In 1902, a new breakwater was being finished just north of the entrance to the Buffalo River. As a temporary measure, the Lighthouse Board established a red post lantern on the southerly end of the breakwater to mark the northern side of the northern entrance to Buffalo Harbor while a permanent beacon was being designed and constructed. The permanent light, known as the “bottle light” due to its resemblance to an old glass milk bottle, was installed on the breakwater in 1903.
The structure was made of 3/8" boiler plate and had a diameter of 10' 3/4" at its base. Four circular windows provided light for the interior, which was accessed by a curved iron door. The tower tapered to a diameter of 2' 8" and then extended upward to the lantern. A cable, pulley, and hoisting winch were used inside the base to raise a lens lantern to the top of the tower, while an exterior ladder allowed the keeper to climb up to the light. An egg-shaped ventilator ball, supported by four iron posts, topped off the tower and brought its total height to 23' 3/4".
In 1909, a Barbier, Benard & Turenne lens lantern was being used in the tower to produce a fixed red light, which was maintained by the keeper of Buffalo Main Lighthouse. A ruby chimney was used in the oil lamp to produce the red light.
In 1960, a battery-operated, twelve-volt lamp, covered by a green plastic lens, was installed atop the tower, and the ventilator ball was removed.
The bottle light served until 1985, when it was removed from the breakwater and given a new home next to the original 1833 Buffalo Main Lighthouse. Fully restored and capped with a reproduction of its ventilator ball, the bottle light is now part of the 1,400-foot promenade featuring detailed signage documenting Buffalo’s historic waterfront.
- Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board, various years.
- “Buffalo North Breakwater South End Light,” Carol Poh Miller, HAER Inventory, 1979.