3/4 mile west-southwest of Race Point (off the western tip of Fishers
Island), on the northern side of The Race.
Description: 67 feet; granite tower; originally a Fourth
Order lens with alternating red and white flashes every 30 seconds; Gothic
Revival style structure similar to that of Stratford Shoal; there is a ledge
3 to 13 feet below the water line.
1671: The British warship John
and Lucy runs aground at Race Rock, with the loss of several lives.
1806: A light is erected on Little
Gull Island in the hopes of making The Race safer for marine navigation. It
had limited success. The light would be rebuilt in 1869.
1846, November: The steamer
Atlantic runs aground. 45 lives are lost.
1847: Congress appropriates $400
for the placements of buoys near Race Rock and Watch Hill Reef.
1853: Congress appropriates $1000
for the erection of an iron spindle on Race Rock. It was soon swept away by
1868: Congress appropriates
$90,000 for a light on race Rock. The light would be tended to by a keeper
1869: The Lighthouse Board
suggests that a light with keeper's quarters be erected on Race Rock. The
structure called for in their report is described as "a keeper's dwelling
two stories high and octagonal in plan, with a circular stairway in the
center, to be carried a sufficient height above the roof of the dwelling to
support the lantern and illuminating apparatus; the wholoe to be of granite
and fire proof." The report goes on to estimate the cost of the proposed
light to be $200,000. Not only did Congress not go for the plan at first, in
1870 they returned $80,000 of the original appropriation to the treasury.
1870: Work building a riprap
foundation began. The Board's annual report recommends that $150,000 be
1871, March 3: Congress
appropriates $150,000. The contract is awarded to Francis Hopkinson Smith.
Once the rocks were piled high enough above the water, the top of the pile
was blasted to level it. One of the foreman's boats, the Wallace,
blows up, causing the loss of several lives and the injuring of others.
1872: The annual report requests
another $75,000. The foundation is completed and the work stops in September
due to bad weather.
1873: The plan for the foundation
had to be modified due to instability of the riprap foundation. Work to
implement the changes began in May and lasted until September.
1874: The foundation is finished
and work starts on the wharf and pier.
1875, November: The working season
ends with the completion of the second course of the pier and wharf, and the
beginning of work on the third course.
1876: The eighth course is
completed despite several storms.
1877, March: Plans for the
dwelling and tower are approved.
1877, May: Work begins for the
season. The first tasks involve repairing damage done by the storms of the
1877, July: The pier was finished
to the thirteenth course.
1877, August and September: Work
is delayed while waiting for the stones for the fourteenth course.
1877, December: The pier was
completed and work had begun on the lighthouse.
1878: The lighthouse is completed.
1879, January 1: The light is lit.
1883: The characteristic of the
light is changed to alternating red and white flashes every ten seconds.
1896: A second class fog siren is
1978, November: Automated. Fresnel
lens replaced with rotating beacon.
use: Active aid to navigation.
surrounding area: The area surrounding Race Rock is a
dangerous waterway. It has claimed many ships.
access? No, but it is visible by boat.
Shoal is similar in design.
information: Construction took six years and cost $278, 716.
Was built by Francis Hopkinson Smith and Captain Thomas Albertson Scott.
Smith also built the seawall at Governor's Island and the foundation for the
Statue of Liberty. Race Rock and Little Gull Island work together to show
the boundaries of The Race, a very deep passage through which much water
flows at high speeds. It is a dangerous waterway because of the velocity of
the water and the shallower, rock-strewn water on both sides of The Race.
Wayne Wheeler, President of the US Lighthouse Society, wrote an excellent
article on Race Rock in the Fall 1998 edition of The Keeper's Log.
Find a copy and read it if you wish to understand the difficulty with which
this light was constructed.
Race Rock Lighthouse
Here you can see the solar panels on the
left side of the base, and the pier at the back of the structure.
A closer view of the panels.
The view from between Fisher's Island and
Note the pier.