Last Visited: September, 2001
Congress appropriated $3,000 on March 3, 1831, for a light at the entrance to Wickford Harbor. A site on the south side of the harbor entrance was selected, and the land was purchased from Thomas Albro for $300.
The specifications called for a one-story stone dwelling, 40 feet by 20 feet, with a cellar. The house was to be divided into two rooms, with a chimney in the middle and a fireplace in each room. A porch or kitchen was to be attached to the house.
An octagonal wooden lighthouse tower, 10 feet in diameter and rising 8 feet above the ridge of the house, was to be erected at one end of the building. It was to be topped by a wooden deck, covered with copper, and an octagonal iron lantern.
The light went into service on November 1, 1831, with the focal plane of the fixed white light 48 feet above the water.
By 1880, the Lighthouse Board decided that a light located 200 yards offshore from Poplar Point, at Old Gay Rock, would better serve the ferries and other traffic. With the establishment of the new Wickford Harbor Lighthouse on November 1, 1882, the old light at Poplar Point was permanently darkened as an aid to navigation. On October 15, 1894, the government sold Poplar Point Lighthouse at public auction.
Elmer and Virginia Shippee bought the property in 1966. The Shippees' son, Russell, and his wife, Cathy, have lived in the lighthouse since 1987. The Shippees extensively renovated the building.
This is Rhode Island's oldest unrebuilt lighthouse in its original location. The lighthouse tower itself is also the oldest wooden lighthouse in the nation. (Plymouth Light in Massachusetts is the oldest free-standing wooden tower.)
A good view of the lighthouse is available from a breakwater across Wickford Harbor at Sauga Point.
The lighthouse sits within a small somewhat closed off neighborhood. We had to park about 1/4 mile away and we rode our bikes into the neighborhood (seemed less obvious that way). It appears the best views would be from the water or, if you're adventurous, you can walk down the neighborhood beach.
Nearest Address: 1 Poplar Ave, North Kingstown, RI
- Take Route 1 into North Kingstown and turn onto Route 1A south.
- Follow 1A south for 0.6 miles then turn left onto Beach St.
- Go on Beach St. for 0.2 miles and take a left onto Steamboat Ave.
- Follow Steamboat Ave. for 0.5 miles then turn right onto Starboard Way which merges in to Poplar Ave.
- The lighthouse is on private property so once you get to the small beach, find the least obvious way to check out the lighthouse.
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