Monomoy Point Lighthouse

Chatham, Massachusetts
Monomoy Point Lighthouse is a historic and remote lighthouse at the tip of Monomoy Island in Chatham, Massachusetts on Cape Cod.
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About This Location

The Monomoy Point Lighthouse, located on Monomoy Island in Chatham, Massachusetts, is a historic beacon with a rich maritime history. Established in 1823, this lighthouse served a critical role in guiding vessels safely through the treacherous waters of Nantucket Sound and the Atlantic Ocean, particularly due to the presence of dangerous shoals and the ever-shifting sands in the area.

Originally, the first light on Monomoy Point was a wooden tower with a brick lantern room situated atop the keeper’s dwelling. This light began operation on November 1, 1823, and featured eight lamps with thirteen-inch reflectors, providing a fixed light approximately twenty-five feet above sea level.

In 1849, the current cast-iron tower, one of the earliest of its kind, was constructed. This tower, standing at approximately forty feet tall, replaced the previous wooden structure. It featured a cylindrical design with iron trusses added in 1892 to reduce vibrations.

The lighthouse received further improvements, including a brick lining and the installation of a Henry-Lepaute fourth-order Fresnel lens in 1857. Monomoy Point Light initially served as a guide for Old Stage Harbor but was later upgraded to serve as a coastal light.

Monomoy Point Lighthouse was known for its isolation, with keepers often staying for an average of five and a half years. Records indicate that there was at least one female keeper among the lighthouse’s keepers. Life at the lighthouse included tending to household duties and maintaining the light, with the keepers’ families playing an essential role in the operation.

However, the need for Monomoy Point Light diminished significantly after the opening of the Cape Cod Canal in 1914, which provided a safer and more direct route for vessels traveling south of Cape Cod and the Boston area. Additionally, dredging of the Pollock Rip Channel reduced the necessity of Monomoy Lighthouse. As a result, the light was deactivated on February 17, 1923, providing cost savings of $26,269 annually.

The fourth-order Fresnel lens was removed from the tower, and the property was sold to private owners. Over the years, the property changed hands, and it was eventually acquired by the Massachusetts Audubon Society, which undertook the restoration of the lighthouse and keeper’s dwelling in 1964.

In 1977, the property was sold back to the federal government, and Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy secured a federal grant in 1988 for a significant renovation project led by the Lighthouse Preservation Society. This project involved the restoration of the tower and dwelling, including the installation of wind and solar generators to provide electricity.

Today, Monomoy Point Lighthouse stands as a testament to its maritime heritage and is a well-preserved historic landmark. However, it is located on South Monomoy Island, which is accessible only by boat, making it one of the least visited light stations in Massachusetts. The property is cared for by federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Interior and the U.S. Coast Guard, with the support of organizations such as the Lighthouse Preservation Society, the Massachusetts Audubon Society, and The Friends of Monomoy. While the grounds of South Monomoy Island are remote and not easily accessible to the public, the lighthouse remains a significant part of Cape Cod’s maritime history. Visitors interested in seeing the lighthouse up close should check for available guided tours or access information through relevant authorities or organizations.

Lighthouse Specs

  • Originally Constructed: 1823
  • Current Tower Constructed: 1849
  • First Lit: 1849 (current tower)
  • Construction: Cast iron with brick lining
  • Tower Shape: Cylindrical
  • Height: 46 feet
  • Focal Height: 46 feet
  • Markings: Red with black lantern
  • Characteristic: N/A
  • Range: N/A
  • Status: Deactivated
  • NRHP Number: 79000324

Location

Address: Monomoy Island, Chatham, Massachusetts
Place GPS Coordinates: 41.559333, -69.993722
Parking GPS Coordinates: 41.559333, -69.993722
Parking Notes: No parking is available at the lighthouse considering it is located on a remote island off the coast of Chatham, Massachusetts. The lighthouse cannot be seen from the mainland. It is best viewed from boat or plane. Visitors can book a local boat or plane service to see the lighthouse.

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