“Savings lives, guiding lives, we all weather storms.” Tours return to Buffalo Lighthouse

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Buffalo Lighthouse beamed it’s light for the first time in 1833, just eight years after the opening of the Erie Canal. It served as a beacon of light for ships that set sail, but also for the growth of our city and nation.

“This lighthouse marks the juncture of the great lakes and the Erie Canal. It’s a national historic site,” said Mike Vogel, President of The Buffalo Lighthouse Association. “It’s a lighthouse that stood for a long time, watched a river of immigration heading westward out to the Great Lakes, and it watched a river of commerce coming back in to enter the Erie Canal and get to New York City.”

Vogel tells us that it was the second of four light houses built as they kept expanding the harbor, so they kept having to put up new lighthouses, farther and farther out. Two of these four, including the Buffalo Lighthouse, continue to stand today.

“When the lighthouse was first built, it wasn’t on land, it was on the end of a pier that projected a quarter mile out into the lake. The purpose of the pier was to expand the harbor because the Erie Canal had just opened and harbor traffic was totally congested,” said Vogel.

Vogel tells us that the city had bustled through the first half of the 20th century, with ships traveling in and out of the harbor almost constantly, but after Sea Way opened, the Buffalo waterfront saw a decline.

A frater hit the third lighthouse that was built in 1961, Vogel said, and a core of engineers wanted to shave off the point of land that the Buffalo Lighthouse stood on, and demolish the lighthouse. Vogel tells us, with the public outcry the lighthouse was saved, and that it was the first preservation project in the city of Buffalo.

“I have a plaque outside of the lighthouse commemorating the plaque that depicts that preservation effort,” Vogel said.

One day in 1985, Vogel received a call from the Coast Guard commander, and being a journalist at the time, he thought it was for a story. Instead, they discussed the future of the lighthouse and put together a 501c3 to establish a non-for-profit corporation to help take care of the lighthouse.

“This is an icon of the City of Buffalo, so learning about places like this, especially picturesque locations like this that are so easy to visit, is learning about where you live,” said Vogel. “Your sense of place, your community, it’s part of your history. The story of this lighthouse is your story.”

Visitors can walk around the base, and some days can climb to the top, by taking the 50 steps and three ladders up the tower. These weekend tours help shine the light of the history, and are back in session this season.

“We lost three out of the last four years,” said Vogel. “COVID shut us down because the path is too narrow for social distancing. There was a storm in November 2020 that shut us down by tearing up the walkway for 202, and then we were open for 2022, but then the Christmas Blizzard of December that year really did a number on the walkway.”

If you’re interested in visiting the grounds and the Lighthouse, you can check their Facebook page here for hours and information. It costs $4 to tour the grounds and $10 to climb the Lighthouse when it’s open for tours.

“Lighthouses symbolize endurance, hope, strength, they bid farewell to voyagers as they head out into the unknown and then, they welcome them back,” said Vogel. “Saving lives, guiding lives, we all weather storms. We all need guiding lives. I think people realize that deeply when they come to see a lighthouse, even if they don’t think about it consciously. They’re visiting the magic of shore and sea.”

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