Block Island Southeast Light

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Block Island Southeast Light
Block Island Southeast Light, May, 2015.jpg
The Block Island Southeast Light in May, 2015
LocationSouth East Light Road, New Shoreham, Rhode Island
Coordinates41°9′12.3″N 71°33′7.7″W / 41.153417°N 71.552139°W / 41.153417; -71.552139Coordinates: 41°9′12.3″N 71°33′7.7″W / 41.153417°N 71.552139°W / 41.153417; -71.552139
First lit1875
FoundationGranite / Concrete / Brick
ConstructionRed brick
Tower shapeOctagonal pyramidal tower attached to dwelling
MarkingsNatural with black lantern
Tower height52 feet (16 m)
Focal height261 feet (80 m)
Lens1st order Fresnel lens (1875) (original),
1st order Fresnel lens from Cape Lookout Light (current)
Range20 nautical miles (37 km; 23 mi)
CharacteristicLight Signal FI G 5s
Fl Green 5 sec
Fog signalHorn, 1 every 30 sec
Admiralty numberJ0650
ARLHS numberUSA-062
USCG number1-640[1][2][3]
HeritageNational Historic Landmark, NRHP listed place, America's Most Endangered Historic Places Edit this on Wikidata
Block Island South East Light
Block Island Southeast Light USCG.JPG
ArchitectUS Light House Board; Tynan, T.H.
Architectural styleGothic
NRHP reference No.90001131 (NRHP)
97001264 (NHL)[4]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPAugust 6, 1990[4]
Designated NHLSeptember 24, 1997[5]

Block Island Southeast Light is a lighthouse located on Mohegan Bluffs at the southeastern corner of Block Island, Rhode Island. It was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1997 as one of the most architecturally sophisticated lighthouses built in the United States in the 19th century.[5][6]

Description and history[edit]

Although Congress appropriated $9,000 to build this light in 1856, the funds were used to build a new Block Island North Light after the old one was washed away in a storm. This light was finally built in 1874, with the lamp first lit on February 1, 1875. It is a sophisticated expression of the Gothic Revival executed in brick, and was a marked contrast to earlier lighthouses, which were generally more functional in appearance. The main tower is 67 feet (20 m) in height, with an octagonal granite foundation and brick exterior, which rises to a cast iron parapet and open gallery around the lantern chamber. This is topped by a sixteen-sided pyramidal copper roof with a ball ventilator and lightning rod. The original roof was cast iron, and was replaced in 1994.[6]

The keeper's house is attached to the tower by a 1-1/2 story connecting wing. It is a 2-1/2 story brick structure with identical projecting 1-1/2 story kitchen wings at its rear, and a steeply pitched gable roof with windows extending into the roofline. There are porches on either side of the connector, one for each of the two dwellings in the building, which were originally identical. That on the southwest side has retained original trim, which includes beveled, bracketed posts. The north wing was designated for the keeper, while the south wing was for his assistants. The only major alterations to the residences have been for the introduction of modern plumbing (in 1938) and the repair of storm-related damage. The roof was originally shingled, and since has been covered by a variety of materials, most recently slate shingles.[6]

The original optic was a first order Fresnel lens standing about 12 feet (3.7 m) tall with four circular wicks burning lard (pig) oil. The lard oil was replaced by kerosene in the 1880s. The lens was modified in 1929 to rotate floating on a pool of mercury, at first driven by a clockwork mechanism, which was replaced by a small electric motor.

In 1990, the Coast Guard deactivated the light and replaced it with a nearby steel tower. Because of ongoing erosion of the bluffs, in 1993 the entire 2,000 ton structure was moved about 300 feet (91 m) back from the cliffs. After the move, the Coast Guard decided not to retain the rotating mercury float lens, but instead installed the first order fixed lens which had been removed in 1980 from the Cape Lookout Lighthouse.[1] Ownership of the lighthouse was transferred in 1992 to the Southeast Lighthouse Foundation, which is dedicated to its preservation.[6]

The light was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990, and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997.[4] The latter designation was made in recognition of the light's historic importance as an aid to navigation, and for its sophisticated architecture, which was only matched by the Cleveland Light, which was demolished in the early 20th century. As of its 1997 designation, it was one of only 12 lighthouses which used a first-order Fresnel lens.[6]


The lighthouse has a small museum and gift shop in the base of the tower.[1] The tower is open during the summer season offering guided tours to the top, for a fee of $10 as of September 2015. Proceeds from tours are used for restoration of the lighthouse.[7]

Keepers and assistants[edit]

Keeper years First Assistant years Second Assistant years Special Assistant years
Henry W. Clark 1875-1887 J. W. Tougee 1873-1874
Nathaniel Dodge 1874-1882 Charles E. Dodge 1874-1882 Uriah B. Dodge 1879-1907
John F. Hayes 1882
John F. Hayes 1882-1883 Silas H. Littlefield 1882-1883
Charles F. Milliken 1883
Charles F. Milliken 1883-1886 Simon Dodge 1883-1886
Simon Dodge 1886-1887 Willet H. Clark 1886-1887
Simon Dodge 1887-1922 Willet H. Clark 1887-1921 Charles E. Wescott 1887-1905
Everett A. Hoxsie 1905-1907 Elmer H. Day 1907
William A. Baker 1907-1908 Everett A. Hoxsie 1907-1912
George L. Hoxsie 1908-1911
Louis F. Schlett 1911-1912
Samuel Pickup 1912-1917 Unknown, position



Ezra Dunn 1917-1918
Edward Murphy 1918-1919
Lawrence H. Congdon 1920-1922
Lawrence H. Congdon 1922 John H. Miller 1922-1923
Willet H. Clark 1922-1930 Charles M. Ball 1922-1927
Carl F. W. Anderson 1923-1924
Percy L. Oppel 1924-1925
Hugo R. Carlson 1926-1931
Earl E. Carr 1927-1938
Carl F. W. Anderson 1930-1938
Elmer F. O'Toole 1931-1935
Charles A. Rogers 1935-1937
Roger H. Green 1938
Earl E. Carr 1938-1943 Elmer F. O'Toole 1938-1941 Alfred L. Bennett 1939-1941
Earl A. Rose 1941
Unknown 1941-1990 Unknown 1941-1990
Unknown 1943-1946
Arthur Gasper 1946-1947
Unknown 1947-1948
Howard Beebe 1948-1950
John William Collins

1955-1959 OinC EN1 Fred Eidson, first assistant; BM3 Fred Gallop, second assistant; EN3 Don Goguen 1962

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Historic Light Station Information and Photography: Rhode Island". United States Coast Guard Historian's Office. Archived from the original on 2017-05-01.
  2. ^ Light List, Volume I, Atlantic Coast, St. Croix River, Maine to Shrewsbury River, New Jersey (PDF). Light List. United States Coast Guard. 2013. p. 7.
  3. ^ Rowlett, Russ (2013-04-08). "Lighthouses of Rhode Island". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  4. ^ a b c "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
  5. ^ a b "Block Island South East Light". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2008-09-24. Retrieved 2008-05-04. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ a b c d e "NHL nomination for Block Island South East Lighthouse". National Park Service. Retrieved 2014-10-27. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ Daytripper's Guide: Block Island Archived October 13, 2007, at the Wayback Machine; University of Rhode Island Sea Grant; retrieved on October 22, 2007

External links[edit]