Last Visited: August, 2000
Prior to the establishment of a lighthouse at Beavertail, local Native Americans would keep pitch fires burning, to warn sailors away from the rocky coastline. In 1749, a wooden tower was built, and the light (which was then known as "Newport Light") became the third lighthouse established in the colonies, preceded only by Boston Light in Boston Harbor, and Brant Point Light, Nantucket. 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.
In 1779, as British sailors retreating from Newport near the end of the American Revolutionary War, they left a trail of destruction behind them. This included burning the lighthouse and removing the optics, which left the light dark for the rest of the war.
In 1856, the tower was again replaced with what is now 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 and over the next forty years it was the site of numerous fog-signal tests, under the supervision of the United State Lighthouse board. In 1898 quarters for an assistant keeper were added to the keeper's house, the assistant helped, among other things, with fog-signaling.
During the 1938 hurricane, the whistle house was destroyed, revealing the original base for the 1749 structure, which sits 100 feet (30 m) from the current tower. A few miles southwest of Beavertail point, Whale Rock can be seen, resembling a submarine attempting to surface. 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, which ended the job the keeper at all stations except for Boston Light, which to this day, remains the only manned lighthouse in America.
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, the building was restored and reopened to the public. In 1993, 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, models and photos of many Rhode Island lighthouses.
The Beavertail Lighthouse Museum is open weekends and Memorial day, beginning May 24 through mid June, noon to 3pm. It will open daily, June 16th through Labor Day, 10am to 4pm. Labor Day through Columbus Day, open weekends, noon to 3pm. For more information see http://www.beavertaillight.org/
Nearest Address: 754 Beavertail Rd, Jamestown, RI
- From Interstate 95, take exit 8, Route 4 south.
- Stay on Route 4 for 9.5 miles to the end.
- Take the exit onto Route 1 south.
- Stay on Route 1 for 0.8 miles and take the right lane exit for Route 138.
- Take Route 138 for 5 miles then turn right onto N. Main Rd.
- In 2 miles N. Main Rd. becomes Southwest Ave. Continue on Southwest Ave.
- About 0.5 miles later you bear right onto Beavertail Road.
- Follow Beavertail Road about 2.5 miles to the lighthouse.
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