11. Elm Tree Lighthouse
The history of the Elm Tree Lighthouse’s name is pretty clear cut. Before a lighthouse was erected on this site near the shoreline of southern Staten Island, early sailors used a giant elm tree as a navigational aid. The first lighthouse was constructed there in 1855. The Elm Tree Lighthouse worked in conjunction with the New Dorp Lighthouse which is located just over a mile inland on a hill, to mark the Swash Channel. The original tower was a wooden structure with a fixed white light.
The wooden tower lasted for more than eighty years and was replaced by a sixty-five-foot concrete tower in 1939. This new tower served both as a maritime navigation aid as well as a warning beacon for the nearby Miller Airfield which was built in 1919. Aircraft saw alternating white and green lights while maritime traffic saw a fixed white light. Today, the decommissioned tower, which hasn’t been in use since 1964, stands with a vacant double seaplane hangar among the recreational sports fields of the Staten Island Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area on land once owned by the Vanderbilts.