Bay Shore in Suffolk County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
The United States Life-Saving Service on Fire Island
Local history of the United States Life-Saving Service (USLSS) dates back to the War of 1812 between the United States of America and Great Britain when William Baker organized the first team of volunteer surfmen to patrol Fire Island looking for British war ships. After the war, ship commerce and travel increased significantly along the East Coast resulting in many ship wrecks and lives lost. In the approach to New York Harbor alone from 1839 to 1849 there were 338 shipwrecks. In response to the growing need for water rescues a group of philanthropists established the Life-Saving Benevolent Association of New York. They built ten life-saving stations on Long Island, including three on Fire Island. Life-saving stations continued to be added along the United States' coasts, including more on Fire Island. In 1871 the U.S. Congress organized this fledgling network of stations into the USLSS. Over the course of 44 years 400 men served in the USLSS at seven Fire Island rescue stations and rescued 7,000 people from 721 stranded ships. In 1915 the USLSS was merged with other federal government agencies to form the U.S. Coast Guard.
By Andrew Ruppenstein, November 23, 2017
1. The United States Life-Saving Service on Fire Island Marker
Four generations of William Baker's family served as surf-men and keepers (the person in charge) at the Lone Hill, Fire Island, Bellport, and Point O'Woods life-saving stations, collectively they came to be
known as the Baker Boys. It is believed that a member of the Baker family participated in nearly every rescue made in the waters off of Fire Island between the Bellport and Fire Island life-saving stations.
By Andrew Ruppenstein, November 23, 2017
2. The United States Life-Saving Service on Fire Island Marker - Wide View
Looking south across the Great South Bay towards Fire Island.
Erected by New York State Department of State, Division of Historic Resources.
Location. 40° 42.603′ N, 73° 14.563′ W. Marker is in Bay Shore, New York, in Suffolk County. Marker can be reached from South Clinton Avenue south of Bayview Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Bay Shore NY 11706, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. The Silent Service (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Still on Patrol (about 400 feet away); Bay Shore (about 400 feet away); Bay Shore 1695 (approx. 0.8 miles away); Dr. George S. King Park (approx. 0.8 miles away); "Lady with the Torch" (approx. 1.2 miles away); Doxsee Clam Factory (approx. 1.4 miles away); Doxsee Clams (approx. 1˝ miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Bay Shore.
More about this marker. The marker is located on the south side of the Bay Shore Marina parking lot, close to the end of the wooden walkway that leads from the lot to the water's edge.
Categories. • Charity & Public Work • War of 1812 • Waterways & Vessels •
June 18, 1906
3. Marker Inset Photo: The Grounding of the Vincenzo Bonanno
On June 17, 1906 the Vicenzo Bonanno, an Italian steamship, ran aground on a sandbar in heavy fog two miles east of Fire Island. The Bonanno's captain and crew were rescued by a volunteer life-saving crew and brought to the Point O'Woods life-saving station on Fire Island. The image shows Charles Baker (left), keeper of the station with his son, surfman Ben Baker (center) and wreck master Ben Dunbar (standing) posing in front of the stranded steamer a day after the rescue.
4. Marker Inset Photo: Preparing to Go Out
When a wreck occurred surfmen would launch surf boats outfitted with a breeches buoy, a Lyle gun (a short-barreled cannon designed to fire a projectile attached to a rope) and a system of pulleys to rescue victims in the water and trapped on distressed ships.
Credits. This page was last revised on January 17, 2018. This page originally submitted on January 17, 2018, by Andrew Ruppenstein of Sacramento, California. This page has been viewed 88 times since then. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on January 17, 2018, by Andrew Ruppenstein of Sacramento, California.