Montauk Point Light has had a rich history, surviving a massive hurricane in 1938, was transformed into a heavily fortified army base during the Second World War and narrowly missed being demolished in 1967, but was saved due to a wave of protests.
When Montauk Point Light was first lit in 1797, light was supplied by burning whale oil. The whaling industry was growing at the time, and the lighthouse continued to burn whale oil for more than a century. When whale oil started becoming scarce, and petroleum was discovered, the tower switched to kerosene in the 1860s and converted to a kerosene wick permanently.
Due to its location atop Turtle Hill, Montauk Point Lighthouse has been a focal point in New York’s history, being the first welcoming beacon to travelers sailing from Europe. When trade across the trans-Atlantic route started to take off, and immigrants began to flood to American shores, New York was the preferred destination for ships carrying merchandise or settlers, and Montauk Point Light, like the Statue of Liberty, came to symbolize the transformation of the once colonial enclave into a powerful, independent trading nation.
In 1981, the Montauk Point Light was the first welcoming beacon of light for the American hostages returning from Iran and donned a giant yellow ribbon around the deck with the letters ‘Welcome Home.’