Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Albert Gallatin, 15 August 1801

From Albert Gallatin

Treasury Department Augt. 15th 1801


I have the honor to enclose a letter from the Commissioner of the revenue accompanying proposals for erecting a light house on Falkner’s Island. There are two applicants, Mr Woodward of Connecticut & Mr M’Comb of New York. For the reasons stated in the Commissioner’s & Gen. Huntingdon’s letters, the first named gentleman seems to merit the preference. By the Act of 3d March last, the Secretary is authorized to provide by Contract, to be approved by the President of the United States, for the building the said light house. The proposals are now submitted to your consideration, and, if approved by you, a contract will be made in conformity thereto.

I have the honor to be with great respect Sir Your most obt. Servt.

Albert Gallatin

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 20 Aug. and “Lighthouse Faulkner’s isld.” and so recorded in SJL with notation “lighthouse.” Enclosure: William Miller to Gallatin, Revenue Office, Treasury Department, 13 Aug., stating that a site had been selected for the proposed lighthouse on Falkner Island in Long Island Sound, a plan agreed upon for the building, and bids for construction advertised in New York and New London newspapers, but “none offered to undertake & complete the whole work” for less than $7,000, while the appropriation allowed only $6,000, making it necessary to alter the plan in ways “not likely to lessen its usefulness, and to notify the persons who had come forward” that their proposals would be considered “if their terms were reasonably reduced and brought within the appropriation,” which was the case with Abishai Woodward and John McComb, Jr., both agreeing to complete the lighthouse for $5,500; Miller, considering both men of “good reputation and equal experience in constructing buildings of this kind,” recommended Woodward because he offered to “face with hewn stone” and “it is well known that facings of hewn or hammer dressed stone, are preferable to common stone walls—The circumstance of his not compleating the whole workmanship untill the spring, will add to its strength, and it ought not to be considered a material objection, if it is delayed a short time” (RC in ViU, endorsed and signed by Gallatin: “Approved provided the President shall consent,” with note by TJ: “this proposition is approved. Th: Jefferson Aug. 21. 1801”; FC in Lb in DNA: RG 26, LDC). Other enclosures not found.

The two applicants had experience in the construction of lighthouses. Abishai Woodward, a carpenter in New London, Connecticut, had worked on a lighthouse at Bald Head in North Carolina in 1793. John McComb, Jr., a New York City architect, had contracts for the construction of several lighthouses in the 1790s, including Montauk and Eaton’s Neck, New York. In 1802 he was appointed architect for the building of New York City Hall (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends , s.v. “McComb, John, Jr.”; Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends , 14:230–1, 311, 323–4; Washington, Papers, Pres. Ser. description begins W. W. Abbot, Dorothy Twohig, Philander D. Chase, Theodore J. Crackel, and others, eds., The Papers of George Washington, Charlottesville, 1983–, 48 vols.: Presidential Series, 1987–, 12 vols. description ends , 7:183–5; 12:445–6).

By the act of 3 Mch. 1801, Congress appropriated $6,000 for construction of a lighthouse on Falkner Island. The lighthouse contract and the appointment of the lighthouse keeper had to be approved by the president (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 2:125).

Contract Will be Made: on 2 Sep. 1801, Huntington and Woodward signed an agreement at New London for the construction of the “lighthouse and other buildings,” on Falkner Island, which included detailed specifications for the work (Lb in DNA: RG 26, LDC).

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