Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse

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70 Lighthouse St
Rochester, NY
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1822 Lighthouse

Built where Indians camped and the WM. Hincher family settled in 1792.

Restored by the Lighthouse Historical Society in 1984.


By the County of Monroe — 1984

What was there

Reports, and a since-removed historic marker, claim that evidence of an early Algonkin fort existed near here.

In 1792 William Hincher and family settled on this bluff and became the first settlers in the Genesee Valley north of Black Creek. For several years, Hincher’s cabin here, and  Simon and Isreal Stone’s settlement in Pittsford, were the only pioneer inhabitants around Rochester. At this time, the area was completely forested, and this property was very close to the shore of the lake. After William Hincher died in 1817, his wife sold the property to the U.S. Federal Government in 1821 for a total of $400. The lighthouse was built in 1822 of sandstone and brick with an octagonal light tower and two-room keeper’s quarters. It featured 10 Argand lamps. At the time, it was the first lighthouse built between the Genesee and Niagara Rivers.  In 1929 piers were built to prevent sand build-up at the mouth of the river. This resulted in sand and silt being deposited along the outsides of the river piers, extending the land further out into the lake along the piers. Several hundred acres of land was cleared of forest to allow for the beacon to be seen from ships on the lake.

In 1838, a beacon was installed at the end of the west pier on Lake Ontario. The lighthouse keeper was also responsible for maintaining that beacon. In 1853 the lamps were replaced with a 4th order Frensel lens and the tower’s wooden steps were replaced with cast iron ones. In 1862 the keeper’s quarters was replaced with a more modern 2-story, eight room brick house. The Fresnel lens was moved to the west pier beacon in 1881, and the lantern room was moved to the top of a new wooden beacon constructed in 1884. The lighthouse decommissioned as a beacon and was used by the Coast Guard until 1982

The Charlotte Genesee Lighthouse Historical Society was formed in 1983 and began restoration work. The house and tower were refurbished, a new lantern room was constructed, and the property was opened to the public and the tower was re-lit on June 18, 1984.

What is there now

Monroe County owns the property, which is leased and operated by the Charlotte Genesee Lighthouse Historical Society as a museum. The public is free to visit and explore the outside of the house. Tours of the inside incur a $3 fee per person.

More information

An excerpt from “Scrantom’s Rochester and Monroe County” (1937) describes an event that took place near this site:

In May 1814, a fleet of thirteen British ships commanded by General Yeo anchored at the mouth of the Genesee  River, threatening Charlotte with their cannon. Cut off from outside aid by miles of forest, the little village of Rochesterville was thrown into wild panic. The situation was desperate. There were only 33 able-bodied men to defend the village. Under the command of General Porter, and armed with a heterogeneous collection of muskets, scythes, and clubs, these 33 men marched down to Charlotte to defy the British navy.

In the meantime the women of the village had packed their household goods in ox-carts and the boys had driven the livestock far back into the woods in preparation for flight. Lacking numbers, the little “army” resorted to guile and subterfuge. Screened by the fringe of trees on shore, the settlers marched in and out of the trees before the astonished eyes of the British, who were convinced that from some source a large army had rallied to the defense of Charlotte. Hurriedly the fleet pulled up anchors and sailed away. The British lion had turned tail and run before 33 men. With laughing affection, Rochester cherishes the story among its collection of “family jokes.”

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We would like to thank the following for helping us with this entry:
Matthew Conheady


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