Light Hearted

Light Hearted redux – Episode 8, Casey Moulton, Braddock Point, NY; Eddystone Part 1

This episode was originally released on June 27, 2019. The featured interview is with Casey Moulton of the Braddock Point Lighthouse on the south shore of Lake Ontario, in Hilton, New York, a few miles northwest of Rochester. The magnificent Victorian keeper’s house is operated as a bed and breakfast inn. Also, host Jeremy D’Entremont and co-host Michelle Jewell Shaw discuss the first tower on the Eddystone Rocks off Plymouth, England, designed by the colorful showman Henry Winstanley and completed in 1698.

You can listen with the player below, followed by the complete transcript.

JEREMY

You are listening to Light Hearted, the official podcast of the United States Lighthouse Society. My name is Jeremy D’Entremont.We’re here in luxurious study room 3 of the Portsmouth Public Library in scenic Portsmouth, New Hampshire. For listeners who might not be familiar with the New Hampshire Seacoast region, Portsmouth is a small city that developed on the banks of the Piscataqua River in the 1600s. It was one of the busiest ports of colonial America, and that’s why Portsmouth Harbor was the site of the first lighthouse north of Boston in the American colonies in 1771.With me today is my co-host Michelle Jewell Shaw of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses. Thank you for being with me again today, Michelle.

MICHELLE

You’re very welcome, Jeremy. It’s my pleasure. I love being here at the luxurious Study Room Three at the Portsmouth Public Library, especially when it’s to discuss lighthouses.

JEREMY

Yeah, it is a beautiful study room, isn’t it? Well on today’s edition of Light Hearted, we’re going to listen to an interview with Casey Moulton of the Braddock Point Lighthouse on Lake Ontario in New York. It’s another light station where you can spend the night. But first we’re going to go right into our lighthouse history segment. Last time we told you about one of the world’s great early lighthouses, the Cordouan Lighthouse in France. Today we’re going to talk about a very famous lighthouse in England.

MUSIC

MICHELLE

Eddystone is probably the best known lighthouse in the world. A succession of four different towers have marked the Eddystone Rocks, 13 miles southwest of Plymouth, England. The earliest tower at Eddystone, completed in 1698, was the first lighthouse to be built in the open sea. It was built by an eccentric showman by the name of Henry Winstanley.

JEREMY

Winstanley, who was born in 1644, was an artist and engineer. One of his claims to fame is that he had designed a set of playing cards that was very popular and sold well. His own house at Essex was filled with whimsical machines of his own design and it became an attraction known as the “Essex House of Wonders.” In the 1690s he opened a theater known as “Winstanley’s Waterworks” in London. The waterworks combined fireworks, fountains, and machines of all kinds, including something called “The Wonderful Barrel” that served visitors hot and cold drinks from the same apparatus.

MICHELLE

Winstanley became a merchant and invested in five ships, two of which were wrecked on the Eddystone Rocks. He wondered why nothing had been done to prevent such wrecks and vowed to do something about it. Construction of a lighthouse began on July 14, 1696. Winstanley designed an octagonal tower to be built from Cornish granite and wood, with a glass lantern enclosing candles that would provide the light. It took four months to drill 12 holes into the rock in preparation for the foundation.

JEREMY

Britain and France were at war at the time the lighthouse was built. Almost a year into construction, in June 1697, a French privateer destroyed the work that had been done up to that time. The French vessel carried Winstanley away as a prisoner, but Louis XIV ordered his release. “France is at war with England,” he said, “not with humanity.”

MICHELLE

Following his release, Winstanley returned to the construction site and work resumed. The 80-foot-tall lighthouse was completed in November 1698. On November 14, Winstanley himself climbed into the lantern and lit the tallow candles for the first time. The tower took a pounding from storms through its first winter, and Winstanley had it encased in a new superstructure to give it more protection, raising its height to 120 feet.

JEREMY

Winstanley’s tower after 1699 modifications

The work, completed during the summer of 1699, left the tower larger and stronger. Winstanley’s drawing of the improved lighthouse became a best seller. The rebuilt lighthouse survived the next three winters without incident. Then came the Great Storm of November 1703, a storm that today would probably be classified as a Category 2 hurricane. Many thousands of oaks in England’s forests were destroyed, 2000 chimneys blew down in London, many ships were blown off course, and more than 1000 seamen died on the Goodwin Sands at the southern end of the North Sea.

MICHELLE

The Church of England declared that the storm was God’s vengeance for the sins of the nation. At St. James Palace in London, the queen took refuge in a cellar.  During the storm, on the evening of November 26, Eddystone Lighthouse showed its light as usual. The yellowish glare could be seen until close to midnight. Some weeks before the storm, Winstanley had said that he wished he could be at Eddystone for the greatest storm that ever blew under the face of heaven so he would see what effect it would have on his building.

JEREMY

He didn’t have to wait long. He was there for the Great Storm in November 1703 with five other men, completing some repairs. After the storm, nothing of the lighthouse was left on the rock, and no trace was ever found of Winstanley and the other men.

MICHELLE

Some have criticized Winstanley as a showman who had no business building a lighthouse in an exposed wave-swept location. But he did something that had never been done before, and it did last five years. It was destroyed by one of England’s worst storms in history.

JEREMY

We’ll continue the saga of the lighthouses on the Eddystone Rocks on the next edition of Light Hearted.

MICHELLE

And now it’s time for the interview with today’s guest. Braddock Point Lighthouse was established on the south shore of Lake Ontario, in Hilton, New York, a few miles northwest of Rochester, in 1896. The lighthouse was originally a tall brick tower, accompanied by a magnificent two-and-a-half-story brick Victorian keeper’s house. The original 3 ½-order Fresnel lens was the brightest on Lake Ontario. Most of the lighthouse tower was later removed and the light was relocated to a skeleton tower. The government sold the property into private hands, and Braddock Point Lighthouse was eventually converted into a bed and breakfast inn.

JEREMY

Since 2008, the owners have been Don and Nandy Town. Their daughter, Larissa, and her husband, Casey Moulton, are now hosting guests year round. I spoke with Casey Moulton on the phone in February. Let’s listen to that conversation now.

Larissa and Casey, innkeepers at Braddock Point Lighthouse

MUSICAL INTERLUDE

JEREMY

Thanks so much for joining me today, Casey.

CASEY MOULTON

Thanks for having me, Jeremy.

JEREMY

Casey, I’d love it if you could tell us a little bit about the history of the lighthouse. I understand the tower at one point had to be shortened because bricks were falling out, and I know the private owners have carried out a great deal of restoration in the past few decades.

CASEY MOULTON

Yes. In fact, within the very first three months, the tower was having some structural problems because you see our tower actually has the unique designation that it was a former lighthouse before it was the Braddock Point Lighthouse. I’ll explain. In 1872 they constructed the Cleveland Harbor Lighthouse, and that was decommissioned at the end of the decade and that lighthouse tower and the light, all of that was dismantled, taken apart, put into crates and mailed up to Hilton, New York, because you could see that light actually through 15 miles out onto Lake Erie and they needed a light that could throw 15 miles out onto Lake Ontario, because of this — there’s a structure, a geographical structure called the Devil’s Nose that juts out about 15 miles and all throughout there’s shoals and rocks that ships could get caught up on. So this light actually was considered to be, I guess, early recycling if you will. And it actually was an innovation, you know, let’s save this light and use it somewhere else. Unfortunately, Lake Erie is more shallow than Lake Ontario. Lake Ontario is the smallest of the Great Lakes, but it is the second deepest. And because of that, the weather is more virulent, so you have stronger winds, harsher gales blowing during the wintertime.

So within the first three months of it being built, there were already bricks starting to fall out of it. The structure came into question. In fact, the first lighthouse keeper, Frank Coleman, wrote in his logbooks that he needed people to come out and fix the tower. And this was an occurrence that happened every year. People would come out and repair the tower. And this went on throughout the entire history of the tower. There were constant repairs being made on it. And in fact there was almost a fire when it was first built because the oil system was not installed properly. So I believe it was put in upside down. So it almost burned down within the first three months of its very existence. But by 1952, after all the years of its repairs, fissures had started to form along the sides of the tower. There were cracks, deep cracks running up the brick. And the federal government said, well, we’ve had enough, you know, we can make an autonomous skeletal tower that doesn’t need any maintenance and doesn’t need a light housekeeper. So they cut it two thirds of it off and actually threw it into the lake. And to this day, you’ll find old bricks washing up on the shore that are actually parts of the old lighthouse. And somewhere out there is the original tower. The top of the tower. Yeah.

In 1998, Robert Thulin, the owner of the property at the time, had this big idea, this big project. He wanted to get that beacon that was on the skeletal tower brought back over to its original container. So he had someone design — I’m not actually sure if he designed it himself — the top of the tower, a new cap, at a third of the height and an act of Congress in 1998. If you can believe it, he had to lobby Congress. They actually transferred that light back onto its original pedestal. And it’s been lit ever since. Currently it is a LED lens, the cost of $10,000 from taxpayer dollars. And it’s powered by taxpayers as well.

And about every six months, like during the summertime, the U S government will send the U.S. Coast Guard from Buffalo. There is their area of triangulation where they kind of work because between Ohio, Virginia, and New York, and they go around to those towers and they inspect the lights. And they actually, they’re the really nice group of guys. They come through the front door or the original front door of the tower and they work on the light. They inspect it, they see, you know, what needs to be done. My wife actually asked them this past time, can you clean the windows up there for me? So, you know, it’s a difficult area to reach course because it’s about 110 feet today up to the top of the spire and that when you’re standing in the tower, it’s at about 97 feet. But that is, that’s the sort of history of the physical structure. So it throws 14 miles out in the lake and it uses less energy than any light before it. And from 1896 to 1916, it used kerosene oil. And then in 1916, it switched to a kerosene vapor. And by 1926 it was electrified. So from that point on, it was the electrified tool.

JEREMY

Now we’ve come all the way to an LED light. That’s great that it’s an active aid to navigation again. I mean, what’s a lighthouse without a light. My wife always says, a lighthouse without a light is light — it’s like it has no soul, you know? So I think it’s a great, great thing that your lighthouse is a working lighthouse again.

CASEY MOULTON

Absolutely.

JEREMY

Yeah. Well, thank you for that history. That’s really interesting. Now I understand the lighthouse is not actually located at Braddock Point, but it’s actually at a place called Bogus Point. What that all about?

CASEY MOULTON

That’s an interesting point. You’re the first person that comes to me knowing that. Usually I tease folks with that at the end of my tour. So when the surveyors came in with a lighthouse in a strategic point, they thought they were standing on Braddock Point and it got the name, the Braddock Point Lighthouse, and it’s even been referred to as the Braddock Bay Lighthouse by certain publications and at certain times, but the Braddock Point Lighthouse is a misnomer because it is in fact on Bogus Point and Bogus Point gets its name from nefarious activities that took place in this area. So allegedly at one point in time, there was a counterfeit money operation going on here. This is the stuff of myths and legends, but there was supposedly a cave around here were some unsavory people who would counterfeit money between the U S and Canada. So allegedly that was going on. And then of course this is during the prohibition era and there’s a lot of whiskey running going on in this area from Canada. So there’s even a legend of some gangsters coming across the lake, that one time it completely froze over and they drove their Model A Fords across the ice with cases of whiskey in tow. But that’s kind of how it gets the name Bogus Point, but right next door to us is the Bogus Point Park of Parma. And that is actually where they erected that skeletal tower between 1952 and 1998.

JEREMY

Okay. I, sadly have not had the pleasure of visiting your lighthouse. I certainly hope to, and I will one of these days, but I was looking at the photos on your website and everything sure looks beautiful. It looks like everything is very tastefully restored. It looks very historically, again, tastefully restored, but there are also modern conveniences. What can you tell us about the property and the accommodations that people should expect if they stay there?

CASEY MOULTON

Absolutely. I think the great thing about this lighthouse is when people, and this is just from what I’ve heard, but people who have stayed at lighthouses usually have a story about having to take care of the lighthouse and been a lighthouse keeper for a week. And we don’t have any work here for folks like that. This is a leisure location. So people get to enjoy the history of the building and the history of the area. Because I mean, being near Rochester, there is so much history between Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass and all of the sorts of things that you can do, being able to come here. It’s a nice, quiet neighborhood. It’s a nice, quiet location. We’ve got beautiful sunsets during the summer on the lake. And of course during — we’re in our winter season right now, but it’s almost like winter, Christmassy magic, if you will. I’m saying that in the middle of February, but snow can be really pretty, especially when you see there’s sort of a vortex of snow when the light is on at night, it swirls around the light because of the wind whipping around it. It’s absolutely beautiful, but people can really expect the opportunity to relax and even get away for a romantic weekend.

We get a lot of folks from the state department. A lot of people who’ve worked in NSA, who’ve worked for the CIA. They come out here and they come out here just to decompress and relax and get away from it all. So if you’re looking for a peaceful, quiet weekend that you can maybe spend with a loved one, we have three rooms for folks to stay in, so we can accommodate up to six people. So it’d be a nice little place for people to get away to for a romantic weekend. We serve breakfast. We have our specialties, of course, and we also have a historical tour for folks, people come on a historical tour and then they get to actually go up to the tower and they get to see the house. There’s been a lot of renovations done throughout the nineties by the Thulins, as well as ten years of accruing antiques and even items that belong to the lighthouse that have returned. We have a lot of people in the community who come to us and they’ll tell us, you know, “Oh, this piece of furniture actually belonged to the lighthouse. And my relative took it when it was sitting empty during the 1950s, which is kind of funny, but it’s really nice to have that connection with the community and that connection with history.

This isn’t just a lighthouse. This is also been a home of families. And it’s been a story of survival. This was a story of survival with folks on the lake, as well as the people that lived here in this lighthouse. And originally, back in 1896, the payment for a U.S. lighthouse keeper that stayed here wasn’t very big, a modest stipend, but they had 13 acres of land to work. So their payment was that they got to farm the land while they took care of the light. There’s a lot of work living here. So there’s a lot of work and love. That’s gone into it over the years as well from the private owners, in order to keep it looking beautiful and consistent with the time period. We do have modern conveniences as well. So there aren’t a bunch of TVs around the house, but there is one, and we also have a little music system playing some quiet music. At night we play a little bit of soft jazz. And of course during the daytime, we have some classical music playing.

JEREMY

I understand stays at Braddock Point Lighthouse have been offered as a grand prize on The Price is Right. That’s pretty cool. Is that correct?

CASEY MOULTON

That is correct. In fact there’s kind of a funny story connected with that. So my wife’s father, who was the lighthouse keeper, Donald Town, he actually got a call. His wife picked up and she came and grabbed him and she said, “Hollywood’s calling, Donnie.” And he said, “Yeah. Right.” You know, but she was like, “No, seriously, this is Hollywood calling. The Price is Right wants to use the lighthouse as their grand prize. And I think we might’ve had actually one contestant stay here, but it is really cool to actually see people playing for us as their grand prize. It’s an exciting thing. And it’s been great advertisement, too. A lot of people have called up here and we’re like, “How did you find out about us?” And they’re like, “You were on The Price is Right. I saw you like yesterday.” And it’s a neat thing, because there aren’t a lot of lighthouses out there that you can actually stay at, especially in a leisure way. So we offer the history of the property and also being able to relax and get away from it all.

JEREMY

You mentioned romantic weekends as a popular thing. I noticed on the website, it mentions the enchanted evening special. Do you want to say a little bit more about that?

CASEY MOULTON

Yes, it’s basically just a nice little evening during the summertime. We set up an area outside where folks can have a little dessert and sit near the sunset and enjoy it going down. During the wintertime, of course we have to, change the area. We can’t sit outside because it’s snowy. So some people choose to have it by the fireplace where there’s a nice warm fire crackling or, um, even in the stone conservatory, which is a solarium, it’s a sun room. So folks can actually sit in there and enjoy a little dessert and a romantic evening together with some soft jazz music.

JEREMY

Sounds pretty nice. I understand you also host weddings and other small events as well.

CASEY MOULTON

Yes, we, we do small events, ancillary events. They have done a few weddings in the past. We’ve done a lot of wedding photo shoots as well. So a lot of photography happens here. We have some things we’re going to be hosting coming up. We’ve done a lot of open houses for the community for folks have been able to come in and see us dressed up for Christmas. We have a ton of Christmas decorations, I will tell you that. We get all decked out. And of course we have different seasonal dressing for the property as well. So during the fall we had cornstalks and we had things of that sort around the property.

And we even had a Halloween tour this fall where I dressed up in period clothing, and I even had mutton shops and I gave a little spooky tour. I know this is a disclaimer. The lighthouse is not haunted, but I told some scary stories that might’ve been tall tales if you will, about the area. So we do little things like that and we don’t have a large number of people coming to the property, but I’ve also done tours for some local groups. We had a group of senior citizens. There were 60 of them. And I gave them an abridged tour of the property and I took them up the tower six by six, 10 times. So up and down, up and down. So we’ve done things like this.

And we are looking into doing some more with weddings. We would love to have some folks were thinking more elopements, like getaways where people who want to get married, but they have a small group of people, like people closest in their orbit, maybe their parents or best friends. And we have parking and availability for events where there might be more, a little bit more people.

JEREMY

One final question for you. How can people find out more about the Braddock Point Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast?

CASEY MOULTON

We have a website online, it’s up and running. It’s beautiful.

JEREMY

It is.

CASEY MOULTON

It is new. Yes. And you can send an email to either myself or my wife and one of us will get back to you.

JEREMY

It really is a beautiful website. The lead photo on the front of the website is just gorgeous. It’s braddockpointlighthouse.com. Casey Moulton, I really appreciate you spending time with me today. Thank you so much to you and Larissa.

CASEY MOULTON

Thank you for having me.

MUSICAL INTERLUDE

MICHELLE

There are quite a few lighthouses around the United States where you can stay overnight. To find a list, go to the U.S. Lighthouse Society website at uslhs.org. Click on “fun” at the menu at the top. Then click on “lighthouse accommodations.”

JEREMY

I also have a list of lighthouses around the world with accommodations on my website. Go to www.newenglandlighthouses.net. Use the menu across the top and go under “links” and then go to “lighthouses with overnight accommodations.” And now it’s trivia question time.

(NOTE: THE TRIVIA CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.)

MICHELLE

The first two people to answer the following question correctly will win prizes.

JEREMY

And here is today’s question. If you’ve been listening carefully to this edition of  Light Hearted you should know the answer to this question. In what month and year did the first lighthouse on the Eddystone Rocks in England go into service? Again, in what month and year did the first Eddystone Lighthouse in England go into service?

MICHELLE

The first person to answer correctly gets a 2019 U.S. Lighthouse Society calendar, with beautiful photos by USLHS members. The second gets a “Lighthouse Illumination DVD,” which takes you on a tour through the history of lighthouse illumination.

JEREMY

To enter, send your answer in an email to me at jeremy@uslhs.org. Be sure to say that you are answering the trivia question in Light Hearted episode eight, and again, send it in an email to jeremy@uslhs.org.

MUSIC – This Little Light of Mine

JEREMY

That’s it for this edition of Light Hearted. We want to thank the staff of the Portsmouth Public Library. And thanks to the staff, volunteers, and members of the U.S. Lighthouse Society, with a special shout out to Jeff, Maria, Cassandra, and everyone at the headquarters at Point No Point in Washington.

MICHELLE

To learn more about the U.S. Lighthouse Society, be sure to visit uslhs.org and you can also visit the social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

JEREMY

And of course, thanks to today’s guest, Casey Moulton of Braddock Point Lighthouse in New York. You can check that lighthouse out online at braddockpointlighthouse.com.

And of course, thanks to my co-host today, Michelle Jewell Shaw. For anyone who will be in the vicinity of the New Hampshire Seacoast this summer, be sure to stop by Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse in New Castle, New Hampshire, on a Sunday afternoon, where you can meet Michelle and my other frequent co-host, Cindy Johnson. On most Sundays, all three of us are there.

MICHELLE

Thank you for having me again with you today, Jeremy, it was as always a pleasure. I look forward to seeing lots of our listeners at open houses. And if you come within the near future, you’ll get to see a pretty exciting thing that’s happening at Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse. She is getting a much needed paint job. So that is happening now. The staging has gone up and it is underway. So we look forward to seeing you and thank you for listening today.

JEREMY

And as always, thanks for listening and keep a good light.

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