The historic Point Judith Lighthouse is located in Narragansett, Rhode Island. The lighthouse stands at the junction of two major waterways with Narragansett Bay’s entrance to the west and Block Island Sound’s eastern entrance to the north.
Since the first European ships reached the United States, seamen have been tormented by Point Judith. It uniquely juts out almost a mile into the Atlantic Ocean. Rough seas and thick fog, which frequent the point, as well as surrounding treacherous shoals like Squid Ledge, have earned the location the moniker “Graveyard of the Atlantic” among sailors. Because the towns of Jerusalem and Galilee are located nearby, the name of the point is most probably derived from the Bible’s Tribe of Judah.
Although there may have been prior day markers at the point, the first official Point Judith Lighthouse was built in 1810. Congress approved an act providing $5,000 on February 10, 1808. The first Point Judith Lighthouse was a wooden tower with a whale oil-burning spider lamp. The wooden tower was quickly toppled by a severe hurricane known as the Great Gale of September 1815. Narragansett Bay channeled the eleven-foot storm surge, destroying 500 homes and flooding Providence, Rhode Island. The first keeper of the lighthouse, John P. Whitford, survived the hurricane, which killed at least 38 lives.
In 1816, after Congress authorized $7,500 in April of that year, a replacement tower was built at the site. This tower was built of tough granite blacks and was coated with cement. The 35-foot-tall octagonal tower was illuminated for the first time on November 16, 1816. Major additions and renovations were completed to both the tower and the keeper’s dwelling in 1837. One of the results was the new seven-room residence that provided a much more accommodating space for the keeper.
A new Point Judith Lighthouse was built in 1857, with an octagonal brownstone tower rising 65 feet above the water and a new brick home for the keeper connected to the new tower for ease of access. In the lantern room, a fourth-order Fresnel lens was fitted, which created a strong light visible up to sixteen miles at sea. The light occults once every fifteen seconds.
The waterways off Point Judith served as an important shipping corridor between New England ports and New York. Mariners were formally requesting that the foghorn at Point Judith be replaced with a fog whistle by the early 1870s. Because the surf was so fierce and loud, a stronger signal was required. In 1867, a first-class siren was added.
Over the years, the station has undergone several modifications and expansions. The current lantern room was installed in 1869, and the top half of the tower was painted brown in the spring of 1899 to give the lighthouse a unique look during the daytime. On January 2, 1907, a new fixed fourth-order Fresnel lens was installed. The still-standing, hip-roofed fog signal station was completed in 1923, and a brick oil shed was constructed in 1917. The current Coast Guard station, which lies near the lighthouse, was built in 1937 to replace an earlier lifesaving station. In 1954, the Point Judith Lighthouse was automated, and the keeper’s residence was demolished the following year.
The Point Judith Lighthouse stands on the site of the current Point Judith Coast Guard Station. The coastguardsmen on duty do search and rescue operations as well as law enforcement in addition to maintaining the lighthouse. The lighthouse is still operational as a navigational aid and employs a fourth-order Fresnel lens.
Visitors are welcome to walk around the grounds at Point Judith Coast Guard Station to check out the lighthouse, buildings, and sweeping ocean views. Parking is ample and free. The lighthouse was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on March 30, 1988.
Do you love lighthouses? Be sure to check out the 18 Best Rhode Island Lighthouses To Visit And Photograph. You can find more great spots to explore by visiting the GoXplr Rhode Island Map at goxplr.com/map/rhode-island!
- Originally constructed: 1810
- First lit: 1810
- Construction: Granite blocks
- Tower shape: Octagonal conical
- Height: 51 feet (16 m)
- Focal height: 65 feet (20 m)
- Markings: Lower half, white upper half, brown, Black lantern
- Characteristic: Occulting 3 white 15 seconds – 5s on, 2s off; 2s on, 2s off; 2s on, 2s off
- Range: 16 nautical miles (30 km; 18 mi)
- Status: Active
- NRHP number: 88000279
- Address: 1460 Ocean Rd
- Town: Narragansett
- State: Rhode Island
- GPS: Lat 41.36110 Lng -71.48133
- Parking notes: There is a large public parking lot located right next to the lighthouse. There is another parking lot located by the Point Judith Fisherman’s Memorial which offers a great view of the lighthouse.
- Parking directions: HERE
- Location directions: HERE