Late in the 19th century, Congress approved the construction of a lighthouse on the western end of Coney Island. The still-standing 124-year-old beacon has become the subject of a mini-documentary that aired last week on MetroFocus.
The documentary focuses on Frank Schubert, the last Coney Island lighthouse keeper- as well as the last civilian in the country to hold that job. In the article that accompanies the four-minute documentary, creators Max Kutner and Johannes Musial write:
After serving with the Army in World War II, Schubert found work as a lighthouse keeper. In 1960 he moved with his wife and three children to the Coney Island Lighthouse. For three generations of Schuberts, the lighthouse became the family’s home. “My parents got married at the Coney Island Lighthouse, and then I was born the next year and they basically raised us there,” said Scott Schubert. “As a kid it was great. We’d be climbing on the lighthouse. It was like our jungle gym. You don’t even realize that it’s really different than any other house. It’s just sort of grandpa’s house.”
The use of GPS on boats has made lighthouses less necessary, but at one time such beacons helped prevent boats from crashing against rocky coastlines. The original Coney Island beacon was lit by Keeper Thomas Higgenbotham on August 1, 1890, according to United States Coast Guard. The lens used was powered by Kerosene and it was visible for more than fourteen miles.
Here’s the Metrofocus documentary:
Correction [September 18, 2015]: A previous version of this article referred to the lighthouse in past tense and stated that it is “now defunct.” In fact, the lighthouse still stands and its red light still flickers on and off — though now it is automated, so there is no need for a keeper.