Beavertail Lighthouse

Coordinates: 41°26′46″N 71°23′57″W / 41.446°N 71.3993°W / 41.446; -71.3993
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Beavertail Light
Beavertail Lighthouse is located in Rhode Island
Beavertail Lighthouse
Nearest cityJamestown, RI
Coordinates41°26′46″N 71°23′57″W / 41.446°N 71.3993°W / 41.446; -71.3993
Area4 acres (1.6 ha)
MPSLighthouses of Rhode Island TR (AD)
NRHP reference No.77000024 [1]
Added to NRHPDecember 12, 1977

Beavertail Lighthouse was built in 1856 and is the premier lighthouse in Rhode Island, 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 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 are visible from Beavertail Lighthouse, such as Castle Hill Lighthouse, Point Judith Light, and Rose Island Light.


Records of the town of Jamestown from 1712 make reference to a beacon, and they mention a watch house in 1705.[2] A wooden tower was built in 1749 (attributed to architect Peter Harrison), and the light became the third lighthouse established in the Thirteen Colonies,[3] known at the time as "Newport Light". 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.

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

4th order fixed "beehive" Fresnel lens. This was the last such lens installed at Beavertail Light in Jamestown, Rhode Island. Source:

In 1856, the tower was replaced with 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 in service, and it was the site of numerous fog-signal tests over the next 40 years under the supervision of the United States Lighthouse Board. In 1898, quarters were added to the keeper's house for an assistant keeper; the assistant helped with fog-signaling, among other things.

The whistle house was destroyed during the 1938 hurricane, revealing the original base for the 1749 structure which sits 100 feet (30 m) from the current tower. Whale Rock can be seen a few miles southwest of Beavertail Point. 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. The building was restored and opened to the public 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. In 1993, the 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 many Rhode Island lighthouses.

Keepers and assistants[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 1953–1965 Ronald Bugenske 1960–1964
Eugene E. Race 1964 - 1965
Robert J. Hart 1965 Eugene E. Race 1965
Gerald T. Shrieves 1965 - 1967 Eugene E. Race 1965 - 1967
John L. Williams 1967
John K. Martin 1967 - 1969 John L. Williams 1967 - at least 1968
John E. Baxter, Jr. 1969–1972 George J. Light 1969–1971
Dennis D. Regula 1971 - 1972


See also[edit]



  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
  2. ^ "NRHP nomination for Beavertail Lighthouse" (PDF). Rhode Island Preservation. Retrieved 2014-08-30.
  3. ^ It was preceded by Boston Light in Boston Harbor and Brant Point Light on Nantucket.
  4. ^ "Beavertail Lighthouse Keepers". Retrieved 2024-01-24.

External links[edit]