FIRE ISLAND, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — For many, the Fire Island Lighthouse is the very symbol of Long Island.
For nearly 160-years, it has helped to guide mariners.
The foundation of the historic lighthouse was undermined by Superstorm Sandy’s floodwaters so now, it’s being repaired.
The workers at the base of the lighthouse were an unusual sight Tuesday, as they replaced the original terra style stones that have been there since the lighthouse first shined it’s beacon in 1859.
“Back when Superstorm Sandy went through, we had five feet of water wash through and undermine one of the corners of the base of the terrace, and it started to fall in and crack a little bit,” David Griese, Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society, said.
The National Park Service is paying for the repairs to the popular lighthouse, which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Some marvel at the original lens on display that first powered through the lighthouse.
As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, there are 30,000 people every year who are willing to take on the 182 spiral steps to make it to the top of the 168 foot tower.
Once there, they can enjoy the panoramic views of the ocean and barrier island, and mariners can rely on its two continuously rotating 1,000 watt bulbs.
“That’s able to shine a light over 21 miles that ships can still see, and they still use it even though there’s GPS and radar,” Griese said.
Lighthouse managers said despite the eroding terrace, the lighthouse is structurally sound and safe, and that’s reassuring to its many fans.
“I think it’s important, because this lighthouse is such a big part of Long Island’s history,’ Matthew Van Rossen said.
The lighthouse has stood on the west side of Fire Island since before the civil war to greet generations of newcomers.
“Most likely it was the first lighthouse immigrants saw in the 1850s when they were coming to New York City,” Griese said.
It’s expected the $1.2-million repair job will be completed in June, in time for the extremely busy summer season.
Managers said at times the work may require them to close off the front entrance, but visitors can still use the nearby boardwalk entrance.