Last Visited: September, 2007
As the port of Hyannis grew in importance it became obvious that a navigational aid was needed to help mariners negotiate the area. Construction was swiftly completed and the light went into service on November 21, 1816, with seven lamps and reflectors exhibiting a fixed white light. The conical tower was built of stone, with a diameter at the base of 16 feet. The walls were 20 feet high, and the tower was topped by an octagonal iron lantern. The one-and-one-half-story dwelling was 16 by 30 feet, with a 10-by-12-foot porch.
In 1882, Great Island was sold to Charles B. Cory, a wealthy ornithologist from Boston. Cory established the island as a game preserve, with elk, deer, antelopes, pheasants, and other animals. Non-game birds were protected; the island thus became one of the nation's earliest bird sanctuaries.
The lighthouse's iron lantern was removed at some point after the light was discontinued. Cory added a taller structure to the top, designed to facilitate the use of the tower as a viewing platform.
The old stone dwelling was utilized used as a museum for the butterfly collection amassed by Cory and his wife, Harriet.
Malcolm G. Chace, a banker from Rhode Island who had visited Great Island as a boy, purchased the property in 1914. In the 1930s, the dwelling was dismantled and the stones were used to build a new house on the island. The lighthouse's observatory/lantern installed by Cory has been rebuilt in relatively recent years.
Most of Great Island has remained in the ownership of the Chace family, but they have surrendered development rights for 266 acres through an agreement with the Trustees of Reservations, which ensures it will remain in its natural state.
Great Island, including the lighthouse, is off-limits to the public. The lighthouse can be viewed distantly from the Hyannis-Nantucket ferry, or from excursion boats and fishing charters leaving Hyannis.
New England Lighthouses - A Virtual Guide
Since the best way to see this lighthouse is from boat, the view from land is very distant. In the directions below you can click on a link to the Hyannis Lighthouse page to get to a view from land. From there Point Gammon is about 2 1/4 miles away. If you don't have a very long lens (I used a 400mm lens with doubler) the lighthouse will just appear to be a small speck at the point of land.
Nearest Address: 91 Harbor Rd, Hyannis, MA
- From Route 6 take exit 6 in Hyannis. At the end of the ramp turn south onto Route 132.
- Take Route 132 for 2.8 miles to the rotary/circle/roundabout at the intersection with Route 28.
- Go half way around the circle (essentially continuing straight) and go onto Barnstable Road.
- Stay on Barnstable Road for about 0.8 miles to the stop light at the 5-way intersection.
- Take a 45 degree right (you can't take a 90 degree right - it's one way) onto Old Colony Rd.
- Follow Old Colony Rd. 0;9 miles to the end and turn right onto Gosnold St.
- In 0.1 miles turn left onto Harbor Rd.
- The road ends in a cul-de-sac. There are No Parking signs in the cul-de-sac but we didn't see any signs on the road just before the cul-de-sac so we parked there. Walk to the end of the the road and take the path out to the beach where off in the distance you'll see the lighthouse
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