Nayatt Point Lighthouse is a beautiful historic lighthouse located in Barrington, Rhode Island at the entrance of the Providence River.
Establishing Nayatt Point Lighthouse began in the early 1800s when Providence became a popular shipping port and mariners desired navigational aid to help them go through the narrow passage between Nayatt Point and a long shoal from Conimicut Point. On May 23, 1828, the government secured land on Nayatt Point and set aside $3,500 for the construction of a lighthouse.
When it came to building the lighthouse, the law at the time required the government to choose the lowest bidder for the project. This law came back to haunt Nyatt Point Lighthouse and a number of others. The tower of the Nayatt Lighthouse began to deteriorate after it was completed in 1828. The tower’s wooden spiral staircase was too thin and hard to navigate, and the lantern room appeared to be designed for extremely short and slim keepers. A powerful winter storm nearly collapsed the seawall that shielded the lighthouse in 1855. The lighthouse’s foundation was weakened, and large cracks appeared all over the tower.
The lighthouse was professionally analyzed and the results were not good. Ultimately, it was found that repairing Nyatt Point Lighthouse was not going to be worth it. A new tower was constructed 65 feet northeast of the original tower and began emitting light on December 25, 1856. This new square lighthouse was constructed of brick, stood 25 feet tall (31 feet focal height), and was painted white. It cost $6,500 to build.
The new lighthouse used a fourth-order Fresnel lens, but the height of the new lighthouse was discovered to be too short to be effective. Congress appropriated funds in 1860 for the construction of a round granite tower on the sandbar extending off Conimicut Point in Warwick. Originally, this tower was just a daymark, but the idea came to add a light to it to make it more effective. The Fresnel lens was transferred from Nayatt Point Lighthouse to the new Conimicut Point Lighthouse on November 1, 1868, and Nayatt Point Lighthouse was deactivated.
Over the next few years, the original keeper’s house on Nayatt Point served as the Conimicut Point keeper’s house until 1873, when a residence was built on the wharf next to Conimicut Lighthouse. The house on Nayatt Point was not sold at the time but was instead placed under protective custody. This proved to be a smart move, as a large amount of floating ice came down the Providence River in March 1875 and destroyed the keeper’s residence at Conimicut Lighthouse. The lighthouse keepers reoccupied the house on Nayatt Point.
The current Conimicut Lighthouse, an iron spark plug tower, was completed in 1883, allowing the keepers to live on-premise once again. Since Nayatt Point Lighthouse was no longer needed, it was sold at auction to Charles H. Merriman in 1890 for $4,000. Various owners have altered and expanded the structure over the years, but the original function of the building remains clear.
Barbara and Leonard Lesko bought Nayatt Point Lighthouse in 1983, shortly after Leonard accepted a position as chair of Brown University’s Department of Egyptology. The pair were both published authors and even decided to write a book about living at Nyatt Point Lighthouse. The book, Lighthouse Life, chronicles both the challenges and delights of living on the property including stories about repairing and restoring the property to its former glory.
The Nayatt Point Lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places, but it is not open to the public because it is a private residence. The lighthouse is best viewed from the water, but can also be seen from across the river at Conimicut Point Park. The property went on the market in 1997 for $1.275 million and was eventually sold in 2001. A fourth-order lens from a lightship is currently used as an unofficial light in the tower.
Do you love exploring lighthouses? Check out the 18 Best Rhode Island Lighthouses To Visit And Photograph!
- Originally constructed: 1828
- Current tower constructed: 1856
- First lit: 1856 (current tower)
- Construction: Brick
- Tower shape: Square, with attached dwelling
- Height: 25 feet (7.6 m)
- Focal height: 31 feet (9.5 m)
- Markings: White tower with red lantern roof
- Characteristic: Decorative light
- Range: N/A
- Status: Active – Privately Owned
- NRHP number: 87001694
- Address: Nayatt Rd
- Town: Barrington
- State: Rhode Island
- GPS: Lat 41.72524 Lng -71.33857
- Parking notes: The lighthouse is on private property. It can be viewed from Nayatt Rd, but you cannot park anywhere on the road. Most visitors actually park at Conimicut Point Park in Warwick and look across the Providence River to see the lighthouse. Parking is free and ample at Conimicut Point Park.
- Parking directions: HERE
- Location directions: HERE