150th Anniversary Celebration for Fire Island Lighthouse
On November 1 & 2, 2008, Fire Island National Seashore and the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society will be hosting two days of special events and activities to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the lighting of the present Fire Island Lighthouse.
You're invited to join the festivities and celebrate the longevity of this significant cultural resource along the south shore of Long Island, New York.
On Saturday, November 1, maritime-related exhibits, special programs and demonstrations, tours, music, children’s crafts, and a special birthday cake are some of the highlights of the day. Parking is available at Robert Moses State Park Field 5 (a small fee is charged for parking). A free shuttle is available from the parking lot to the Fire Island Lighthouse on Saturday from 10 - 5, or you may take the ¾-mile boardwalk trail to the lighthouse.
Arrive early and catch the 9 a.m. ranger-guided bird walk, or tour the exhibitor tent and Keepers Quarters museum, which open at 9:30 a.m. Tower tours and other programs begin at 10 a.m. and run throughout the day. The special recognition ceremony will be held at 1 p.m., followed by the cutting of the birthday cake.
On Sunday, November 2, the celebration continues. The focus of Fire Island Lighthouse programs on Sunday is on the future stewards of our resources. Activities will be offered especially for children from noon to 4 p.m.
Kids can participate in ranger-conducted programs or complete workbooks to earn their own Fire Island National Seashore Junior Ranger patch or badge.
The new Fire Island National Seashore Advanced Junior Ranger activity booklet will be available.
Plan Your Day — Discover More Than One-and-a-Half Centuries of Maritime History
On Saturday, November 1, arrive early to catch a Fire Island naturalist-guided bird migration walk at 9 a.m.
Meet Park Ranger MaryLaura Lamont at the east end of Robert Moses State Park Field 5 parking lot, and stroll along the beaches, boardwalk and trails to the Fire Island Lighthouse.
Birds, butterflies and dragonflies are not the only things that migrate on Fire Island. When the first Fire Island Lighthouse was constructed in 1826, it was built on the western end of Fire Island beside the inlet. Since that time, the barrier island migrated westward for more than five miles until the Fire Island Inlet was stabilized in the 1940s.
While at the Field 5 parking lot, look for the Great South Bay Amateur Radio Club. Members will be transmitting to other radio operators around the world, carrying on another historic use of the Fire Island Light Station.
From the parking lot at Field 5, it’s a ¾- mile stroll down the boardwalk to the lighthouse.
The Fire Island Lighthouse museum and the exhibit tent will open at 9:30 a.m.
The free shuttle bus service starts at 10 a.m., when the special programs and demonstrations, tours, music, and children’s activities begin.
While you tour the historic grounds of the Fire Island Light Station, you can catch a morning performance of sea chanteys by a new local group, the Shipmates, at 10:30 a.m. inside the lighthouse. Or be serenaded by the West Islip String Ensemble while sitting on the lighthouse terrace. Both groups are donating their time and talents in support of the Fire Island Lighthouse celebration.
Under the exhibitors’ tent, make your rounds to learn more about the area's rich local maritime history, and the partnerships that are helping preserve and promote your enjoyment of maritime resources on Long Island’s South Shore.
Also at the special event on November 1 will be former and current members of the United States Coast Guard. Weather and resources permitting, you may walk to the Great South Bay at noon to see them in action. They hope to demonstrate a simulated helicopter/water rescue. A rescue boat will be on display.
The U. S. Coast Guard has a long history on Fire Island.
In 1915, the U. S. Life-Saving Service merged with the U. S. Cutter Revenue Service to form the United States Coast Guard. In 1920, the U. S. Coast Guard at Bay Shore, New York, established U.S.C.G. Station No. 83 on the Fire Island Light Station tract. Following the Reorganization Act of 1939, control of the Fire Island Light Station was transferred from the Bureau of Lighthouses to the U. S. Coast Guard.
In 1934, after completion of a new U.S.C.G. Station near the Robert Moses Causeway terminus, Station No. 83 was gradually abandoned. Fire Island National Seashore was established in 1964, and gradually began using the lighthouse property.
On December 31, 1973, the U. S. Coast Guard decommissioned the Fire Island Lighthouse, and turned off its beacon. In 1976, management of the Fire Island Light Station tract was transferred to the National Park Service.
On May 25, 1986, the light of the Fire Island Lighthouse was relit, having been recommissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard following the restoration of the Fire Island Lighthouse.
In January 2006, the U.S. Coast Guard transferred ownership of the Fire Island Light Station beacon to the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society, to be maintained and operated as a private aid to navigation.
Plan to spend some time at the children’s craft tables, where kids can create their own aquarium in a plate, a lighthouse, keepers’ hat, message in a bottle, sand art, and more.
Tower tours, which allow you to climb 192 steps to the gallery at the top of the lighthouse, are reduced to $2/person during this event.
The bookstore at the base of the lighthouse in the Keepers Quarters Museum is stocked with an abundance of items to help you remember your visit.
For that special souvenir, pick up a copy of Vivian Farrell’s Robert’s Tall Friend (the official book of Suffolk County, Long Island, New York, and the official children’s book of the Town of Babylon) or Robert Müller’s Long Island Lighthouses.
Authors of these two engaging books, which feature the Fire Island Lighthouse, will be on hand to sign copies of their book. Members of the Norris family, main characters in Robert’s Tall Friend, are also expected to be here for the celebration. All sales help support the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society, which was formed in 1982 to help restore and preserve the deteriorating lighthouse, and which is now the official National Park Service cooperating association that keeps the Fire Island Lighthouse open.
To help you find your way around the festivities and answer your questions, dedicated National Park Service volunteers who regularly work at the Fire Island Lighthouse will be on hand.
Special Programs Conducted Throughout the Afternoon
A brief recognition and awards ceremony, escorted in at 1 p.m. by Boy Scout Troop #46 from Massapequa, New York, will honor the Fire Island Lighthouse and its partners. Bundle up and welcome our distinguished speakers as they share their appreciation of this nationally significant cultural resource. Respresentatives from local, county, state, and federal offices are expected to speak. The Presidential Volunteer Service Award will be presented during this ceremony.
Afterwards, you can enjoy a very special birthday cake created by the Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts Program.
Soda and hot dogs will be available, as long as supplies last.
While the exhibitors are still under the tent, formal programs continue throughout the afternoon.
At 2 p.m., Fire Island’s Living History Timeline will be presented on the lighthouse terrace. This custom program will take you from the beginning of the barrier island’s human occupation to the present day.
At 2:30 p.m., you can retreat to the Keepers’ Quarters to meet a Fire Island Lighthouse Keeper’s Family, with Marilyn and Gottfried Mahler. The Mahlers actually lived in the lighthouse from 1948 – 1954, and gladly share their experiences as the keeper and his family.
At 4 p.m., you can end your day by learning what life is like on Fire Island in Winter, presented by a Fire Island National Seashore seasonal ranger and year- round Fire Island resident.
A free shuttle will be provided from Robert Moses State Park Field # 5 during Saturday’s event, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. A small parking fee ($6/car) is charged, but there is no entrance fee for this event.