Built in 1822, the Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse is the oldest active surviving lighthouse on Lake Ontario. At the time of its construction it was much closer to the shoreline.
According to lighthousefriends.org:
In 1804, President Thomas Jefferson decreed that the seventy-mile stretch extending along the southern shore of Lake Ontario from Oak Orchard to Sodus Bay, would become an official port district, centered at the juncture of Genesee River and the lake.
Ships entering the port were originally guided by either a torch on a large pilot tree or a lamp atop one of the region’s early hotels.
Even with the lighthouse, the sandbars at the marshy river entrance proved troublesome to ship traffic. To remedy this, a pair of 2,600-foot-long piers, spaced about 360 feet apart, was built at the river’s mouth in 1829. As land filled in around the piers, the entrance to the river essentially shifted northward, away from the lighthouse, and other lighting options for the port were considered.
Folks always wonder why the Historic Society decided in 2016 to paint the tower white. In truth, it was historically whitewashed and the color had faded over time. We’re so used to seeing the bare stone it took many by surprise, as if they had ruined it! Rest assured, it’s more authentic this way.
This is what the light looked like before the brick was painted.
Also fascinating is the story of how the Charlotte community rallied to save the lighthouse from destruction when the Federal Government abandoned it in the 1980s.
You can climb the tower
Be warned, it is a tight, 40-foot-high, spiral staircase, then you climb an 11-rung ladder, and, once to the top, you crawl through an opening in the ceiling to access the 12-foot-high lantern room. It’s toasty up there in the summer but view of Lake Ontario, the Genesee River, and Ontario Beach Park is amazing!
The tour guides are so knowledgable and passionate about telling the light’s story. There is a very small museum located in the lighthouse keeper’s home.
Lighthouse Trail and Overlook Project
If you head around back you’ll find a trail that connects with Lake Ave. The light is also a stop along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail.
Information about Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse
- Cost: Admission fee
- Located in Rochester
- More information: geneseelighthouse.org