Congress appropriated $18,000 in July 1884. The contractor in
of construction was Linas Seeley, and the lighthouse was finished by
early spring of 1886 and first lighted on April 1. A fixed red light
was exhibited from a fifth-order Fresnel lens with a focal plane 47
feet above the bay. The lighthouse took the form of a handsome
two-story, wood-frame Gothic Revival house with six rooms, with a
square tower attached to the northeast corner. The building was very
similar to the lighthouse built four years earlier in Wickford Harbor.
An air siren replaced the original fog bell in 1900. The
continuous blast produced in times of fog by the new equipment most
likely wasn’t appreciated by the neighbors. A brick oil house was built
in 1901, and a new brick building was added in 1907 to house the
equipment for a new steam-driven fog signal. The barn, oil house, and
fog signal building all survive today.
The first keeper was Rhode Island native Horace Arnold, veteran of a dozen years at Conimicut Light to the north. A newspaper article about Arnold on the occasion of his death said he was born on Prudence Island and came from a family of lightkeepers. He served in the Civil War as a member of Company G, Fourth Rhode Island Infantry. After surviving three years in the war, Arnold nearly lost his life in a shipwreck on the Potomac River on his way home.
Arnold once made a risky walk out onto the ice from the lighthouse to assist the passengers of a stranded vessel. The boat's skipper presented the keeper with a captain's chair for his considerable efforts, and the chair remained a treasured possession of the Arnold family for many years. Arnold remained at the light station until his death from pneumonia at the age of 74 in February 1914.
The lighthouse's second and final keeper was Elmer V. Newton. Newton stayed in charge until 1932, when it was decided that decreased shipping traffic meant money could be saved by transferring the navigational light to an unattended 50-foot steel skeleton tower about 55 feet east of the lighthouse.
The lighthouse, with the lantern room removed, was sold at auction for $2,785. The automatic light remained in use until April 21, 1982. The skeleton tower was quickly dismantled and sold for scrap.
The lighthouse was white with dark trim during its active years. Today it's painted red and white, and still retains its gingerbread trim. Despite the addition of a small sunroom, the building remains well cared for and largely unchanged. In its location on North Bay View Drive, it's difficult to get a good view of the entire lighthouse from the road due to the surrounding trees.
You can read much more about this lighthouse in the book The Lighthouses of Rhode Island by Jeremy D'Entremont.
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
Horace W, Arnold (1886-1914), Elmer V. Newton (1918-1932)