Crossover Island Lighthouse

July 23, 2019

Crossover Island Lighthouse, Saint Lawrence River, Hammond, New York


Location: Chippewa Bay, NY
Station Established: 1847
Year Current Tower First Lit:
Deactivated: 1941
Foundation Materials: concrete pad with brick lining
Construction Materials: iron, wood
Tower Shape:
Height: 30’
Markings/Pattern: originally brown, changed to white by 1899
Relationship to Other Structure: detached
Original Lens: Fourth order Fresnel lens
Appropriation: $6,000

Historical Information:

  • Prior to the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway, Crossover Island was named due to its location near the point where vessels crossed over the international boundary between the United States and Canada.
  •  In 1838, Naval Lieutenant C.T. Platt recommended to the Secretary of Treasury that a lighthouse be erected at Crossover Island, due to the fact that it would be difficult to travel through the area. He stated that there were numerous shoals and sunken islands obstructing the navigation in this area. He suggested that a building be erected with a light on top of the dwelling.
  •  Congress appropriated $6,000 in 1847 to construct three lighthouses to mark the Thousand Islands area of St. Lawrence River. The easternmost of these was Crossover Island. Rock Island was the westernmost light in this area, and Sunken Rock was in the middle at the end of the narrows near Alexandria Bay.
  •  The design for Crossover Island Light may be the same layout that was used at Rock Island. The keepers dwelling consisted of a one and a half story brick building with a wooden lantern centered atop a pitched roof. The first keeper was Obed Robeson, and he was appointed on May 15, 1848 at an annual salary of $350.
  •  In 1869, much work was added and completed to the lighthouse grounds. A boathouse and ways were added, shutters were placed on the windows, the interior plastering and chimneys were renewed, and exterior walls were sheathed with boards. They had been constructed of an inferior materiel known as “soft brick.” These repairs were more costly than normal due to the isolated location of the lighthouse. This only temporarily improved the life for the keeper.
  •  1872: Reports of leaking from the tower; tower and dwelling were described as being in very bad condition and not worth repairing. Funds for a new lighthouse were requested.
  •  1882: A new keeper’s dwelling was finally erected in a similar style as the lights at Tibbett’s Point, New York and Marblehead, Ohio. The dwelling is a two-story, six-room home. The dwelling has three gables, and was originally decorated with heavy cross-timbers and adorned with finials.
  •  A detached iron tower, which was similar to the light at Sunken Rock, was placed on a concrete pad and lined with brick to the first landing. Wood covered the rest of the tower. A sixth-order Fresnel lens replaced the fourth-order Fresnel lens, and the old lens was shipped to another station. The tower was originally brown, but was painted white before the opening of navigation in 1899.
  •  A cistern located in the cellar of the keeper’s dwelling stored rainwater, but this was not always sufficient for water usage. In 1884, a 25 foot deep well was sunk and equipped with a pump.
  •  A stone and concrete seawall was built along the southern side of the island. Behind the seawall, 300 cubic yards of earth were brought in to create a lawn for the front yard of the keeper’s dwelling.
  •  Daniel Hill became keeper of the Crossover Island Light in March 1909. He held the position for over 22 years. He and his wife Cora raised seven children on the island. One of his sons, Ralph E. Hill, has written extensively about his childhood experiences on the island. The island was not equipped with a telephone, TV, radio, gas, electricity, central heating, indoor plumbing, or running water. After spending one full winter on the exposed island, Daniel Hill purchased some land at Oak Point and built a cottage so his family could live more comfortably. A furnace was installed at the dwelling four years before it was abandoned.
  •  During school months, Keeper Hill would row his children to the mainland where they were educated in a one-room schoolhouse. During the summer, the children would spend a lot of their time swimming, fishing, and exploring some of the nearby islands and creeks.
  •  The Hills left Crossover Island at the end of 1931. The lighthouse was active for one more decade before being discontinued on April 10, 1941. In 1960, the government sold the lighthouse as surplus property, and in 1969, the Dutchers purchased the property. The island was sold again in 2002 to John Urtis, a commercial airline pilot and veteran Navy and Coast Guard aviator.

Researched and written by Jamie Smith, a volunteer through the Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society.