YOUNGSTOWN – Repairs have been completed at the iconic Old Fort Niagara Lighthouse at the entrance of the garrison, and the tower in the historic lighthouse, which had been closed to tours this summer, has reopened.
“It’s important to preserve it because it reminds people of the importance of maritime history to this region,” said Old Fort Niagara Executive Director Robert Emerson.
The octagonal-towered, limestone lighthouse, is one of 28 historic lighthouses that serve as landmarks on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail.
It is normally open for daily tours in July and August, but this year’s opening was delayed for restoration work on the tower’s windows, according to Emerson.
The lighthouse is open from 1 to 4 p.m. daily through Labor Day. The gift shop, which had formerly been housed in the Lighthouse, moved across the parking lot to the Visitors Center. There visitors can see the Fort Niagara Lighthouse’s original Fresnel lens, which was used to magnify the light in historic lighthouses.
The restoration work included the rebuilding of several tower windows. Masonry repairs were also needed due to the leaking windows.
The $10,000 restoration project was funded by a donation from the East Hill Foundation of Western New York, located in North Tonawanda.
The first Fort Niagara Lighthouse was established on the roof of the Fort’s French Castle in 1781 and was the earliest unofficial lighthouse on the Great Lakes. It was used to help vessels find the mouth of the Niagara River, according to Emerson.
The U.S. Army moved the Fort Niagara Lighthouse to a separate building just outside of the fort, in 1871 and it was opened the following year, Emerson said.
The tower was raised 11 feet in 1900 and could cast a beam visible for 15 miles. The lighthouse was deactivated in the 1990s and replaced by an automatic beacon at the U.S. Coast Guard Station Niagara, which sits adjacent to Old Fort Niagara, at the mouth of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario.