Beavertail Lighthouse in Jamestown RI - 300 years of saving lives at sea
Overlooking Narraganset Bay, the Beavertail Lighthouse stands on the site of the 3rd oldest lighthouse in North America.The first tower was constructed of wood in 1749 and stood 58 feet tall with an 11 for light on top.Abel Franklin was appointed as the first Light Keeper.
The light was extinguished by the British as they retreated in 1779 toward the end of the War for Independence.They even removed the optical lens for the light prior to burning the tower.Eventually the tower was rebuilt with a new lamp and optics.
Things really got serious in 1856.A new 64’ granite tower was built about 100’ back from the old foundation, and a third order Fresnel lens made in France was installed, which focused the light, allowing it to be seen for up to 20 miles.That’s the tower that we see today, although the light has been changed many times.You can see a Fresnel lens, which is in the shape of a beehive constructed from prismatic glass, in the Light House Museum that is similar to the one first used in the 1856 tower.
Around this time, there was a concern that the light alone wasn’t enough to ensure the safety of ships along the Narraganset Bay.There ensued a 40 year period where fog horns of various types were built and tested using the foundation of the original light.These devices were enormous trumpets, driven by compressed air, and even steam that would warn ships off of the rocks during low visibility.Beavertail Lighthouse was pretty cutting edge back in the 1890s!
About the time that Route 1 was built, an electric lamp was installed (1931).Eventually, in 1972, it all became mechanized, doing away with the need for a Keeper of the Light.Five years later, the buildings would be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.A concerted effort was made beginning in the 1980’s to restore all of the buildings and to organize a Museum.You can learn a lot about optics, the lives of light keepers and maritime history in the present day museum, part of which is in the space where the Light Keepers lived.It is now re-opened after COVID.
Today, the light rotates every nine seconds, and the fog horns only sound in an emergency under the direction of the Coast Guard.In addition to the Museum, the Beavertail State Park is a mecca for painters, fishermen, couples getting married, picnickers, sunset gawkers, walkers, kite fliers, photographers and bikers. It is the most popular destination in Jamestown, RI for good reason!!!
Peter Evans RI Jamestown Sep 12, 2022 Fishing Museums Parks
Location: Jamestown, RI
Peter Evans Sep 12, 2022
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