The current Elm Tree Lighthouse was constructed in 1939 by the U.S. Coast Guard. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places within the Miller Army Airfield Historic District. This octagonal concrete beacon replaced a wooden one first lit in 1856. The wooden light structure was the front range light for Swath Channel with the New Dorp Lighthouse acting as the rear range light.
The name Elm Tree, was derived from a large elm tree that stood near this site that served as a navigational aid to mariners from the 18th century.