The Graves Light

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Graves Light
The Graves Light.JPG
US Coast Guard photo
The Graves Light is located in Massachusetts
The Graves Light
LocationOffshore of Boston, Massachusetts
Coordinates42°21′53.6″N 70°52′8.7″W / 42.364889°N 70.869083°W / 42.364889; -70.869083Coordinates: 42°21′53.6″N 70°52′8.7″W / 42.364889°N 70.869083°W / 42.364889; -70.869083
Year first constructed1903
Year first lit1905
Automated1976, solar 2001
ConstructionGranite Block
Tower shapeConical
Markings / patternNatural with Black Lantern
Tower height113 feet (34 m) (tower)
Focal height96 feet (29 m)
Original lensFirst order Fresnel Lens (original)
Current lensVRB-25
Range15 nautical miles (28 km; 17 mi)
CharacteristicGraves.gif Fl (2) W 12s
Fog signalHORN: 2 every 20s
USCG number1-390[1][2][3]
Graves Light Station
Nearest cityBoston, Massachusetts
ArchitectRoyal Luther
MPSLighthouses of Massachusetts TR
NRHP reference #87002041[4]
Added to NRHPSeptember 28, 1987
Heritageplace listed on the National Register of Historic Places Edit this on Wikidata

The Graves Light is a lighthouse located on The Graves, the outermost island of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, and 9 miles (14 km) offshore of downtown Boston, Massachusetts, USA.[5]

At 113 feet (34 m), it is the tallest lighthouse in the approaches to the Port of Boston, and is an important navigation aid for traffic to and from the port. It was built at the same time that the North Channel into Boston Harbor was dredged to become the principal entrance for large vessels. The Graves are the outermost rocks near the outer end of the North Channel.[5]

It was added to the National Register of Historic Places as Graves Light Station on September 28, 1987, reference number 87002041.

Construction and history[edit]

The lighthouse was built in 1905, to a conical design using granite blocks on a granite foundation, and equipped with one of the few first-order Fresnel lens used. The lens assembly stands about 12 ft (4m) tall and is now at the Smithsonian Institution. The light was the setting for the climactic storm in the 1948 film Portrait of Jennie.

Operated by the United States Coast Guard, the light was automated in 1976 and has a characteristic of two white flashes every 12 seconds.

Various sources agree that the ledges were named for a Thomas Graves, but differ on who he was; some prefer a 17th-century English rear admiral; others like a colonial-era American merchant. The USCG history web site shows both.[1] The new owners retained a historian who ascertained that the ledges were named for Rear Admiral Thomas Graves (1605–1653), whose family settled in Charlestown, Massachusetts, but who died in an English naval battle against the Dutch in 1653.[6]

The Graves Island Light Station was put up for auction on June 10, 2013, by the U.S. General Services Administration. Opening bid was $26,000. The tenth and winning bid was a record $933,888, the highest price ever paid for a U.S. lighthouse.[7] A Massachusetts couple, David and Lynn Waller, were the buyers of the lighthouse.[8] The lighthouse includes two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a study, but landing is difficult and entering the building requires traversing a 40-foot (12 m) ladder. A former caretaker described it like "living in a pipe."[9]

As of 2014, the Wallers were undertaking a major restoration project costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.[10] The lighthouse is still being used for navigation using solar panels since 2001, and will remain so under the terms of the sale.[11] These replaced a severed underwater cable that supplied electricity from the town of Hull. The cable had replaced the original oil-fired lamp, fueled with oil stored in an adjacent building; the walkway to the oil house washed away in 1991.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Historic Light Station Information and Photography: Massachusetts". United States Coast Guard Historian's Office.
  2. ^ Light List, Volume I, Atlantic Coast, St. Croix River, Maine to Shrewsbury River, New Jersey (PDF). Light List. United States Coast Guard. 2009. p. 5.
  3. ^ Rowlett, Russ (October 3, 2009). "Lighthouses of the United States: Northern Massachusetts". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  4. ^ National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  5. ^ a b "Chart 13270, Boston Harbor, 1/25,000". NOAA. 2008. Retrieved March 27, 2010.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Shanahan, Mark; Goldstein, Meredith (September 4, 2013). "Sold! Graves Island lighthouse breaks record". Boston Globe.
  8. ^ Moore, Galen (September 9, 2013). "Meet the buyers of Graves Island Light (and hear how they mortgaged their house to do it)". Boston Business Journal. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
  9. ^ Grillo, Thomas (3 August 2012). "Real estate spotlight on a lighthouse". Boston Business Journal. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  10. ^ a b Kahn, Joseph P. (September 16, 2004). "Renovation of Graves Island lighthouse inches forward". Boston Globe.
  11. ^ Kahn, Joseph P. (July 31, 2013). "Graves Island lighthouse not your average fixer-upper". Boston Globe.

External links[edit]