Beavertail Lighthouse

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Beavertail Light
Beavertail Light, Jamestown, Rhode Island.jpg
Beavertail Lighthouse is located in Rhode Island
Beavertail Lighthouse
Nearest city Jamestown, RI
Coordinates 41°26′46″N 71°23′57″W / 41.446°N 71.3993°W / 41.446; -71.3993Coordinates: 41°26′46″N 71°23′57″W / 41.446°N 71.3993°W / 41.446; -71.3993
Area 4 acres (1.6 ha)
Built 1856
MPS Lighthouses of Rhode Island TR (AD)
NRHP Reference # 77000024 [1]
Added to NRHP December 12, 1977

Beavertail Lighthouse, built in 1856, was and still is the premier lighthouse in Rhode Island, United States, marking the entrance to Narragansett Bay. The 64-foot (20 m) lighthouse lies on the southernmost point of Conanicut Island in the town of Jamestown, Rhode Island in Beavertail State Park, on a site where beacons have stood since the early 18th century. The Whistle House and Garage were destroyed by the New England Hurricane of 1938. The light provides navigation for boats and ships entering Narragansett Bay in the East Passage between Conanicut Island and Newport, Rhode Island on Aquidneck Island. Other lighthouses, such as Castle Hill Lighthouse, Point Judith Light, and Rose Island Light are visible from Beavertail Lighthouse.

Its white light rotates counterclockwise and makes a full rotation in about six or seven seconds. The light is on 24 hours per day with a rotation every 6 seconds, unlike many lighthouses that are near it. It has a loud foghorn that blasts about every 30 seconds during the fog.


Prior to the establishment of a lighthouse at Beavertail, local Native Americans would keep pitch fires burning, to warn sailors away from the rocky coastline. The earliest records of the town of Jamestown making reference to construction of a beacon date to 1712, and mention a watch house in 1705.[2] In 1749, a wooden tower was built, and the light (which was then known as "Newport Light") became the third lighthouse established in the colonies, preceded only by Boston Light in Boston Harbor, and Brant Point Light, Nantucket. A fire was lit at the top of the tower, as was common for the time. Four years later it burned down and was replaced by a stone tower.

In 1779, as British sailors retreating from Newport near the end of the American Revolutionary War, they left a trail of destruction behind them. This included burning the lighthouse and removing the optics, which left the light dark for the rest of the war.

In 1856, the tower was again replaced with what is now the current tower, made of granite which is 10 ft (3.0 m) square, and 64 feet (20 m) from ground to beacon. A 3rd order Fresnel lens was placed and over the next forty years it was the site of numerous fog-signal tests, under the supervision of the United State Lighthouse board. In 1898 quarters for an assistant keeper were added to the keeper's house, the assistant helped, among other things, with fog-signaling.

During the 1938 hurricane, the whistle house was destroyed, revealing the original base for the 1749 structure, which sits 100 feet (30 m) from the current tower. A few miles southwest of Beavertail point, Whale Rock can be seen, resembling a submarine attempting to surface. Whale Rock Lighthouse, and its keeper, Walter Eberle, were swept into the waters of Narragansett bay during the hurricane of 1938; Eberle's body was never recovered.

In 1939, the US Coast Guard took command of all lighthouses and navigational aids, and in 1989 Beavertail light was automated, as part of a program by the Coast Guard, which ended the job the keeper at all stations except for Boston Light, which to this day, remains the only manned lighthouse in America.

In 1989, following a joint effort by the US Coast Guard, Rhode Island Parks Management, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and the town of Jamestown, the building was restored and reopened to the public. In 1993, Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association (BLMA) was established to oversee the operations of the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum, which is located in the assistant keeper's house. The museum includes a Fresnel lens, and the history of, models and photos of many Rhode Island lighthouses.

Keepers and Assistants[3][edit]

Keeper years Assistant years
Abel Franklin 1749-1755
Jerathmeel (John) Bowers 1770
Josiah Arnold 1770-1783
William Martin 1783-1803
Phillip Caswell 1803-1818
George Shearman 1816-1829
Sylvester R. Hazard 1829-1844
Robert H. Weeden 1844-1848
Mrs. Demaris A. Weeden 1848-1857
Joshua B. Rathburn 1857-1858 Henry Rathburn 1857-1859
Silas G. Shaw 1858-1862
E. E. Taylor 1859
William B. Spooner 1859
William H. Carr 1859-1861
Benjamin W. Walker 1861-1862
William D. Weeden 1862 Albert Caswell 1862-1863
Peter J. Lee 1862-1863
Silas G. Shaw 1863-1869 Christopher Austen 1863
William Batchelder 1863-1864
Ann N. Shaw 1864-1869
Thomas King 1869-1873 Patrick McNamara 1869
Andrew King 1869-1873
William W. Wales 1873-1895 Alexander F. Fraser 1873-1875
Charles H. Lake 1875
George A. Brown 1875-1885
John S. Wales 1885-1888
George B. Wales 1888-1895
John S. Wales 1895-1915
George B. Wales 1895-1900
Joshua A. Overton 1900-1915
John S. Wales 1915-1919 George T. Manders 1915-1919
George T. Manders 1919-1937 Stanley H. Roode 1919-1920
Edward A. Donahue 1920-1948
Carl. S. Chellis 1938-1948 1920-1948
Edward A. Donahue 1948-1953 Dominic M Turillo 1951-1953
Dominic M. Turillo 1953-1969 Ronald Bugenske 1962-1965
Calvin Hirsch 1965-1969
George Light 1969 Unknown 1969
John Baxter 1970-1972 George Light 1970-1972

See also[edit]



  1. ^ National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ "NRHP nomination for Beavertail Lighthouse" (PDF). Rhode Island Preservation. Retrieved 2014-08-30. 
  3. ^ "Beavertail Lighthouse Keepers". Retrieved 2015-08-29. 

External links[edit]