When Ann Rutland Schulze goes to the historic 30 Mile Point Lighthouse at Golden Hill State Park on Lake Ontario, she feels at home.
Inside one of the rooms are black-and-white pictures of a former lighthouse keeper and his family who once lived there. Some show their granddaughter, a little girl named Beverly who grew up to become Ann’s mother.
Not too far away, along the banks of a creek, a teenage boy who was fishing got teased by a friend about that girl who lived in the lighthouse with her grandparents. The boy’s name was Richard Rutland, and he later married Beverly. They had Ann and two other children, Julie and Richard.
Now, Schulze , her husband Martin, and their sons Tyler and Shaun, run a family-owned vineyard and winery about a half-hour away from the lighthouse in the Niagara County town of Burt, where visitors can hear stories of a time when a family of six lived in isolation and simplicity in the lighthouse on a bluff overlooking the lake.
One of their wines even features a picture of the lighthouse.
“My mother certainly enjoyed growing up here, and she was so pleased that this place wasn’t just let go after it was closed,” said Schulze. “This lighthouse has been so beautifully preserved as an emblem of the history of this region. It is the official town seal of Somerset. The downstairs of the lighthouse is the way it was when they lived here. It has what the park has named the “Beverly Room,” which has a wicker crib, a rocking chair, and pictures of Beverly and my great-grandparents.”
The 30 Mile Point Lighthouse, so named because it is 30 miles east of the Niagara River, was built in 1875 to help warn passing ships of dangerous shoals in the lake. It was decommissioned by the federal government in 1958 and its light removed, and in 1984 the U.S. Coast Guard transferred the lighthouse to Golden Hills State Park. The limestone structure is now on the Federal and State Registers of Historic Places.
During the decades that passed in between, the lighthouse was a residence for 13 different keepers and their assorted families whose job it was to keep the light lit. The longest tenured of those, Glenn R. Seeley served from 1903 to 1945 with support from his wife, Cora. The couple had four children and also raised Beverly, their granddaughter, after their daughter passed away in childbirth.
“My mother said it was wonderful place to grow up. She remembered her grandfather whitewashing the lighthouse once a year so it could be better spotted by passing ships and making her a concrete pond so she could have goldfish. Her grandfather would walk her to the nearby one-room schoolhouse. And she remembered that the lighthouse got the first telephone in the area,” said Schulze.
Beverly lived there until age 15, when her grandfather retired and moved the family to the nearby village of Olcott. She later went to college, became a public health nurse, and had a family of her own.
All through her life, Beverly remained connected to the lighthouse, coming there with her family for picnics or other events. “My three boys were in the Boy Scouts, and the troop came to the lighthouse when the U.S. Post Office issued a stamp for it in 1995. She was at the ceremony for that,” Schulze said.
A year later, the not-for-profit Friends of the Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse group was formed, to support the preservation of the lighthouse. And in 1998, the light, which had been removed four decades earlier, was restored.
In her handwritten note cards, Beverly recalled the family doing its laundry in a washtub that was originally a copper boiler, and initially having no inside bathroom, only a privy that was cold in the winter. They later got the first inside toilet and telephone in town. She wrote how the children of the assistant keeper, who lived there in a separate residence with his family, taught her how to “swim and fish and play cards.” And that she was so afraid of the massive lightning storms that would cross the lake that she would hide in a closet under the stairs until the crashing passed.
Eventually, Beverly’s health began to fail, and such nostalgic trips to the lighthouse became impossible. Beverly passed away in 2010 at age 80.
Visitors who want to get a taste of lighthouse life can rent the second floor “cottage” of the facility for overnight stays. The former assistant keeper’s quarters, the cottage has a living room with an electric fireplace, bath with an old-fashioned tub, three bedrooms, and an awesome view of Lake Ontario.
Guests will notice the craftsmanship of the building, especially the original wooden double doors, with ornate knobs and lock set. All rentals are made through the website https://newyorkstateparks.reserveamerica.com/ or by calling 1-800-456-2267.
Click through the slideshow below to get a look inside…
Renters are provided with a private picnic area with a barbecue grill and picnic table. This vacation rental offers a private entrance, kitchen with refrigerator, electric stove, microwave, coffee maker, cooking utensils, silverware and dishes, living room with electric fireplace, couch, two chairs and a writing desk, full bath with an old-fashioned bathtub, three bedrooms with queen size beds and pillows and a view of Lake Ontario that is stunning.
Visitors looking at the lighthouse’s “memory book” will see some entries written by Beverly herself. The lighthouse cottage is more than just a place to stay. It is place of beauty, reflecting lives filled with long nights, hard work, rough waters, violent storms, joy, heartbreak, and family bonds that don’t break.
Post by Brian Nearing, Deputy Public Information Officer, NYS Parks
About Golden Hill State Park
Located in Niagara County, this park along the Lake Ontario shoreline covers 510 acres. Created in 1962, the park has 59 campsites, six yurts, two pavilions, a new playground, a volleyball court, softball field, two picnic areas, hiking trails, a disc golf course, and a boat launch.
Niagara Falls State Park, Fort Niagara State Park, and Old Fort Niagara State Historic Site are less than an hour away by vehicle.