the place. It had been unoccupied, neglected, and weatherbeaten
for years, but it withstood it all, and still stood there proud
The Stones thought they would
just fix up the place so they could use it as a summer home, but
its exceptional architecture and beauty, “a curious mixture
of government and Victorian,” drew them into a full-scale
restoration. Kay Stone shared some of the unique features of the
dwelling with a reporter: “Everything is so massive. …The
walls of the house are solid brick about 18 inches thick. The
government cut no corners on construction. The doors and trim
are gumwood and were in excellent shape. …Two of the fireplaces
in the dining room and living room are unique. Originally built
to burn either coal or wood, they have a sliding metal plate over
them that radiates heat.”
In February 1986, Robert and
Barbara Thulin purchased the lighthouse property and, after two
years of planning, initiated what turned into an eight-year renovation.
Structural walls, pocket doors, wainscoting, and moldings were
all replaced to return the lighthouse to its former grandeur.
In 1995, the tower was rebuilt to a height of sixty-five feet,
and after receiving the Coast Guard’s approval the lighthouse
was relit on February 28, 1996.
In 2006, the 3,000-square-foot,
furnished home along with the tower, an 1,800-square-foot carriage
house, and a six-car garage were placed on the market for $1.9
million, but a few months later, the selling price was reduced
to $1.5 million. The desirable property, which had potential as
a residence, summer home, or even a bed and breakfast, was eventually
purchased by Donald and Nandy Town in December 2008. The new owners,
who grew up in upstate New York and spent their summers on Lake
Ontario, operated a bed and breakfast in Florida and opened the
keeper’s dwelling as Braddock Point Bed & Breakfast
in 2010. As Don ran across the listing for the property on June
14, 2008, the couple’s wedding anniversary, he feels they
were destined to be the owners of the lighthouse.
Head Keepers: Frank Coleman
(1896 – 1929), Michael A. Fitzpatrick (1929 – 1935),
Claude Jacox (1935 – 1947), Robert Bruce Millar (1947 –
Description by www.LightHouseFriends.com