Lighthouse on Block Island
Michael Nichols/National Geographic
24 in. x 18 in.
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Block Island Lighthouse
17 in. x 13 in.
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Map of Block Island, Rhode Island
11 in. x 17 in.
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1999 Issue Stamp - Click to Enlarge
Block Island Southeast
Block Island, Rhode Island
Light Location: Mohegan Bluffs, Block Island, in Rhode Island.
- A 7000 acre island
- 12 miles equidistant from Long Island and Charlestown, Rhode Island.
- About 7 miles long, three miles wide at its widest.
- Surrounded by shoals and ledges
- Settled by the Dutch in 1614
First Built: 1874
First Lit: February 1, 1875
Built By: Contractor T.H. Tynan, Staten Island
Current Tower Construction & Facts:
- Year Built: 1875
- Tower Height: 52 feet (67 feet?)
- Focal Plane: 258 feet (261 feet? 204 feet? - information varies)
- Material: Brick with granite foundation.
- Style: Italianate/Gothic Revival
- Tower Shape: Octagonal pyramid with 16 sided roof
- Original Optic: First Order Fresnel Lens (1875)
- Cost $10,000 (just the lens!)
- Manufactured by Barbier and Fenestre of Paris (1873)
- Originally burned lard oil, was converted to kerosene in the 1880s and later replaced by an incandescent oil vapor lamp and then electric bulbs
- Rotated on a mercury float until 1990(!)
- Was 12 feet high, 6 feet in diameter
- Intermediary Optics: A lens was installed, possibly in 1929, to accommodate the new flashing feture. It appeared to have been made up of parts of previous lenses.
- Current Optic: First Order Fresnel Lens (1856)
- From Cape Lookout Light in North Carolina (1993)
- 8 sided
- Valued at $3 million
- Surrounded by bullet-proof glass
- One of only 12 functional first-order Fresnel lenses in the US
- Visibility: 22+ miles
- Characteristic: Current flashing green every five seconds (originally a fixed white light, changed in 1929 to a fixed green light)
- Electricity: 1928
Fog Signal Facts:
- One blast every 30 seconds
- Compressed air fog signal installed in 1906 (destroyed in a fire in 1908 but replaced)
- Current apparatus 1974
Currently Owned By: Southeast Lighthouse Foundation?
Currently Managed By: Block Island Southeast Lighthouse Foundation, Box 949, Block Island, RI 02807 tel: 401-466-5009
Accessibility: Ferry - Lighthouse is about a 30 minute walk from the ferry terminal. Taxis are also available if you don't bring your car or bike. Ferries are available from New London, CT; Newport and Point Judith, RI; and Montauk, NY.
- Highest lighthouse in New England
- Moved back between 247 and 360 feet from the sea in August 1993.
- It was originally more than 300 feet from the edge of the bluff on which it stands but so much erosion had occurred since it was built it was only 55 feet away.
- The Block Island Southeast Lighthouse Foundation raised $2 million to have it moved.
- It was moved by International Chimney Company (Buffalo, NY) and Expert House Movers, Inc. (Virgina).
- Deactivated in 1990 but re-lit on August 27, 1994
- Coast Guard replaced it with a steel tower and aircraft beacon.
- Should have been built in 1856 with $9,000 in funding from Congress but the lighthouse board used the funds to rebuild the northern light on the island instead.
- In 1872, as a result of a petition circulated by Nicholas Ball, a merchant, Congress funded its construction with $75,000.
- 10 acres of land were purchased from George G. Sheffield for the lighthouse.
- Victorian Keeper's House, attached to lighthouse
- 2-1/2 story duplex
- Brick with granite foundation
- Fog Signal Building (1873)
- Replaced in 1908 with a brick building
- Torn down by Coast Guard when it was in danger of falling over the cliff
- Two cisterns (not standing)
- Garage (1939)
- Single story
- South of the lighthouse
- Currently houses the fog signal equipment
- Storage building (not standing)
- Boathouse (not standing?)
- Brick Ranch house
- Built in 1962 by the Coast Guard
- Is a residence and headquarters of the Southeast Lighthouse Foundation
- Signal Station (1898) (not standing)
- Built during the Spanish-American war
- Hurricane in September, 1938 knocked over the radio beacon, destroyed the oil house, and blew out windows. Keepers had to turn the lens by hand for several days!
Involvement in Wars:
- Used to house a signal station during the Spanish-American war in 1898
- Henry W. Clark - Keeper - 1873-1887
- J.W. Tougee - 1st Assistant - 1873-1974
- Nathanial Dodge - 1st Assistant - 1874-1882
- Chad E. Dodge - 2nd Assistant - 1874-1878
- Uriah D. Dodge - Assistant - 1879-1881
- Bauis E. Dodge - 2nd Assistant - 1878-1882
- John T. Hayes - 2nd Assistant in 1882, 1st Assistant 1882-1883
- T.H. Littlefield - 2nd Assistant - 1882-1883
- Charles F. Milliken - 2nd Assistant in 1883, 1st Assistant 1883-1886
- Simon Dodge - 2nd Assistant 1883-1886, 1st Assistant 1886-1887, became head keeper in 1887
- Simon Dodge - Keeper - 1887-1923
- Willet H. Clark - 2nd Assistant 1886-1887, 1st Assistant 1887-1908
- Charles E. Wescott - 2nd Assistant - 1887-1905
- Everett A. Hoxie - 2nd Assistant - 1905-1907
- William Baker - 2nd Assistant - 1907-1908
- George L. Hoxie - 2nd Assistant - 1908-1912
- Lewis Schutt - 2nd Assistant - 1908-1912 (? same dates as George Hoxie, above?)
- Samuel Pickup - 2nd Assistant - 1912-1918
- Ezra Dunn - 2nd Assistant - 1918-1919
- Edward Murphy - 2nd Assistant - 1919-1921
- Lawrence H. Congdon - 2nd Assistant - Jan. 7, 1920 - April 1, 1922
- Missing Data on Keeper - contributions welcome!
- John H. Miller - 2nd Assistant - 1923-1927
- Carl F.W. Anderson - 2nd Assistant - May 1923 - Nov 1924, became head keeper in Sept, 1930)
- Willet H. Clark - 1924?-1930
- Hugo R. Carlson - 2nd Assistant - 1927-1931
- Charles M. Ball - 1st Assistant - 1923-1929
- Carl F.W Anderson - Sept. 1930 - Mar. 1938
- Earl E. Carr - 1st Assistant - 1929-1939, became head keeper in 1938
- Earl E. Carr - 1938 - ?
- Elmer F. O'Toole - 2nd Assistant - 1931-1939, 1st Assistant 1939-1941
- Charles A. Rogers - 2nd Assistant - 1935-1941
- Alfred L. Bennett - 1st Assistant - 1941
- Boatswain's Mate Second Class Earl A. Rose - 2nd Assistant - 1941
Dennelly, Terence. "LighthouseRatings.com - Block Island Southeast Lighthouse" [Online] Available http://www.lighthouseratings.com/blockisland/, February 26, 2005.
D'Entremont, Jeremy. "New England Lighthouses: A Virtual Guide" [Online] Available http://www.lighthouse.cc, February 17, 2005.
National Park Service. "Block Island South East Lighthouse National Historic Landmark Nomination" [Online] Available http://www.cr.nps.gov/maritime/nhl/blockisl.htm, February 26, 2005.
Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). "Legendary Lighthouses: Great Lighthouses-North America" [Online] Available http://www.pbs.org/legendarylighthouses/html/natlgl.html, February 25, 2005.