Saving Robbins Reef Light – a Noble Effort


Photo: Brian DeForest

In November we posted about the Old Orchard Shoals Light, off Staten Island, NY, which was completely destroyed on October 30th by Hurricane Sandy.  The 130-year-old Robbins Reef Lighthouse, on the other side of the island   survived the storm, but still suffered significant damage.  As reported by the Staten Island Advance:  The back door of the 46-feet-tall “sparkplug” or “bug light” was blown in and the door frame and moldings were lost. Several feet of seawater sloshed into the first floor, destroying tools and other material; railings were bent and heavy granite paving stones were shifted.  The Noble Maritime Collection, which acquired the unmanned lighthouse in 2011, is seeking help to raise around $20,000 to repair the lighthouse.

More about the lighthouse from the  Noble Maritime Collection:

Robbins Reef Light Station is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is of historical significance to Staten Island and New York Harbor because of its location, history, and architecture. A well preserved example of an offshore “spark plug” style lighthouse, Robbins Reef primary historical significance lies in the story of Katherine Walker, who took over lighthouse duties when her husband died in 1890. His last words to her were, “Mind the light, Kate.” In 1894 the Lighthouse Board officially appointed her keeper, and she maintained the light station from 1894 until 1919. Ms. Walker is one of a handful of women lighthouse keepers. During her tenure at Robbins Reef, in addition to her duties as lighthouse keeper, she rescued 50 people and a dog from the waters around the light, and rowed her two children to and from school on Staten Island.

The museum plans to restore the light station to how it looked in the early 1900’s when Katie Walker lived and worked there. This will be a long term project and we will update this site as work progresses. In the meantime, if you would like to donate your time or services toward this project please contact the museum at (718) 447-6490 or

The Noble Maritime Collection is located at Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden and is open to the public Thursdays through Sundays from 1 until 5 PM. Tours of the museum and school programs are welcome weekdays as well. For more information visit   

The Noble Maritime Collection is also host to the William Main Doerflinger Memorial Shanty Sessions held the third Sunday of every month from 2-5 PM.

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