Best seen by boat, Race Rocks Light is located on the western end of Fisher's Island, built of granite, and constructed by Francis Hopkington Smith, the same man who built the foundation for the Statue of Liberty. Race Rock and Little Gull Island work together to show the boundaries of The Race, a very deep passage through which much water flows at high speeds. It is a dangerous waterway because of the velocity of the water and the shallower, rock-strewn water on both sides of The Race.
The long history of Race Rocks started back in 1671 when the British warship John and Lucy ran aground at Race Rock losing several lives. In 1806 a light was erected without success on Little Gull Island in the hopes of making The Race safer for marine navigation. It was rebuilt in 1869. In November of 1846 the steamer Atlantic ran aground at Race Rocks and 45 people died. A year later Congress appropriated $400 to place buoys near Race Rocks and Watch Hill Reef. In 1853 Congress appropriated $1000 to erect an iron spindle on Race Rock, only for it to be swept away by ice. In 1868 Congress appropriated $90,000 for a light on Race Rocks and indicated that it would be tended by a keeper living on shore. A year later the Lighthouse Board suggested that a light with keeper's quarters be erected on Race Rock with a proposed cost of $200,000. Congress, at first, did not approve and in 1870 they returned $80,000 of the original appropriation to the treasury. The same year the construction for a riprap foundation on the light began. Two years later in 1872 the foundation was completed and the work on the light stopped due to bad weather. In 1873 the plan for the foundation had to be modified due to instability of the riprap foundation and work to implement the changes began in May and lasted until September. Finally, in 1874 the foundation was finished and work started on the wharf and pier. In November of 1875 the working season ended with the completion of the second course of the pier and wharf and the beginning of the work on the third course. In 1876 the eighth course was completed despite several bad storms. Plans for the dwelling and tower were approved in March, 1877 and in May work again resumed for the season. The first tasks involved repairing the damage done by the storms from the previous year. In July the pier was finished to the thirteenth course, but by August and September work was delayed while waiting for the stones for the fourteenth course. By December the pier was completed and work began on the lighthouse. A year later in 1878 the lighthouse was completed and on January 1, 1879 the light at Race Rocks was lit. In 1883 the Characteristic of the light was changed to alternating red and white flashes every ten seconds and in 1896 a second class fog siren was established. By November, 1978 the light became automated and the original fourth order Fresnel lens was replaced with a rotating beacon.
Today the tower at Race Rocks stands 45 feet high with the height of the focal plane at 67 feet. Its' present optic is a DCB-24 with the fog signal as an automated horn. The existing keepers quarters still stand 1.5 stories from 1878. The light was thought to have three keepers, Neil Martin (1878), Thomas A. Carroll (1880), and George H. Tooker (1931), but it is unknown as to how long each of them served as keeper of Race Rocks. The light is currently managed by the United States Coast Guard and used as an active aid to navigation.
|Position||41° 14' 37" North|
|072° 02' 49" West|
|U.S. Coast Guard Light List Number||19815|
|Height of Tower||67 Feet (off water)|
|45 Feet (Actual Structure Height)|
|Light Characteristics||Flashing red every 10 seconds|
|Light Visual Range||16 Nautical Miles|
|Secondary / Emergency Light Characteristics||Flashing red every 10 seconds|
|Secondary / Emergency Optic||300 MM|
|Color of Tower||Granite|
|Sound Characteristics||2 Blasts every 30 seconds|
|National/State Register Status||National: Not Listed, but eligilbe|
|State: Not Listed|