About This Location
Nauset Lighthouse: Guiding Lights and Preserving History on Cape Cod
Nauset Lighthouse, known also as Nauset Beach Light, stands tall and proud within the picturesque landscapes of Eastham, Massachusetts, gracing the Cape Cod National Seashore. Its history, relocations, and preservation efforts intertwine to create a remarkable story of coastal guardianship and community dedication.
A Tower's Journey: From Chatham to Eastham
The story of Nauset Lighthouse began in 1877, not in Eastham, but in Chatham, where it was one of two towers alongside its identical twin. These towers, aptly named the *Twin Lights*, aided mariners navigating the treacherous Cape Cod waters. However, destiny had different plans for one of these towers.
In 1923, the tower was relocated to Eastham, replacing the decommissioned *Three Sisters of Nauset*, a trio of charming wooden lighthouses. These Three Sisters, relocated 1,000 feet west of Nauset Lighthouse, continue to capture the imagination of visitors to this day.
A Splash of Red and the Fresnel Light
The tower's transformation occurred in the 1940s when its top section was painted red, giving it an iconic appearance distinct from Chatham Lighthouse. Standing proudly at 48 feet, this lighthouse, constructed of cast iron with a brick lining, served as a steadfast guide for mariners. In 1981, its Fresnel lens was replaced by two rotating aero beacons. This modification transformed the signal from three white flashes to a rhythmic sequence of one red and one white flash with 5-second intervals.
Historical Recognition and Coastal Challenges
The importance of Nauset Lighthouse transcends its role as a navigational aid. Its historical significance earned it a cherished place on the National Register of Historic Places on June 15, 1987, bearing the reference number 87001484. This recognition highlights its contribution to the rich maritime heritage of the region.
The 1990s posed a significant challenge to the lighthouse's existence, with coastal erosion gradually encroaching upon its location. By the early 1990s, it stood less than 50 feet from a perilous 70-foot cliff. In 1993, the Coast Guard proposed taking the lighthouse out of service. The response was resounding, with the creation of the non-profit *Nauset Light Preservation Society*.
Relocation and Preservation
In November 1996, an important moment in Nauset Lighthouse's history unfolded. The tower and its accompanying brick oil house were relocated 336 feet westward from their original precarious location, which had been only 37 feet from the cliff's edge. This painstaking relocation ensured the lighthouse's safety for the next 30 years.
On May 10, 1997, the light once again illuminated the coastal nights from its new location, signifying its resilience and community-driven preservation. During this ceremony, the Coast Guard ceded control of the lighthouse to the National Park Service, while day-to-day operations were entrusted to the Nauset Light Preservation Society.
Preservation and Public Access
Since May 24, 2004, the National Park Service has managed the light as a private navigation aid, while the Nauset Light Preservation Society has covered site expenses through memberships and donations. The lighthouse's grounds are open to the public daily. From May to late October, visitors have the opportunity to tour the light and oil house on Sundays, as well as on Wednesdays in July and August.
A large public parking lot, also serving visitors of Nauset Light Beach, stands conveniently before the lighthouse. During the summer months, a daily parking fee of $25 per car applies, while off-season visitors enjoy free parking. Bike racks are available for those exploring the area on two wheels.
An Icon of Cape Cod
A fascinating tidbit of trivia intertwines Nauset Lighthouse with Cape Cod Potato Chips, as the company's logo prominently features the lighthouse and graces all of its packages. Additionally, the lighthouse adorns the Massachusetts "Cape Cod & Islands" charitable organization license plate, whose sales fund numerous programs and organizations, leaving a lasting legacy for the Nauset Lighthouse.