Digest>Archives> September 2002

New York’s H. W. Wilson Lighthouse

A Beacon for Knowledge

By Jeremy D'Entremont


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The 30-foot copper lighthouse atop the ...
Photo by: Jim Crowley

It’s certainly a familiar landmark to the countless commuters who drive past it every day, but the 30-foot copper lighthouse atop the H.W. Wilson Publishing Company in the Bronx, New York, is not widely known to lighthouse buffs. The H.W. Wilson Company website (www.hwwilson.com) and Jim Crowley’s informative book Lighthouses of New York: Greater New York Harbor, Hudson River and Long Island provide some historical data on this prominent feature of the Harlem River skyline.

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The H. W. Wilson Company and its lighthouse are ...
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The story reaches back to 1889, when University of Minnesota student Halsey William Wilson and his roommate Henry S. Morris invested $400 to start a small bookselling business, at first doing business from their dorm room. Morris later sold his share of the business to Wilson, who decided to publish a catalog of new books. His Cumulative Book Index sold for $1 and was a modest success. He later developed the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature, which secured his important place in publishing history. Wilson purchased a five-story building near the Harlem River. As the company continued to grow, Wilson added an adjacent eight-story building.

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The H.W. Wilson buildings and lighthouse overlook ...
Photo by: Jim Crowley

In 1929, at the top of the new building Wilson placed a 30-foot lighthouse on a base resembling a book. The lighthouse and book still symbolize the company mission, which is “To give guidance to those seeking their way through the maze of books and periodicals, without which they would be lost.” Halsey William Wilson died in 1954 at 85, but his company and mission are very much alive.

In 1998 the H. W. Wilson Company celebrated their 100th birthday with a lighting ceremony. Floodlights now illuminate the copper lighthouse at night, making it an impressive sight about a half-mile north of Yankee Stadium. The nearby bridge across the Harlem River is actually New York City’s oldest bridge, built even before the Brooklyn Bridge.

This story appeared in the September 2002 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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