According to popular lore (and still claimed by the Travel Channel), Execution Rocks was named because of the executions that took place there under the British authorities before the American Revolution, who chained prisoners to the rocks at low tide to be drowned. There is no historical evidence that this is true, though a serial killer claimed to have done some of his macabre deeds near the island in 1920. The official history of the island’s naming refers to the dangerous passage for ships around the rocks at low tide.
The lighthouse was designed by architect Alexander Parris, who also built Boston’s St. Paul’s Cathedral and Quincy Market. The original granite for the lighthouse was quarried from Manhattan in 1840, excavated in the construction of the Hotel Continental, located at Broadway and 41st Street, and brought out to Long Island Sound by barge. The granite lighthouse tower went up in 1849 and the lighthouse keeper’s house was built in 1867, in a neoclassical style.
The tour is led by a Philadelphia-couple who has been lovingly restoring Execution Rocks after buying the decaying lighthouse from the United States government for $1 in 2009. More details below:
The tour leaves from the Town Dock at Port Washington at 9:45 am on June 11th, a 15 minute walk from the Long Island Railroad train station. We’ll coordinate a group departure from Penn Station for those coming from Manhattan. By boat, you’ll first see the mansions of Long Island’s Gold Coast – modern day mega mansions side by side with the villas of Gilded Age barons. You’ll then pass City Island and the ever-mysterious Hart Island, New York City’s mass graveyard with over 1 million buried souls.
As Execution Rocks lighthouse comes into view, you’ll switch into a motorized rowboat which will bring guests to the island. You’ll be able to climb up to the top of the lighthouse and take in the expansive view of Long Island Sound. Inside the lightkeeper’s house, you’ll the rooms that have been converted into one of the more unique bed and breakfasts in the New York City – which go for $300 per night. We’ll conclude with a picnic on the island.
Over half of the ticket price goes to the Execution Rocks Lighthouse Restoration Project. Ticket includes a light picnic but not train transportation to Port Washington.