Fantastic Atlantic Salmon fishing has long been a prime attraction at the mouth of the Salmon River in New York, at the eastern end of Lake Ontario. In the early 1830s it was determined that the harbor at the mouth of the river could accommodate as many as 30 ships, and a lighthouse was established in 1838. The lighthouse was built with stone from a local quarry and took the form of a two-story keeper’s house with an octagonal tower mounted on its roof. It was topped by a so-called birdcage-style lantern room, which remains in place today. Inside the lantern room was a sixth-order Fresnel lens.
There was a proposal for a canal that would have connected the Salmon River to Erie Canal system, but it never came to be. The importance of the harbor faded and the lighthouse was deactivated in 1859. In 1895 the lighthouse was auctioned by the government and sold for $155. The buyer, Leopold Joh, incorporated the building into a hotel complex. The next owners, the Heckle family, doubled the size of the hotel. Jim Walker bought the property in 1987 and reopened it to overnight stays in 1995.
In 2014 the lighthouse was bought by the Barnell and Ellis families, longtime summer residents of the area, and they set about restoring and revitalizing the property. The lighthouse is open for daily and weekly rentals and there are fishing charters available from the Salmon River Marina. Abe Ellis is the general manager of the Salmon River Lighthouse and Marina.
Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org