This 50 foot tall octagonal tower and the park named for it compose the very northern tip of Roosevelt Island.  It was designed by James Renwick, Jr. in gothic revival style in 1872, and it was used to help ships navigate the treacherous currents of Hell Gate.  But, there is a far more interesting legend concerning the Lighthouse than just a commission by the city. 

    Two inmates from the Lunatic Asylum, John McCarthy and Thomas Maxley, have both been credited with building the tower.  Fearing a British invasion, McCarthy built a four foot high mud fort, effectively filling in marshland that would become Lighthouse Park.  Maxley has also been credited with building the lighthouse by following or modifying Renwick's design.  Until the late 1960s, an inscribed stone by the lighthouse read:

"This is the work

Was done by

John McCarthy

Who built the Light

House from the bottom to the

Top All ye who do pass by may

Pray for his soul when he dies."

    The Lighthouse remained in operation as a navigational aid until 1940, and can be seen in an early FILM by Thomas Edison from 1903.  In 1970, the lighthouse was selected by Georgio Cavaglieri to be one of the island's preserved structures. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, and declared a New York City Landmark in 1976.  Through an anonymous donation of $120,000 dollars in 1998, the Lighthouse was completely restored, including interior lighting.  Unfortunately, due to severe weather, including Hurricane Sandy, the Lighthouse is in need of a new roof.  If you would like to help to replace the roof, please contact the Roosevelt Island Historical Society and let them know you'd like to help repair the Lighthouse.

    Check out the Lighthouse's designation report from 1976 and see how interesting this lighthouse really is.

    We really appreciate you taking this tour with us.  Thank you for letting us share this amazing island with you.  There is much more to see than what we have shown you today.  If you haven't taken the Southern Tour, that is a great place to start.  The Event Calendar lists many of upcoming celebrations and activities on Roosevelt Island. Why not frequent the stores on Main Street?  Or invite someone on picnic to Lighthouse Park? The history of Roosevelt Island has already been established.  How we remember and celebrate it depends on you.

North Tour Stop 15: Lighthouse


Lighthouse and Lighthouse Park



List of Stops List_of_Stops.html

Getting AroundGetting_Around.html
Roosevelt Island Historical Tourindex.html
Enjoy the Park and the rest of Roosevelt Island!Map.html
End of TourMap.html

Jason Hawkes

Dona Yu

Dona Yu

Dona Yu

Marena Wisniewski