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Montauk Point lighthouse named a landmark

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Published: March 5, 2012 10:17 PM

By MITCHELL FREEDMAN mitchell.freedman@newsday.com

 

The big lighthouse at Montauk Point stood sentry in the bright sun Monday, as it has since it was completed more than 200 years ago on the orders of President George Washington.

But for the first time, it stood with its historic value fully recognized.

The U.S. Department of the Interior has decided to designate the lighthouse a National Historic Landmark, according to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who had lobbied Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

It will be the 12th place in Nassau and Suffolk counties to receive the country's highest historic honor.

"Wow, this is terrific," said Suffolk Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk).

It took more than six years to obtain the designation. The fact that it was one of the nation's first lighthouses and that Washington commissioned it wasn't enough to garner the honor.

The lighthouse's supporters had to prove it had an exceptional role in "interpreting the heritage of the United States."

That was harder than they first thought, said Eleanor Ehrhardt of the Montauk Historical Society.

"We thought it would be really simple. It was authorized by Congress under George Washington," said Ehrhardt, who worked with society member Robert Hefner to craft the proposal. "But we had to come up with more than 'It's a beautiful place in a beautiful spot.' A landmark requires more."

Hefner said that without online access to shipping records and other data it might have been impossible to detail the lighthouse's special role in the development and growth of the Port of New York, becoming a critical waypoint in guiding ships coming from Europe between 1797 and 1870.

The port -- the busiest in the United States -- was vital to the young nation's economic growth.

After being rejected for landmark status twice, the lighthouse committee searched through decades of shipping records to show how the tonnage shipped out of the European ports of Liverpool, England, and Le Havre, France, added to the fledgling nation's prosperity, and how the lighthouse was the most important landmark for ships on that route.

There was a light on the ocean bluff in Montauk long before Washington ordered the lighthouse built. "The Indians used to set fires on top of that hill -- it was called Turtle Hill then -- so their people out in the ocean would know which side [of the peninsula] to come in on," said East Hampton Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, a member of the lighthouse committee, who took a leave of absence when he became supervisor.

It's also where he went to get engaged decades ago. "I left Scranton, Pennsylvania, one year with my future wife, and we drove all the way to the lighthouse," Wilkinson said. "It's that impressive."

The historical society hopes to have a party this summer to celebrate the designation, which -- among other things -- will make it easier to apply for federal funds and will give the lighthouse a top priority for aid in case of a natural disaster, such as the hurricanes and storms that threaten to erode its foundation.

Now closed for the winter, the lighthouse and its museum will open to the public on weekends beginning March 17.

 

 

 

 

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thats wonderful, now they will beef up the land surrounded it. I do wonder though if this might impact the fishing in any way? could they close access now? cause it is a national monument? the gov. might not want us scurrying around the base on the rocks and not to mention all the garbage left behind. time will tell?

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Taking surfcasting away from montauk point would be like taking the bat out of Babe Ruths hands. God put that point there for man to catch fish off of just like God intended the Babe to be a legend of one our past times. Hope access will not be an issue

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I bet we lose access to 4 wheel drive , This isn't going to be a win win . Just my 2 of course....:thumbd:

 

I wouldn't go that far, not just yet. The actual lighthouse is the affected area, not the entire parklands. But stranger things have happened. We will see... :(

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Guys think about it ...M is the surfcasting capital of the world. They are not going to take that away from M. Think about how much money is generated in M just from surf fiahong alone it would be in M and everyones best interest not to change a thing . This is my pov and i dont think anything will change

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Guys think about it ...M is the surfcasting capital of the world. They are not going to take that away from M. Think about how much money is generated in M just from surf fiahong alone it would be in M and everyones best interest not to change a thing . This is my pov and i dont think anything will change

 

I highly doubt they will completely shut down surf casting access in the entire area. What I'm more concerned is the actual Lighthouse area itself. Most people are fishing the surrounding areas but for thos who do fish "under the Light" there's nothing quite like it.

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Unless you sharpies are throwing 3 oz darters from the Lighthouse, I do not think that you will be affected at all. Montauk survived (an thrived) prohibition. If by chance the fish left, and surfcasting left, it will survive just fine.

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I would not worry. Even when they wanted to rebuild the rocks around the light they would talk to us first.

Willie

 

Good luck with that. Go ask the residents of Chincateage Va how much the government talks to them before they decide to do something. Or go ask some of the locals in the OBX how it works.

 

That battle for you guys up there just got tougher.

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