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Dunkirk Lighthouse

The Dunkirk Lighthouse 10-11-2012
the dunkirk lighthouse

History of the Dunkirk Lighthouse

The light was first established on Point Gratiot in 1827. 
This light acted in tandem with a pier head beacon to guide ships to the safety of the Dunkirk Harbor. 

It was refitted with a 3rd-order Fresnel (pronounced "Fraynel") lens and lantern in 1857 and remains today.


The light which cost $10,000 was made by Fresnel and imported from Paris, France.  

But by 1874 the tower was reported in precarious condition.

In 1875-1876, a 61-foot stone tower and a beautiful Victorian residence were constructed to replace the original tower, which was threatened by erosion. These structures still stand today. Bricks from the original keeper's house formed the foundation for the new house. The old cylindrical tower was moved adjacent to the new keeper's residence. A square tower was built around the old tower "to be more compatible with the keeper's house." (Tinney, Burdett-Watkins, p. 13; Seaway Trail Video)  
Military Parade Reservation Grounds - The Dunkirk Light ship is located on these grounds 

War of 1812 - The first shot of the 1812 War was fired near the west bank of the lighthouse.

Civil War - Cpl. Cryus Jones of Dunkirk was the first soldier killed in the war. His resting grounds are located on the grounds.

WW II - Twelve active Coast Guard personnel were stationed at the lighthouse along with the lighthouse keeper.

The waters of Lake Erie off Dunkirk have been the site of several notable shipwrecks
  • The lake's first steamboat, the Walk-on-Water, was lost to a storm in 1818. 
  •   1841 the Erie burned with the loss of 141 lives. The fire was blamed on painters who stored turpentine and varnish on the deck above the ship's boilers. 
  • In 1893, the steamboat Dean Richmond, which carried sacks of meal, flour, copper sheet, and gold and silver bullion, sank off Dunkirk. Dunkirk residents salvaged hundreds of bags of damp flour after the wreck. 
  •   1897, the freighter Idaho was lost. Some of its cargo of Christmas items, including slabs of chocolate, were recovered by the locals. (Roberts, Jones pp.29-30)  
Several pier lights have marked the Dunkirk harbor
  • The first two collapsed under the weight of winter ice. 
  • The third was removed in 1939 (Seaway Trail Video), and a skeleton tower was built to mark the mouth of the harbor. 
  • This was later replaced by the present tower - a cylindrical cigarette-like white tower with a red band.