During my recent weekend vacation in the Thousand Islands, I decided to stop at a location that was a childhood favorite – the historic lighthouse at Tibbets Point, just past Cape Vincent.
When you walk up to Tibbets Point from the road that runs along the coast line, the first thing you notice is the sound of the automated fog horn that blares every few minutes or so. The fog horn was added to the lighthouse in 1896 as an extra precaution in the case that the light didn’t penetrate foggy evenings. On the site with the lighthouse, the light keeper’s house and the fog-horn building, there is also a small historical society which houses various documents related to the history of the lighthouse. It’s actually a really beautiful spot – the lighthouse is set above the widened portion of the seaway, and surrounded by a vast rocky beach.
Constructed in 1854, the lighthouse marks the point where ‘lake and river meet,’ in other words where the St. Lawrence River enters Lake Ontario. The original lighthouse on the site was constructed in 1827, but was replaced in 1854 with the current architecture. The land where the lighthouse, light keeper’s home and fog-horn building now sit was purchased by Captain John Tibbets. The site is listed amongst the National Registry of Historic Places. The light was only animated in 1981, making it a rather late-running automatic lighthouse.
View Tibbets Point from above below:
An interesting (and random) fact about Tibbets Point is the following:
“The Archives Center at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History has a collection (#1055) of souvenir postcards of lighthouses and has digitized 272 of these and made them available online. These include postcards of Tibbetts Point Light  with links to customized nautical charts provided by National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.” (source)
“Situated on the east side of the entrance to the St. Lawrence River from Lake Ontario, the original Tibbetts Point Lighthouse exhibited the light of ten lamps set in reflectors from its octagonal lantern room. In an 1838 report, Naval Lieutenant C.T. Platt found this “very useful light” to be in “bad order” and the associated keeper’s dwelling to be in a “bad condition.” The dwelling’s roof and the lantern atop the tower both leaked. The tower required a new coat of Roman cement, and the dwelling needed “a little painting.” All these repairs, according to Platt, could be made for an estimated one hundred and twenty-three dollars.” (source)
Interestingly enough, the light keeper’s house is now a hostel (part of Hosteling International). It would be a really interesting place to stay, if you could stand the constant blaring of the fog horn!
“HI-Tibbetts Point Lighthouse Hostel is located at the point where Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River meet. After the lighthouse became fully automated in 1976, the Victorian-era lightkeeper’s quarters was converted to a hostel. Explore the Lighthouse Museum next door.” (source)
If you ever find yourself in the Thousand Islands and happen to drive through Cape Vincent, drive just a little further down Country Route 6, and take a quick stop at the lighthouse at Tibbets Point.
You can’t enter the lighthouse any more due to structural integrity issues, but you can visit the historical society, walk through the fog horn building and walk the rocky beaches surrounding the site. It’s beautiful, historic and a lovely place to stop for an afternoon!
In one of my many attempts to make history a more publicly accessible through social media, I took a Vine video while at the site, check it out below – un-mute it to hear the sound of the fog horn!