Saturday, October 17, 2015

Cedar Island Lighthouse

Since seeing Hubbard Latham Fordham's still life of shell fish with view of Sag Harbor painted at Cedar Island Lighthouse, I've been wanting to visit said lighthouse. The lighthouse is not easily seen unless you are aboard ship cruising into Sag Harbor port from Gardiner's Bay.
Cedar Island Lighthouse was built in 1839 to guide whaling and merchant ships into the busy international port of Sag Harbor. The original wooden lighthouse was replaced by the current granite structure in 1868. The great hurricane of 1938 brought in the walkable strip of sand that now connects Cedar Point Park to the lighthouse. 
I got out my trusty local maps and set a course for Cedar Point County Park. We took the Sag Harbor Turnpike (route 114) to Swamp Road. Swamp road weaves its way through a thin, low lying, shrub oak forest. Vehicular traffic was light and it appears to be a popular peloton pathway. It was so deserted that Hugh commented, "I hope we don't get a flat in here." After Swamp Road we followed the Cedar Point signs along Old Northwest Road to the park.

The park is a nature lovers paradise. A beautiful spot for bird watching, hiking, camping and water sports.
The lighthouse is in solitary splendor at the end of Cedar Point.

The beach is littered with still life subjects.
I was thinking of Fordham with his still life subject set up on a table near the window. Based on how brightly the sun shone upon the Sag Harbor facing windows the afternoon of our visit, I think he must have painted with the morning sun. Fordham did two stints as lighthouse keeper. The first was 1849-1853 immediately following Moses Bears, the father of Fordham's painting colleague, Orlando Hand Bears. This would have been in the old wooden lighthouse. The second stint was 1862-1869. The current granite lighthouse was built during 1868. Fordham would have been keeper during its construction period. 
Portrait of Shellfish:
A View from Cedar Island Lighthouse Looking Toward Sag Harbor 1866
Hubbard Latham Fordham (1794-1872)
oil on canvas
loan from Joy Lewis to the Parrish Art Museum

The drawing below by William Tooker dated in 1869 depicts the new lighthouse on the left surrounded by scaffolding with the old wooden lighthouse on the right.
Cedar Lighthouse, 1869 drawing by William Wallace Tooker
collection of Nancy Carlson
Long Island Historical Journal, Vol. 19, Nos. 1-2, pp. 143
Fordham was struck by lightning one summer morning while out sailing during his first stint as keeper. In 1851 he would have been 57.
A campaign to restore the lighthouse is currently under way.
Cedar Island Lighthouse by Terry Elkins
this print available here
Head Keepers: 
Frederick King (1839 – 1841), Sineus Conkling (1841 – 1845), Moses Bears (1845 – 1849), Hubbard L. Fordham (1849 – 1853), Benjamin Crowell (1853), Lyman G. Sherman (1853 – 1861), Nathaniel Edwards (1861 – 1862), Mary Edwards (1862), Hubbard L. Fordham (1862 – 1869), Walter W. Seaman (1869 – 1880), George S. Tooker (1880 – 1889), William P. Gibbs (1889 – 1893), Robert Ebbitts (1893 – 1896), Robert A. Bishop (1896 – 1897), Charles I. Mulford (1897 – 1906), Adolf Nordstrom (1906 – 1912), John F. Anderson (1912 – 1917), William Henry Follett (1917 – 1934).
Noted filmmaker, Richard Altomonte, has produced a historical prospective of the lighthouse.

The lantern has recently been restored and is standing in front of the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum.
I could have easily spent the day in Cedar Point Park.
Cedar Point County Park information here
Camping information here
Cedar Island Lighthouse information here
More about the lighthouse at Lighthouse Friends here
My map doesn't count the sand from the 1938 hurricane as 'land'.
You never know when weather will intervene again.
I hope that we are able to restore this building to its former glory.
Imagine, it may become a bed and breakfast.


  1. So pretty..I love finding places like that..Hugh's comment would have made me worry..what if is my middle name;)
    But what if we get a flat?:)

  2. I think we are so used to being in crowds that being on this desserted winding road gave us pause. We would definitely have been worried if we were driving Swamp Road at night!


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