This fifty-foot granite lighthouse was said to have been built by an inmate of the Lunatic Asylum, who left this inscription on it: This is the work/Was done by/John McCarthy/Who built this light/House from top to bottom/To all ye who do pass by may/Pray for his sould when he dies. Whether or not this is really the work of John McCarthy is anybody’s guess, but there was an asylum inmate by that name who had been allowed to build a small fort on this spot because he was afraid of an attack by the British. It was torn down when the lighthouse was built. Although not an official Seamark, the tower overlooks Hell Gate, a narrow strait that connects Long Island Sound to the East River. The powerful tide surge that runs through it, along with underwater rocks, made it the most treacherous spot in all the waterways around New York. It was widened and deepened in the late nineteenth century, but mariners navigating it still need to keep their wits about them.


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