The city of Fall River, situated where the Taunton River flows into Mount Hope Bay, was famed as the "Textile Capital of the World" in the nineteenth century. At one time, more than 100 cotton mills in Fall River employed over 30,000 people. The city's location allowed easy travel by water to Providence, Newport, and beyond. Beginning in 1847, the Fall River Line of steamships provided a link to Boston and New York City.
For a number of years before the lighthouse was built to warn of a dangerous reef at the mouth of the Taunton River, an unlighted day beacon marked the spot. The 1872 annual report of the Lighthouse Board described a "stone beacon, with iron column and day-mark." On June 16, 1880, a sum of $25,000 was appropriated for a lighthouse on Borden Flats, and construction soon commenced.
Truman Sawyer served at Borden Flats Light for the Coast Guard from November 1955 to December 1956. In a phone interview in 2003, he recalled that there were usually two men at the lighthouse at a time, and that the crewmen had six days at the lighthouse followed by two days off. The light still ran on kerosene, as did a refrigerator and stove. The fog bell mechanism was still wound by hand. Although he looked back on the experience fondly, Sawyer said that at the time "it was like punishment."
A wider base was added around the caisson after the hurricane of 1938
Borden Flats Light was electrified in 1957 and automated in 1963. In 1977, its Fresnel lens was replaced by a modern plastic lens. The fog bell remained in use until 1983 when it was replaced by an electronic foghorn.
Today, the tower is about a half mile from the Braga Bridge, built in 1965 and named for one of the first men from Fall River to die in World War II. The lighthouse remains an active aid to navigation, serviced by the Coast Guard's Aids to Navigation Team Bristol (Rhode Island). Coast Guard personnel completed some renovation of the exterior and interior in 2002.
In September 2006, it was announced that the lighthouse would be available for transfer to a suitable applicant under the provisions of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000. No organizations expressed interest, meaning the lighthouse was sold at auction to the general public. In September 2008, the high bidder was attorney Michael Gabriel of Carson City, Nevada, at $55,000. In June 2010, it was announced that Mr. Gabriel had failed to close on the property, and that it would be auctioned once again.
The high bidder of the second auction in August 2010, at $56,569, was Nick Korstad of Portland, Oregon. “I want to restore it back to what is was originally and I want to make it accessible to the public,” Korstad told the Fall River Herald News.
Nick Korstad, right, with his mother, Cindy, at the lighthouse in December 2010
The lighthouse remains an active aid to navigation. It can be seen from the Borden Light Marina. While in Fall River be sure to visit Battleship Cove, home port to the Battleship Massachusetts. The excellent Fall River Marine Museum is also nearby, featuring an extensive Titanic exhibit.
Part of the reef upon which the lighthouse was built can be seen here. Photo by Nick Korstad.
You can read much more about this lighthouse in the book The Lighthouses of Massachusetts by Jeremy D'Entremont.
Keepers: (This list is a work in progress. If you have any information on the keepers of this lighthouse, I'd love to hear from you. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone copying this list onto another web site does so at their own risk, as the list is always subject to updates and corrections.)
Herman Georgy (Georgie?) (1885-1898); Martin Thompson (1898-1905); Joseph Meyer (c. 1905-1912); John H. Paul (1912 -1927); Joseph Covo (1927-1943); John F. McGeough (Coast Guard officer in charge, c. mid-1950s); Calvin B. Davis (Coast Guard, c. mid-1950s); Truman Sawyer (Coast Guard, 1955-1956)