Digest>Archives> March 1996

Cumberland Head Light For Sale

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The chance of a real authentic lighthouse becoming available to the general public to own is slim to none. It has been decades since the government sold a lighthouse to private individuals. Nowadays they are turned over to historical groups and towns to be used as museums. But many years ago when a lighthouse became obsolete, the government sold the structures to the highest bidder. Public outcry eventually put a stop to this practice. The lighthouses that were sold to private parties generally have remained in the same family for years, or changed hands from one family to another only once or twice.

Now, on the beautiful blue waters of Lake Champlain in New York State, an authentic historic lighthouse can be yours.

The Cumberland Head Lighthouse, in Plattsburg, New York is now for sale. The lighthouse is on the site of one of the first lighthouses on Lake Champlain. It was back in 1838 that the first tower was completed on land purchased from Luther Hager for $398.20. The original tower was abandoned and replaced by the current structure in 1867.

William Tabberrah became Keeper at the lighthouse in 1871. He and his wife were the first family with children to occupy the lighthouse, with all six of their children having been born there.

Keeper Tabberrah was a Civil War veteran having been seriously wounded in the War. He suffered for over 40 years and, in spite of his constant pain, carried out his lighthouse duties faithfully. Finally, it was decided that the ball should be removed and he underwent surgery at the local hospital. The ball (bullet) that had been in him for 40 years was removed along with pieces of his old uniform that was still lodged inside him. However, infection set in and he died on October 18, 1904.

In his final days, he had many notable visitors, among them the famous Rear Admiral Winfield Scott Schley, who was also a former lighthouse inspector. The family recalled that when William, in thanking the Admiral for his visit, said to the Admiral. "I am honored", the Admiral replied, "On the contrary, I am honored."

William's wife Emma applied for her husband's job and was appointed keeper on December 19, 1904 and served until her retirement in 1919. The best selling book, Women Who Kept The Lights, which is available from Lighthouse Depot, devotes an entire chapter to her.

In 1934, the government built a metal automated tower and abandoned the lighthouse. As part of a program to provide land to veterans of World War II, Joseph Church and his wife Rose purchased the lighthouse in 1946. Rose Church recalled that when they moved in " the house was in shambles, and there was graffiti all over the place." Through time they restored the home and raised their children there.

The combination of windows that face the lake and three fireplaces make it cheerfully cool in the summer and cozy in the winter. The L-shaped kitchen is entirely bricked with a waist high fireplace. On the south terrace of the house one can relax to a view of the Adirondack and Green Mountains which is basically the same view you can get from the Master Bedroom. With its sprawling lawn on the shores of Lake Champlain, this is truly a place one can be at peace with the world.

In 1985, the town of Plattsburg adopted a new seal for its bicentennial and it features the Cumberland Head Lighthouse.

Unfortunately, it is now time to sell and at an asking price of $600,000, is relatively inexpensive. And, perhaps if you can convince the Church's that you are a real true lover of lighthouses, you might be able to negotiate the price.

This would be an ideal retirement home or, even better yet, a great Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast that could support itself.

Please, only sincere interested buyers can call Judith Reynolds at 413 567-6516.

This story appeared in the March 1996 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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