For centuries lighthouses have thrilled and fascinated people with their sense of mystery, sea lore and romance.
Author Eric Jay Dolin writes about these beacons of light, including some on Long Island, in his new book, “Brilliant Beacons: A History of the American Lighthouse.”
He comes to the North Fork this weekend to discuss America’s lighthouses and sign copies of his book.“Brilliant Beacons” tells the story of America through its coastal lighthouses, including the evolution of our lighthouse system, along with all the political, military and technological struggles along the way.
Dolin was surprised by things he learned during his research, particularly the role lighthouses played in wartime.
“During the American Revolution, both the Boston Lighthouse and Sandy Hook Lighthouse in New Jersey were attacked by both sides,” he said.
According to Dolin, as many as 160 American lighthouses were either damaged or destroyed during the Civil War, most of them by Confederate forces to keep the Union Navy out of Southern waters.
Even Southold’s Little Gull Island Lighthouse played a part in the War of 1812. When the British were trying to blockade Long Island Sound, they ordered the lighthouse disabled to keep American ships out of Long Island’s waters.
“Giles Holt, the lighthouse keeper, said, ‘I’m not going to do it until I get an order from the U.S. Government,’” Dolin said. “A month later the British took the reflectors and lighting apparatus from Little Gull Lighthouse and pitched them into the water, disabling it on their own.”
While technology has taken over most of the maintenance and upkeep of today’s lighthouses, they still remain historic remembrances of our past.
“I’m really glad that people on the North Fork take their history seriously and won’t let it disappear,” Dolin said.
Dolin will share his insights and sign copies of “Brilliant Beacons” on Friday, November 4 at 5 p.m. at Brecknock Hall, located at 1 Brecknock Road in Greenport. He will again speak on Saturday, November 5 at 3:30 p.m. at Peconic Landing, located at 1500 Brecknock Road in Greenport.
Dolin will also sign copies of his book at the Horton Point Lighthouse in Southold on Sunday, November 6 at 2 p.m. Visitors can also tour Southold Historical Society’s Nautical Museum at the lighthouse and climb the tower.
The Horton Point Lighthouse is located at 3575 Lighthouse Road in Southold.
All of these events are free. For more information about author Eric Jay Dolin visit ericjaydolin.com.