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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Lighthouse Legends

The Lighthouse on Roosevelt Island is one of the island's best known landmarks - it is readily visible from Manhattan and Queens. This 50-foot tall structure built of gray gneiss was designed in 1872 by James Renwick Jr., one of the most successful architects of his time - he designed the Smallpox Hospital on the island and many major New York City buildings such as St. Patrick's Cathedral and the New York Public Library. The Lighthouse, which is not an official Coast Guard lighthouse, is steeped in legend. Lore has it that the lighthouse (likely built by inmates from the neighboring prison) replaced a small clay fort made by a patient from the lunatic asylum who feared a British invasion - the legends and mysteries involve the names John McCarthy and Thomas Maxey (a plaque crediting McCarthy for the building of the lighthouse disappeared in the 1960s.) Read the story here from the Roosevelt Island Historical Society website. The Lighthouse sits in Lighthouse Park, a serene spot to perhaps picnic or just enjoy the NYC vistas ...

2 comments:

Lucy said...

Interesting architect -- be good to really see an indepth report on him sometime...

james said...

Yeah, Renwick's great--I used to live in a building he designed. I like the carvings at the top of this lighthouse. They appropriately resemble waves while also transforming the structure into a Composite column. The most I've read about Renwick was in "New York: 1870" book. It was part of a very thorough series.