Digest>Archives> December 1995

Tarrytown Light

By Timothy Harrison

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The Moreland family inside the circular living ...

It was back in 1847 that funds were set aside for the construction of a lighthouse at Tellers Point near Sing Sing. However officials changed their minds and the funds were decided to be used for the construction of a tower at Tarrytown, only after a third site proved to be too costly.

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Keeper Moreland rowing from the mainland back to ...

The lighthouse was first lit on October 1, 1882 and Jacob Ackerman served as its first keeper, a position he held at this location for an amazing 21 years.

The tower's first deck was 18 feet in diameter and was a combination kitchen, dining room and living room. A spiral staircase led to the next two decks that served as bedrooms. On the fourth deck there was an additional room that could be used for an additional bedroom or storeroom and the fifth floor housed the fog bells equipment and had a door that opened onto the catwalk around the lantern which was considered the sixth floor.

In an interview conducted with the Sunday Mirror Magazine in the mid 1950's Keeper Richard Moreland recounted lighthouse living with reporter James H. Winchester. Of all the lighthouses near New York City, Moreland along with his wife Agnes and two small children, Mary Lou and Diane, were the only lighthouse family to actually live in the tower itself.

Fitting square furniture into round room always seemed to present a problem, but only one of the unusual oddities they experienced. To shop, Moreland had to row a half a mile to shore for groceries or in the winter he could walk across the frozen ice, which could prove dangerous in itself.

The couple never went anywhere together, since one of them was always required to be at the lighthouse. One time they recalled a power failure which darkened the light and silenced the fog horn. He lit an emergency kerosene lantern in the cupola and rang the fog bell by hand for two hours.

For entertainment, the Morelands relied heavily on TV. The one thing they really loved to do was fish right out of their front door.

Moreland said it was the best job in the Coast Guard and a great place to save money.

The lighthouse was automated in 1959 and the power of its flashing red light was reduced from 7000 candlepower to 1500. In 1961 the light was distinguished as obsolete and in 1974 came under the ownership of Winchester County. Over the years landfill extended the shoreline to within 50 feet of the tower and in the late 1970's a footbridge was connected from the shore to the tower.

This story appeared in the December 1995 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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