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Great Lakes’ Oldest Lighthouse Open For Tours

(rda@Flickr)

It’s pretty rare for the Buffalo lighthouse to be open for tours, but it will be Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

It’s the oldest lighthouse on the Great Lakes. It was almost demolished 50 years ago, but a volunteer group has been restoring it and they’re going to show it off tomorrow in conjunction with National Lighthouse Day.

If you’ve ever been to the Hatch – it’s directly across the water. I went on a media tour of the lighthouse some years ago, and it gives you some great views of the city and lake from an angle you’ve probably never seen before. Because you had to go through the U.S. Coast Guard station to get there, after 9/11, tours were just about eliminated, except with special permission. But now, there’s plans for a visitors’ center and regular tours throughout the year. Right now there’s just one day to enjoy it.

It’s 61 feet tall. You’ll climb 50 circular stone steps to get to the original lighthouse room, then climb two more metal stairs to get to the optic room. The light in the original optic room was powered by oil – different types of oil over the year, finally kerosene. When the new addition was added on top the light was powered by electricity.

The Buffalo lighthouse is known as the Chinamen’s lighthouse because the top of it looks like a Chinese laborers hat. It also was also used as a watchtower for illegal Chinese immigrants crossing the Niagara River from Canada.

A lot of the renovation work has already been done. There’s still more to do, but here’s a chance to see one of the Great Lakes’ treasures tomorrow. To get there take the Outer Harbor exit off the Skyway.

There was a Facebook response by Scott Pugh, a retired Coast Guardsman who spent a few years working on lighthouses and was in charge of the aids to navigation here in Buffalo.

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