The Fort Niagara Lighthouse stands at the point where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario in the vicinity of Youngstown, New York. This area became important as far back as the 1700s when fur traders would use this area to transfer their furs to larger ships. In 1726 a French castle was built to offer the colonists protection from the Native Americans.
The Castle could be seen during the day but not at night, so in 1781, a light was placed on top of the Castle to illuminate the area and keep night travelers on course. The Castle became the first unofficial lighthouse on the Great Lakes.
A new light was established in 1823 and a wooden tower with a pedestal to house the light was built on top of the castle. This made it stand 70′ above the water and it was considered a worthy lighthouse. After being damaged in a tornado, there were many complaints about the safety and usefulness of the lighthouse. Besides being weather damaged, you had to go through the officers’ quarters to get to the light. Another problem was that the Castle was surrounded by four chimneys that were dangerous. A spark from one of the chimneys caused a severe roof fire causing more complaints that the valuable Fresnel lens could have been destroyed.
Finally, it was approved to build a lighthouse that would not be part of the Castle. The Niagara Lighthouse was built, and the Fresnel lens was transferred to the new structure in 1872. When looking at the Fort Niagara Lighthouse, you see an eleven-foot brick section on top of the stone tower. This was added to the original structure in 1900 as a watch room.
The Fort Niagara Lighthouse stands south of the Fort and is a pretty octagonal, gray-stone tower with a black lantern. The Fort Niagara Lighthouse is now part of the Old Fort Niagara National Historic Landmarks.
Throughout history, many lighthouses were destroyed or blown up during Wars and some were decommissioned because they were no longer needed. The Fort Niagara Lighthouse was replaced for a much different reason. Why? Modern beacons replaced the Fort Niagara Lighthouse in 1993. You see, approximately 50 trees grew behind the Niagara Lighthouse blocking its light. The Fort Niagara Lighthouse was decommissioned so that the trees could be saved. The Fort Niagara Lighthouse is in the Fort Niagara State Park. The Lighthouse is owned by the Coast Guard and under lease to the Old Fort Niagara Association. The Castle is also still in the Fort and part of the tour of Fort Niagara.