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Hyannis Harbor Light
(South Hyannis Light)
Hyannis, Massachusetts
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History
Jeremy D'Entremont. Do not reproduce any part of this website without permission of the author.

Hyannis, one of seven villages of the Cape Cod town of Barnstable, grew into a busy fishing and trade port in the 1800s, and today it's the largest community on Cape Cod. Point Gammon Light had been established at the southern approach to the harbor in 1816, but it became increasingly apparent that a navigational light was needed to guide shipping into the inner harbor.

One local man took it upon himself to provide a light some years before the government decided to erect one.

old photo of lighthouse

Hyannis Harbor Light with its old "birdcage" style lantern. National Archives photo.

The first light in the harbor was a privately-built shack on the beach with a lamp that hung in a window. It was erected by Daniel Snow Hallett, who was assisted in his lightkeeping duties by his son, Daniel Bunker Hallett.

Daniel Bunker Hallett remembered later:

As a boy of ten or twelve, I often used to walk from Pickens Cove, where my father lived, down across the fields two miles to the harbor light, after school, to light the lamp and remain all night alone, with only my dog Pilot as company, then return home in the morning time to get breakfast and go to school.

In 1848, Congress authorized the building of a proper lighthouse at South Hyannis for $2,000. A 19-foot (to the base of the lantern), conical brick tower was built, and the light went into service on May 7, 1849. A system of five oil lamps and parabolic reflectors produced a fixed white light, 43 feet above the water, with a red sector warning mariners away from dangerous Southwest Shoal. Two years later, an additional $800 was appropriated for a wooden keeper's dwelling, attached to the lighthouse by a covered walkway.

Daniel Snow Hallett was appropriately appointed keeper, but he was replaced two years later for political reasons. His brother, Capt. Almoran Hallett, served as keeper for eight years starting in 1853.

A fifth-order Fresnel lens replaced the original lighting apparatus in 1856, and a new cast-iron lantern was installed in 1863. In 1885, a range light was added on the nearby Old Colony Railroad Wharf, a simple lamp hoisted to the top of a 20-foot tower.


Hyannis c. 1890s
Hyannis Harbor Light is in the background; the front range light is on the wharf in the foreground
From the collection of Edward Rowe Snow; courtesy of Dorothy Bicknell
 
John H. Lothrop of Hyannis was appointed keeper in 1871. "Pilot John" Lothrop had a long career as a "branch pilot," helping to guide vessels from Maine to Virginia. Keeper Lothrop was assisted by his son Alonzo, and Alonzo Freeman Lothrop became keeper after his father's death in 1878. Alonzo Lothrop remained at the station until 1899, when his resignation ended almost three decades of the Lothrop family at the Hyannis Lighthouse.
 
 
old photo of John Lothrop

Above, Keeper John Lothrop (1802-1878). Right, his son, Keeper Alonzo Lothrop (1836-1915)
Photos courtesy of Ruth E. Ault
old photo of Alonzo Lothrop
 

Hyannis Harbor Light c. 1890s
From the collection of Edward Rowe Snow, courtesy of Dorothy Bicknell

Captain John A. Peak, former commander of a lighthouse tender and part of a family dynasty of local lighthouse keepers, took over at Hyannis Harbor Light after Alonzo Lothrop's resignation and remained until his own ill health forced him to retire in 1915. Peak's father and grandfather had both been keepers of the light at Point Gammon. His father John was also the first keeper of Bishop and Clerks Light.

Captain Peak let some of the local children help with lighthouse chores, like polishing the brass parts of the tower. He also provided sailing lessons for local youngsters, provided they knew how to swim.

A 1922 inspection indicated that a kerosene-fueled lamp and a fifth-order Fresnel lens were in use at the time. The report stated that access to the station was via road from town. The keeper had no boat and there was no landing place for a boat other than a small beach.

Waldo Leighton, who became keeper in 1915, described the station as "a wonderful location, a nice place to live, a picturesque site overlooking the whole bay." Waldo Leighton was the last keeper of the lighthouse, moving to Nobska Point Light in Woods Hole when Hyannis Harbor Light was discontinued in 1929. On July 4 of that year, the Hyannis Patriot reported:

The closing of the lighthouse recalled to the mind of many of the older residents incidents connected with the light during its 80 years of service and also the staunch-hearted men who kept its light burning through fog and storm.

The entire lantern room was removed from the lighthouse, while the range light continued as an acetylene gas beacon.

old photo of light station

From A Trip to Cape Cod, 1898

A.W. Fuller bought the lighthouse at auction for $7,007 and subsequently sold it to Annie V. Stevenson. The property has since passed through several hands. The present owners, Janice Hyland and Alan Granby, who are antique dealers, built a new top for the tower. It's not a traditional lantern, but it reportedly provides a great view at sunset.

You can get a good view of the lighthouse and house if you walk to the east from the parking lot at Keyes Beach on Sea Street in Hyannis. You can read much more about this lighthouse in the book The Lighthouses of Massachusetts by Jeremy D'Entremont.


Keepers: Daniel Snow Hallett (1849-1851); James Bearse (1851-1853); Almoran Hallett (1853-1861); Franklin Baker (1861-1869); John Lothrop (1869-1878, died in service); Alonzo Lothrop (1878-1899); John Peak (1899-1915); Waldo Leighton (1915-1929).

Last revised 8/11/10
Jeremy D'Entremont. Do not reproduce any part of this website without permission of the author.

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