Ezra L'Hommedieu and the Montauk Lighthouse
Ezra L'Hommedieu was a longtime New York politician who spent several years in the Continental Congress.
L’Hommedieu’s most lasting legacy is the lighthouse project on which he oversaw construction.
Ezra L’Hommedieu was born and raised in Southold, on the eastern end of Long Island. Having studied as a lawyer, he became an ardent supporter of America’s Revolutionary Cause.
When the British Army occupied New York in 1776, L'Hommedieu fled to Connecticut. From here, he helped to support Patriots who were still on Long Island, often paying out of his own pocket.
Ezra’s charity led to his election to the New York State Assembly.
During this time, Israel Putnam ordered soldiers to cross the Long Island Sound and steal cattle which were thought to be feeding the Redcoats. As it turns out, the owners of these animals were Patriots, as well as friends of L'Hommedieu.
Ezra contacted several well-connected associates, including Governor George Clinton. His efforts worked, as word was then passed on to General George Washington.
The command was sent down to Putnam to use the money made selling some of the meat to repay the people who owned the cattle in the first place.
L'Hommedieu spent six years serving in the New York State Assembly, four of which he was also a Delegate to the Continental Congress.
After this, he was elected to the State Senate where he sat as a Representative of Long Island for a quarter of a century.
When the United States Constitution was ratified, the States were expected to choose Senators (as opposed to the people voting, like we know today). New York decided to have the State Assembly send approved candidates to the State Senate for confirmation.
Perhaps out of spite, the Assembly rejected L'Hommedieu and he narrowly missed being chosen as an inaugural member of the United States Senate. (The job went to recent Massachusetts transplant Rufus King.)
L'Hommedieu, still a member of the New York State Senate, left his most lasting mark on the nation as the mastermind behind the United States’ first public works project…the Montauk Lighthouse.
The Montauk Lighthouse was built to assist ships arriving in New York City. It was, at the time, quickly becoming apparent that this city was bringing in about a third of the Nation’s trade. The Federalists who were running the First Administration were promoting an energetic government to boost the American economy and this project was a great example of what could be done.
Although George Washington was technically in charge of the operation, he defaulted to L'Hommedieu on most of the construction.
Ezra L'Hommedieu chose the site, and drew up the blueprints, for the Montauk Lighthouse…a monument to American commerce and ingenuity which still stands today.
Do you want to read a similar story?
You might like the article I wrote about Henry Wisner who operated several gunpowder mills as well as finding the location for the ‘Great Chain’ which blocked the British from sailing up the Hudson River.
Want to read a great book about the Montauk Point Lighthouse?
‘On Eagle’s Beak’ takes you well past the Founding Period, but it is the definitive authority on the subject. Pick up a copy through the Amazon affiliate link below (you’ll support this site, but don’t worry, Amazon pays me while your price stays the same).
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