Long Beach Bar Lighthouse
Feature Photo Credit- https://www.eastendseaport.org/bug-light
When visiting Long Island, it should come as no surprise that you are surrounded by lighthouses of varying construction and styles of architecture. You can compare this diversity by the differences found in the Montauk Point Lighthouse, the Orient Point Lighthouse and the Statue of Liberty, which many people do not realize was used as a navigational light from 1886 to 1902.
Although here in Northeast we are familiar with the iconic spires of our ocean lighthouses, in the South, more specifically in the Chesapeake Bay, many lighthouses were constructed on shallow flats or the sandy bottoms of rivers and estuaries using screw pile foundations. These foundations were rarely used this far north in the United States for the construction of lighthouses and so adds to the uniqueness of the Long Beach Bar Lighthouse.
The architecture was generally formatted for lighthouses in calmer waters, and when passing the Long Beach Bar Lighthouse back in 1870, you may have thought the keepers were crazy to live there, for at high tide this lighthouse looked comically like a giant water bug standing on top of the water, hence the nickname, The Bug Light.
The history of many Long Island lighthouses contain the usual suspects; storms, shipwrecks, haunts and bootlegging. At least two other lighthouses that I have done research on have also fallen victim to fire. The Shinnecock Bay Lighthouse which was burned intentionally upon its scheduled deconstruction and the Cedar Island Light which had been set afire by vandals.
The “Bug Light” was completely destroyed on the Fourth of July in 1963 by arsonists. This however sparked another flame which was sustained by a local group intent on preserving the light and urging support to build a replica and maintain it as an offical aid to navigation. The Orient Point Marine Historical Association placed a bid on the property back in 1955 for $1,710 after the federal government put the property on the market. (The light had been decomissioned in 1948) Other bids as low as $52 didn’t stand a chance. The association succeeded in raising approximately $140,000 for its reconstruction. The project took all of 60 days to complete. The lighthouse was brought back to its original location in pieces by barge.
One historian notes a local story about a fisherman who in the morning sailed past the original location of the lighthouse only seeing an empty foundation. According to the tale, the fisherman upon his return in the evening of the same day, thought he was seeing things and possibly losing his mind, because there, as he passed the same location, stood a complete working lighthouse. This poor man wasn’t crazy, the “Bug Light” had been successfully resurrected.
In 1993, the United States Coast Guard took over the lightouse and re-established it as a federal aid to navigation. In years following there had been disputes over who is responsible for the maintenance of the lighthouse and two groups, East End Lighthouses and East End Seaport Museum signed an agreeement to share the responsibility and upkeep.
The lightouse is visible from Orient Point State Park as well as from Highway 25 between East Marion and Orient. Stunning views can also be seen from the ferry boats that run between Orient, Long Island and New London, Connecticut.
Even if you’re not into entomology this is one bug wanna-be you won’t wanna-miss!
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