Cedar Island Lighthouse, Sag Harbor, by Hal B. Fullerton, c. 1898. (From the Harry T. Tuthill Fullerton Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Image copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)
Standing between the South Fork and Shelter Island, Cedar Island posed a danger to ships entering and leaving Sag Harbor in the nineteenth century. The federal government thus purchased the island for $200 from the Town of East Hampton in 1838, and by 1839 had built the original Cedar Island Lighthouse on the north side of the island. By 1851 the light had an effective range of 12 miles. Its nine lamps cast their light from a height of 32 feet, leading whaling ships and fishing boats home to Sag Harbor.
Congress authorized a rebuilding of the lighthouse in 1867, and by 1868 a new L-shaped lighthouse with a square tower was standing on the island. It is shown here in our 1898 photograph by Hal B. Fullerton; although the structure still stands today, it is in need of restoration. In 1967, the lighthouse was purchased by Suffolk County to become part of Cedar Point County Park, but in 1974 it was severely damaged in a fire and boarded up. In 2017, the Suffolk County Legislature approved $500,000 for the renovation of the lighthouse’s roof, exterior, and foundation pier.