About This Location
Rose Island Lighthouse: A Beacon of History and Restoration
Standing proudly at the mouth of Newport Harbor in Rhode Island, the Rose Island Lighthouse is not just a navigational aid but a living testament to history, restoration, and community dedication.
Guardian of Newport Harbor
Rose Island has long been of strategic importance due to its location. Over the years, both British and colonial troops used the island to defend Newport during various periods of the Revolutionary War. In the late 18th century, Fort Hamilton was constructed on the island, although it was never fully completed. It served various purposes, including use as a rifle range in 1889 and as an explosive storage site for the U.S. Navy's torpedo manufacturing plant during both World Wars.
A Tower of Renewal
The current wood-framed Rose Island Lighthouse was built in 1869, thanks to funds provided by Congress. Rising 35 feet tall with a focal height of 48 feet, this lighthouse is a marvel of architecture. Designed by the talented Vermont architect Albert Dow, the lighthouse boasts a design that sets it apart. It is part of a unique group of lighthouses featuring a tower atop a keeper's home. It was first lit on January 20, 1870.
The Bridge and Decommissioning
The construction of the Newport Bridge in 1970 heralded a shift in the lighthouse's role, leading to its decommissioning as a working lighthouse. Subsequently, the lighthouse and its accompanying 1.5 acres were entrusted to the University of Rhode Island for maritime research in 1976. However, the university found it challenging to maintain the property, and the lighthouse returned to federal government ownership.
The Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation
The Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation emerged in 1984 with a mission to rejuvenate the deteriorating lighthouse. This dedicated group of individuals took on the restoration of the lighthouse on behalf of the City of Newport, which had acquired it from the U.S. government. In 1990, the lighthouse underwent a comprehensive makeover, including essential updates such as new wiring, plumbing, plaster walls, and an energy-efficient in-floor radiant heating system. A septic field, water cistern, and landing dock were also added, at a total cost exceeding a million dollars.
A National Treasure Recognized
In 1987, the Rose Island Lighthouse was deservedly added to the National Register of Historic Places, a prestigious acknowledgment of its cultural and historical significance. Its reference number, 87000033, affirms its place among the nation's cherished historic sites.
A Light Rekindled
After a period of darkness, the lighthouse was re-lit in 1992, though its light is now visible only from the land. The beacon's white flash every six seconds serves as a reminder of its enduring presence.
Preservation and Education
The Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation purchased the remainder of the island in 1999, ensuring its long-term preservation. Today, the foundation operates and maintains this historic lighthouse, offering visitors a unique glimpse into its rich history.
A Haven for Visitors
Visitors can experience Rose Island through guided tours, with daily access available from late May through early October via the Jamestown Newport Ferry hop on-hop off service. Upon arrival, knowledgeable guides welcome visitors and provide historical insights. The lighthouse museum offers a glimpse into the lives of its keepers, with each room meticulously restored.
Private Tours and Overnight Stays
For a more exclusive experience, private lighthouse and harbor tours are available for up to eight guests. These tours encompass a broader exploration of Rose Island's attractions, including Fort Hamilton and the island's wildlife.
Moreover, the lighthouse offers a unique opportunity to spend the night. With four distinct lodging options, guests can immerse themselves in the lighthouse's storied past while enjoying modern comforts. Reservations can be made through roseisland.org/index.php/reservations.
Kayaks, Canoes, and Photographic Vistas
For those who prefer to arrive by kayaks, canoes, or small private boats, Rose Island offers a picturesque landing spot on the beach. The island is open for self-guided exploration, and no fee is charged for simply enjoying its natural beauty.
A Captivating Landmark
The Rose Island Lighthouse is also a favorite subject for photographers. From Goat Island in Newport, onlookers often frame the lighthouse against the majestic backdrop of the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge, capturing its timeless allure for posterity.