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'First light: Montauk Point Lighthouse,' a Long Island history lesson

THE DOCUMENTARY "First Light: Montauk Point Lighthouse"

WHEN | WHERE Wednesday night at 8 on WLIW/21

REASON TO WATCH Film about an L.I. symbol, by Hampton Bays filmmaker Tom Garber.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Did you know that the Montauk Point Lighthouse was authorized by Congress in 1792 under George Washington and that construction started June 7, 1796, and was completed just about five months later on Nov. 5 - remarkably fast for the day? Stone came across the sound from Connecticut (Middletown, to be exact), and the builder, John McComb Jr., went on to construct other celebrated New York landmarks, such as Gracie Mansion (1799) and City Hall (1803).

You probably did not know, or maybe you did, that this beautiful lighthouse was set well back of Turtle Hill because the early founders were wise enough to know that the bluff lost about a foot a year. The early lighthouse keepers were a doughty lot, and had to be, insofar as their job wasn't merely to light the wick, but save the occasional ship that foundered; one of the keeper's daughters even died from scarlet fever, which she had contracted from someone her father had pulled off a sinking ship.

But efforts to actually save the tower are only a few decades old - initiated in part by Dan Rattiner of Dan's Papers and others, including textile designer Georgina Reid, who planted terraces to secure the bluff. And still the waves pound.

MY SAY Clean, simple and direct, Garber's film is like one of those movies you stumble upon while wandering the dusty byways of old, cherished and somewhat rundown museums. "Here" - the museum director, invariably a lovely elderly matron, might implore you - "watch this." And, of course, you're always glad you did, until the kids start screaming for ice cream, or simply for escape.

Garber mixes his interesting history with some beauty shots (easy to do in this part of the world) and the result is an appreciation that should easily appeal to landlubbers and armchair seafarers alike.


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