Far before the Dutch arrived on rainy shores, legend has it that the Siwanoy people (one of the many Native tribes that called these waters home) cast the devil out of the mainland onto what is today City Island. Trapping him on the very end of the island at Belden Point, the legend states that the warriors and medicine men who trapped the devil then saw him toss boulders into the Long Island Sound and âskipâ out to sea- escaping the brave tribesmen. The Stepping Stones, as the reef was called, became an important marker for ships and boats in these waters.
In 1877, a lighthouse was built in the waters where the East River and the Long Island Sound meet. The small reef was at a perfect crossroads, given the maritime traffic from City Island and the navigating ships heading to the city. The light needed to warn sailors of shoals and rocks that were prominent on the Sound, which posed a hazard for small boats. The Stepping Stones Lighthouse is a Victorian structure on the reef itself that is still in use today, standing out from the other two NYC lighthouses by its isolation and the fact that it is still in use today. Its presence on the Sound is actually important to point out: right over the maritime boundaries of the city the actual reef and lighthouse belongs to Nassau County, so consider this a âWandering Nomad Long Islandâ feature.
Before 1967, it was home to a lighthouse keeper and his family. Manual lights constantly needed tending to, and during storms or other events the light keeper was an important part of harbor and maritime safety. Then they automated the lighthouse in 1967, removing the need for human interaction. You can still see Stepping Stones from City Island, often surrounded by seagulls and jet skis.
Taken on July 14, 2018 on a Canon T1i.
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