Watch Hill Light
Watch Hill Quick Facts
Year Station Established: 1808
Is the Light operational? Yes
Year Light First Lit: 1857
Year Automated: 1896
Tower Height: 45 ft.
Original Optic: 4th Order, Fresnel
Present Optic: FRB-300mm
Existing Keepers Quarters? Yes
Year Constructed: 1857
Number of Stories: 1.5
Construction Materials: Brick
Watch Hill Lighthouse
Watch Hill, RI
(4 photos, 97KB total download)
Last Visited: April, 1999
The Watch Hill Lighthouse in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, has served as a nautical beacon for ships since 1745, when the Rhode Island colonial government erected a watchtower and beacon during the French and Indian War and Revolutionary War. Destroyed in a 1781 storm, plans were discussed to build a new lighthouse to mark the eastern entrance to Fishers Island Sound and to warn mariners of a dangerous reef southwest of Watch Hill.
View of the Watch Hill Lighthouse from Napatree Point
President Thomas Jefferson signed an act to build the lighthouse in 1806 and construction was completed in 1807. The first lighthouse stood 35 feet (11 m) tall.
In 1827 a rotating light was installed to differentiate the light from that of the Stonington Harbor Light in Connecticut. Erosion forced the lighthouse to close in 1855 and move further away from the bluff edge.
The next lighthouse, opened in 1856, stands 45 feet (14 m) tall. Sixteen years later the steamer Metis crashed off Watch Hill in 1872 killing 130 people. A United States Life-Saving Service station was built next to the lighthouse where it operated until the 1940s and was destroyed in 1963. In 1873 Captain Jared Starr Crandall, keeper of the lighthouse, was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for rescue operations involving the Metis. In 1879, Capt. Crandall's widow, Sally Ann (Gavitt) Crandall, became the first woman lighthouse keeper there.
In 1907, the steamer Larchmont collided with a schooner killing 200 people four miles from the lighthouse. The Hurricane of 1938 caused severe damage to the lighthouse. The Leif Viking ran aground a few hundred feet from the lighthouse in 1962, and although there were no injuries, the ship was stranded for nine days. The lighthouse was automated in 1986 and leased to the Watch Hill Lightkeepers Association.
The lighthouse is closed to the public. The grounds and a museum in the oil house are open limited hours in summer. There is no parking near the lighthouse; visitors must park in town and walk.
Nearest Address: 99 Larkin Rd, Westerly, RI
- Take 1A south out of Westerly into Watch Hill.
- Take a right onto Watch Hill road. Watch Hill Road ends and bears slightly right turning into Wauwinnet Road which then turns into Bay St.. Follow it into the village.
- As you go through the village with shops on your left and parking lots on the right, the road bears to the right and up a hill.
- Try to park about 3/4 of the way up the hill before it bears to the left. There is a small road (possibly unmarked) about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way up the hill on the right. Walk down that road. It'll lead you to the lighthouse. You will be walking amongst some very nice houses.
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