Clark’s Point Lighthouse

New Bedford, Massachusetts
Clark’s Point Lighthouse once stood in New Bedford Harbor in Massachusetts. Its lantern now is mounted on the historic Fort Taber.
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About This Location

Clark’s Point Lighthouse: From Beacon to Historic Fort Taber

Clark’s Point Lighthouse, once perched on the shores of New Bedford, Massachusetts, stands as a testament to the maritime history of the region. With its unique history of construction and relocation to the historic Fort Taber, this lighthouse has played a vital role in guiding ships through the challenging waters of New Bedford Harbor.

Necessity and Designated Placement:

The need for Clark’s Point Lighthouse arose from the bustling maritime activities in New Bedford, particularly during the 18th and 19th centuries when the city flourished as a center of the whaling industry. Local merchants recognized the perilous conditions for mariners navigating the entrance to New Bedford Harbor, especially around Clark’s Point. As a result, the first wooden tower was constructed in 1797 at the strategic location of Clark’s Point to guide ships safely into the harbor.

Establishment and Additional Structures:

The initial wooden tower, constructed by local merchants, was replaced by a stone tower in 1804, attesting to the importance of the lighthouse for navigation. Initially, there was no keeper’s dwelling, horn, or oil house associated with the lighthouse. However, as time passed, a keeper’s dwelling was added to the site in 1842, providing accommodations for those responsible for maintaining the light and ensuring its continuous operation.

Changes and Relocation:

Over the years, Clark’s Point Lighthouse underwent various renovations and upgrades. In 1818, the tower’s height was increased, and a new octagonal lantern was installed. Despite these changes, the tower remained a stone structure, serving as a reliable beacon for mariners.

One significant change occurred when the construction of Fort Taber, also known as Fort Rodman, commenced in 1857 adjacent to the lighthouse. The fort’s construction aimed to bolster coastal defenses but inadvertently obscured the lighthouse’s beacon from some directions. To rectify this, a new lighthouse was built on the parapets of Fort Taber, adjacent to the old tower. This new lighthouse was a small wooden structure with a lantern set on its hipped roof. Special swinging frames were provided for the lantern to mitigate damage when the fort’s cannons fired. Consequently, the original stone tower was abandoned and eventually demolished in 1906.

Lightkeepers:

Records about the keepers of Clark’s Point Lighthouse are scarce, but their contributions to maintaining the light and ensuring the safety of mariners were invaluable. The keepers’ duties included tending to the light source, ensuring it remained operational, and conducting routine maintenance on the lighthouse.

Ownership and Maintenance Today:

Ownership and maintenance responsibilities for Clark’s Point Lighthouse have evolved over the years. The fort, lighthouse, and surrounding park are all owned and maintained by the City of New Bedford. The city is not extremely active in maintaining many of the historic structures though.

Visiting the Lighthouse Today:

Seeing the lighthouse is super easy as Clark’s Point Lighthouse is located in Fort Taber Park which has ample parking. The lighthouse can be seen right from the parking lot. Sadly, accessing the lighthouse is not easy. The lighthouse is located at the top of the crumbling Fort Taber which is rarely open to the public. Those interested in visiting or learning more about the lighthouse should inquire with local authorities or maritime preservation groups for any available opportunities or tours.

Lighthouse Specs

  • Originally Constructed: 1797
  • Current Tower Constructed: 1869
  • First Lit: 1869 (current tower)
  • Construction: Stone
  • Tower Shape: Square
  • Focal Height: 68 feet
  • Markings: White with black lantern
  • Characteristic: Fixed white
  • Range: 9 nautical miles
  • Status: Deactivated

Location

Address: 1000 Rodney French Boulevard, New Bedford, Massachusetts
Place GPS Coordinates: 41.593206, -70.901308
Parking GPS Coordinates: 41.593206, -70.901308
Parking Notes: Clark’s Point Lighthouse is located in Fort Taber Park which has ample parking. The lighthouse can be seen right from the parking lot.

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