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Walking the Planks @ the South Buffalo Lighthouse

Captain Bill Zimmermann

It’s been a while since I paid a visit to the South Buffalo Lighthouse, near the northern shores of Bethlehem Steel at the South Gap of the Outer Harbor. Every couple of years, like clockwork, I get summoned by Captain Bill Zimmermann of Seven Seas Sailing to take a short voyage to the historic 1903 structure that has managed to withstand the test of time… and everything that Mother Nature could throw at her.

This trip was especially important, because it was the first time that I got to see the interior of the lighthouse, which was quite a surprise. I assumed that it was going to be wall-to-wall concrete, or plaster, or stone… but it was actually lined with old growth wood timber planks. I never imagined that the wood would be there, or that it would be in such fine shape!

Fortunately, due to the impressive construction of the bulldog-like lighthouse, the handsome wood interior is in pretty good condition all around. That said, the Buffalo Lighthouse Association (owner of the lighthouse) has been busy shoring up various aspects of the grounds, and the lighthouse itself, including the addition of windows, 

President of the Buffalo Lighthouse Association, Mike Vogel, explores the interior of the structure

It is interesting to note that the lighthouse seconded as a horn testing lab, which is a very unique aspect of this awesome relic. The giant “horn” can still be seen on the side of the structure (lead image).

Moving forward, the Buffalo Lighthouse Association plans to invest in public safety measures that would allow for the site to be open for tours. “We’re almost ready to do tours, as we raise money to continue renovations,” said Zimmermann. “Active tours will begin once COVID is over and the docks are put in place. A light will also be installed in the tower at some point. There could also be bells and horns in the structure, or more likely, speakers. Eventually, the hope would be to have an interactive museum that would tell the story of the lighthouse, the horn testing lab, and the lake.”

It would also be great to see a parcel of the former industrial lands surrounding the lighthouse turned into a public park for picnicking and sightseeing someday – there have been numerous talks revolving around what that might look like.

“We’ve been busy securing the lighthouse, with a signature steel fencing that acts as a safety wall,” said Zimmermann. “To do anything good, it takes at least ten years, and we are at that point right now. Tyler Finkle is project manager for International Chimney – a local company that also moved the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse inland. He’s doing a great job keeping everything moving along. We want to make it safe, and we want to preserve the building for future generations to enjoy. That is first and foremost.”

As Buffalo’s waterfront continues to blossom, the South Buffalo Lighthouse should be considered a valuable piece of the resurrection puzzle. Zimmermann noted that one day it will become a very unique tourist destination, by boat, and hopefully by land – perfect for wedding photos, curiosity seekers, picnicking, nautical and history fans, and anyone else that loves the Buffalo waterfront.

For more information on the South Buffalo Lighthouse, click here.

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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