Galloo Island Lighthouse
The first American lighthouse built on Lake Ontario

          Within the town of Hounsfield are Galloo and Little Galloo Islands (early on spelled Galloup, more recently spelled Galoo), comprised of 2,216.2 and 48.8 acres respectively. The islands mark the outer edge of a group of islands and shoals that guard the entrance to Sackets Harbor and the St. Lawrence River.

          The Galloo islands, along with Stony and Calf islands, were patented by the state to Elisha Camp on 15 February 1823, and were thereupon annexed for jurisdictional purposes to the Town of Hounsfield. However, by an act of the legislature, passed 21 April 1818, the jurisdiction of a large portion of Galloo Island was ceded to the United States for the purpose of a lighthouse.

          The island's first light was established in 1820. The present lighthouse was erected in 1867. The conical stone tower is 55 feet high with an attached 1 1/2 story keeper's dwelling. Both are built of gray limestone quarried on the island. A square, iron oil house and steam fog signal house stand nearby.

          The light was automated in 1963; it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on 8 April 1983. As shown in the following article, it was the first lighthouse erected on Lake Ontario:

Galloo Light House
Oswego Palladium, Thurs., Oct. 5, 1820
From the Sackets Harbor Gazette

          On the night of the 4th inst. the Light House recently erected on the south west point of the Galloo Island, about 16 miles from this place, was for the first time lighted. We are indebted to the politeness of J.M. Canfield, Esq. Collector of this port, for the following description:

          The base of the building is four feet above the surface of the water, and is 26 feet in diameter, uniformly graduated to one half of its diameter at the summit height of 65 feet. The building is of stone. The lantern is an octagon, containing 21 lights of 14 by 12 glass. Within are 15 patent lamps with reflectors, 2 feet apart, placed in two circles; giving an elevation to the light of 66 feet above the water's surface, and at the distance of 5 miles, gives athe appearance of an entire globe of light. The light is distinctly visible at a distance of 22 miles on the lake. Owing to the timber on the island, the light cannot be discovered from this place, but we understand this timber will soon be removed. This is the first Light House ever erected on this lake.

          Great credit is due to Mr. Ely the contractor for the faithfulness with which the contract has been executed. The selection of the site has been most judiciously made, and the advantages resulting to the commerce of the Lake, particularly of this port must be great. The erection of such works of permanent utility hear honorable testimony of the attention of government to the interests of every portion of the union; and, as a further evidence of this, we would mention the appropriation of $5,000 for the erection of another Light House at Genesee River, of which also Mr. Canfield is superintendent.

          We cannot her forbear the expression of a wish that an end may be put to the infamous practice of violating the revenue laws - the turplitude of which is greatly enhanced by the consideration that it robs the government of the means by which such establishments as tend in an eminent degree to the safe navigation of the lake, are erected and supported. The coercion and penalties of laws have always been found inadequate to supress this evil: the only remedy is in the public opinion; and for the honor of our citizens on this frontier, we sincerely hope that all persons will unite in giving a tone to public sentiment on this subject, which, (in the language of Mr. Jefferson), will deter even the worthless part of community from pursuing the practice.


Generously donated by Richard Palmer <richardp@dreamscape.com>

          Today Galoo Island is privately owned and the nearby Coast Guard station has been abandoned. The state Department of Environmental Conservation owns 25 acres surrounding the former light station. Nearly all the rest of the island, some 1937 acres, was purchased at auction in August 1999 by PRK Holdings Group of Syracuse, making it the second largest private island in the United States.

          The limestone tower and a 1-1/2 story limestone keeper's quarters went on auction on 27 September 2000. The brick fog signal building, and the cast iron oil house were not included in the sale. Bidding started at $50,000 and was administered by the U.S. General Services Administration Office of Surplus Property in Boston, Massachusetts.

          The successful bidder was Cara C. Dibnah of Vallejo, California; her current plans are to restore and renovate the buildings according to conditions and guidelines set forth by the New York State Historic Preservation Office.

>>> See a List of Former Keepers of Galloo Light <<<
compliments of Thomas Tag at Great Lakes Lighthouse Research
>>> See the 1883 autograph book of Rena Johnson <<<
daughter of F. Byron Johnson, keeper from 1876 to 1906

See also these sources for more information . . .

Mark A. Wentling, 2000-2004