The Olde Lighthouse

A true story
To Members of Newport Yacht Club, et al.
Many old (and new) members don’t know about the old lighthouse that existed on Irondequoit Bay at our site many years before we bought it (when it was known as the Birds & Worms Hotel) and of the efforts of the Club to save it through the years. This information has only recently come to light through the revelations of an ancient member who has agreed to come forth on condition of anonymity. We shall call our informer ‘Deep Boat”, as he has always yearned for a vessel with more (and more) freeboard than those shallow craft at the Club, in which he felt too close to the water. He has now achieved his heart’s desire in a replica of the U.S.S. Constitution, his fourth boat this year, after owning a Javelin, an Ensign, and an Albin 82 motorsailor, all progressively bigger, of course.

The original lighthouse was located where the present miniature replica lighthouse is now at the south end of the Snipe slips, and was said to have been built around 1800, when the Bay was a Federal body of water requiring aids to navigation. At that time, commercial ships came in from Lake Ontario and sailed up Irondequoit Creek carrying coal to the lost city of Tryon near the north end of Ellison Park, until that city was abandoned in 1818. The lighthouse was built with the aid of a local Indian tribe, the Irondeguts, who ferried old silo blocks over from the Webster side in their 30 foot war canoe. It was illuminated with a thousand candles which were replenished continuously by a thriving local cottage industry. When the Bay was closed by the railroad bridge in 1879, big ships no longer came, and the lighthouse was not maintained.

After Newport Yacht Club bought the property in 1943, there was much discussion about what to do about the dilapidated lighthouse. There was a concern about safety, as it leaned out precariously over the water and might collapse. However, a comparison to the Leaning Tower of Pisa revealed that the lighthouse leaned one degree less, and therefore was safer, to a degree. The discussion ended when the lighthouse collapsed in 1944 after being rammed by a German U-Boat (submarine to you), which had managed to slip around, over, or under the sandbar and railroad bridge blocking entrance to the Bay.

The lighthouse was rebuilt in 1952 by the club using the same old silo blocks, as an emergency measure to guide rum smugglers from Canada, as the Club’s punch bowl was half empty. However, the lighthouse was again left to slowly deteriorate until the high water and great storm of 1973 washed it away, saving a workday for the members. The blocks were later towed out to deeper water by the DEC to encourage growth of the local lobster population. According to our informant, the blocks were numbered with a felt-tipped marker, and the plans which were thought to have been lost were found stuffed in an old brown jug floating in the Bay. Some members are enthusiastically looking forward to rebuilding the original lighthouse to provide an aid to navigation to guide large yachts, or to help our own members find the Club on the water in the dark. Others feel that is now unnecessary, as visual sighting of the 104 bridge and the use of Global Positioning Systems should be enough for most of our members to find the Club after a day’s sail on the Bay without Coast Guard assistance. Contact your board members to give your opinion on restoring the old lighthouse, as the Capital Improvement Committee is anxious to do something again after the recent multiyear interior Clubhouse improvement..

And yes, there is a Santa Claus, if that is your name, and pigs can fly in the rear of the plane, and even historians can have fun.

Leo Balandis, updated December 2010 from 1998.
Past Historian Rochester Canoe Club
On the Bay since 1970
Member Rochester Canoe and Newport Yacht Clubs


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