In 1824 Congress appropriated $4,500 to construct a lighthouse tower and keeper's residence at Sodus Bay. A year later Ishmael D. Hill, a veteran of the War of 1812, was appointed as its first keeper. By 1869 both structures had deteriorated to the extent that Congress appropriated $14,000 to build a second lighthouse to replace the original tower. This second stone Lighthouse Building, with its attached Tower and Fresnel Lens, was completed in 1871 and became the residence of Sodus Lighthouse Keepers for the next 80 years. This same Lighthouse is still preserved in excellent condition, and has been run as a Maritime Museum by the Sodus Bay Historical Society in accordance with an agreement and lease from the Town of Sodus since 1984.
From the time of the first settlers in 1792, Sodus Bay was considered an ideal harbor for exporting farm products and other commodities. From 1800 through 1900 Lake Ontario shipping was a primary factor in the development of New York's early economy. As the best natural harbor on the Lake, Sodus Bay and its surrounding region prospered and became known for its lumber, grain, and coal trade, commercial fishing, ice industry, and shipbuilding . During this period and well into the 20th century, commercial captains from Sodus Bay were engaged in transporting cargoes aboard schooners and steamers to points all along the lake shore.
The golden days of this economic expansion began with the construction of the Sodus Harbor Piers which were completed in 1835, and allowed deep keeled merchant schooners and steamships to take on cargo at the Sodus Point Harbor Docks. Another burst of economic activity was promoted when, in 1884, the Northern Central Railroad bought the Sodus Point and Southern Railroad and provided an overland shipping and passenger connection to the lines of the Erie and Pennsylvania Railroads in Southern New York at Elmira. In 1886 a coal trestle, at the west end of the Bay, was put into operation and a commercial coal shipping business started which served all ports on Lake Ontario. In 1927 the trestle was greatly expanded in size so that increased tonnage of coal could be loaded. This business thrived for the next 50 years until 1967 when power generation plants switched to oil and the need for coal diminished to zero. In 1971, the trestle was being dismantled when it accidentally caught fire and was destroyed.
From the mid-19th century to the present day, Sodus Bay has been an ideal place for yachtsmen, campers, fishermen, and visitors to enjoy their summer activities. Sodus Point has always been a Summer Vacation Resort town since the early 1880's when the first passenger trains brought visitors to the many cottages and guest hotels which dotted the shores of the Bay. Today the summer cottages and homes of several thousand summer residents line the waterfront and overlooks of this beautiful protected Harbor.
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