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See the Oldest Operating Lighthouse on Lake Ontario

posted by Teresa Farrell at 2021-09-05 12:32:00

Located on the sunny southern shores of Lake Ontario, north of Rochester in Western New York, is a piece of living history that still shines today. The Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse boasts the distinction of being the oldest lighthouse still in operation on the shores of Lake Ontario. Originally constructed in the early 19th century, the lighthouse has been in continuous service for nearly two hundred years, serving as a landmark and a guide for ships entering the harbor and as a testament to a bygone era.
The story of this particular lighthouse begins back in 1803, during Thomas Jefferson's presidency. He envisioned the stretch of Lake Ontario that runs between Rochester Harbor and the mouth of the Genesee River as an ideal route to invest in for travel and trade. He began to work on building up the shipping industry in the area, along with widening the harbor and channel to accommodate this new influx of traffic. It worked—soon, there were ships passing in and out of the harbor on a regular basis, and they needed some way to navigate. For awhile, lanterns were propped on tall buildings in the town of Genesee, but it soon became clear a more permanent solution was needed. In 1822, the Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse became that solution.
Today, the lighthouse is open to the public during the warmer months. Visitors can take a guided tour of the grounds, led by enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteers who tell tales of the lighthouse's past; then, climb to the top of the tower to get a sweeping panoramic view of the grounds and Lake Ontario. Standing at 40 feet tall, with an 11-foot lantern room, the lighthouse’s stone tower is the original structure, though it’s undergone some renovations over the years. Follow your guide up the spiral staircase to the top, and you’ll find yourself in the lantern room, where the view is yours to take in. Set against the backdrop of sparkling Lake Ontario and the rolling grounds and surrounding gardens, it is a spectacular setting.

Outside, the two-and-a-half-story keeper’s house used to be the place the lighthouse keeper called home; today, it houses artifacts and exhibits that paint a historical picture of what life was like during the time when this place was in its heyday. The contents of the museum are ever-changing; some highlights have included artifacts and exhibits on the history of the lighthouse itself, the grounds surrounding it, the beaches and harbor you can see from the top, and even the stories behind some of the ships that the light guided to safety, among other interesting topics. There’s also a gift shop located within the keeper’s house, where visitors can pick up souvenirs to commemorate their visit to this beautiful and historic spot.

Currently, the Charlotte-Genesee lighthouse is open and offering tours on a limited schedule until the end of October. Be sure to visit http://www.geneseelighthouse.org/ for most current hours and information before setting out on your trip!

Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse photo credit Matthew D Wilson
View from the bottom of the lighthouse photo credit Charlotte Genesee Lighthouse
Fresnel lens photo credit Charlotte Genesee Lighthouse
Lighthouse at night photo credit Charlotte Genesee Lighthouse

posted at: 2021-09-05 12:32:00, last updated: 2021-09-06 12:46:59

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