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Lighthouse at Point Breeze was toppled by storm in 1916

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 8 October 2016 at 8:56 am

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“Overlooked Orleans,” Volume 2, Issue 41

POINT BREEZE – In 1867, the U.S. Federal Government allocated approximately $87,000 to construct a set of piers and a lighthouse at Point Breeze. The result was this beautiful local landmark situated along the west side of the Oak Orchard River.

This picture, taken around 1900, shows two women and four men standing along the piers that were said to extend upwards of 1,600 feet out onto Lake Ontario. Where is the fourth man you may ask? While the five individuals stand on the walkway, a sixth person is standing on the lower level to the left of the group, peering into the water. The man on the far right appears to be extending a long pole into the water, possibly fishing.

The Point Breeze Lighthouse was officially completed in 1871 and was accompanied by a light-keeper’s home located on the western shore of the river. The keeper would carry containers filled with lamp oil along the pier to refill the lantern – oil was stored in a square iron building on shore, that building remains on exhibit at the Cobblestone Museum.

After the turn of the century, U.S. Congress passed a piece of legislation called the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1905. These acts, passed every few years, allocated funds to specific projects along rivers and harbors. This particular act brought about an end to maintenance of the two piers and accompanying lighthouse, which fell into a state of disrepair over the next ten years.

During a storm in 1914, the structure was severely damaged and with no available funding to provide necessary repairs to the lighthouse, it remained in place to suffer the continued effects of Lake Ontario.

Finally, a storm on December 28, 1916 delivered the final blow and swept the entire structure and a portion of the pier into the lake. A local newspaper reported that the pier on the west side of the river extended nearly 1,300 feet onto the lake, but was reduced to a length no longer than 1,000 feet after this terrific storm.

Although the lighthouse disappeared from sight, it remained a troublesome obstacle for boaters in the area for years after. Boaters unfamiliar with the area often found themselves running aground on the submerged wreckage of the lighthouse and pier. One such occasion involved a boat from Canada carrying five women and two men. The group was halted suddenly when the boat became lodged on the debris – a higher than normal water level was to blame for the unfortunate occurrence.

On another unfortunate occasion, a cruiser carrying rum from Canada during prohibition became lodged on the wreckage resulting in the subsequent seizure of the crew and its precious cargo. It is believed that this boat was one sold at auction east of Rochester, known as the Q9-92. In 1925, the vessel was captured near Kendall offloading 200 cases of Canadian ale at the Knapp Farm; State Police and Sheriff’s Deputies were led to the location by a nosey neighbor.

The boat was seized, the owner forced to pay $95, and the two 400 horsepower engines stripped from the vessel. The farm owner admitted to helping unload approximately 4-5 boatloads of liquor per week at that very spot, shipping the spirits to Rochester by truck. Police auctioned the boat off outside of Rochester in 1925, so it was no surprise that the new owner would choose to use the cruiser for its original purpose!

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