Sakonnet Lighthouse

Little Compton, Rhode Island
Off Sakonnet Point in Little Compton, Rhode Island, the Sakonnet Lighthouse stands as a testament to maritime history and safety.
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About This Location

Nestled off the picturesque Sakonnet Point in Little Compton, Rhode Island, the Sakonnet Lighthouse stands as a testament to maritime history and safety. Built in 1884, this historic navigational beacon has been a guardian of the sea, guiding mariners safely through treacherous waters. Nowadays, it is a favorite structure among history lovers and photographers.

The story of the Sakonnet Lighthouse began much earlier, in 1852 when the need for a navigational aid in the region became apparent. The lower Sakonnet River, with its secure harbor, beckoned vessels, offering safe haven. Its accessibility from the West Island made it an ideal location for a guiding light. Recognizing this, George Brown of the United States Navy, an inspector for the Lighthouse Board’s Third District, sent a letter to Congress in March 1882, formally requesting the lighthouse’s construction. Responding swiftly, Congress allocated $20,000 for this crucial maritime project.

However, constructing the lighthouse was no easy feat, as the rugged and exposed terrain posed considerable challenges. In 1883, the foundation, a cement cast-iron caisson, was completed, but progress was hampered by severe late-season weather. Despite the obstacles, the lighthouse commenced operations on November 1, 1884, following continued efforts throughout the year. The lighthouse’s distinctive light featured intermittent red flashes, emanating from its revolving fourth-order Fresnel lens.

The Sakonnet Lighthouse is a remarkable structure, a 4-story cast-iron tower with a base diameter of 22 feet, narrowing to 12 feet at its fourth level. Crowned by a cylindrical watch room and a 10-sided cast-iron lantern, it stands 66 feet tall when combined with the caisson. The light itself shines from a height of 70 feet above the water, while the lighthouse keepers reside on the first floor of the tower.

Despite its enduring service, Sakonnet Point Lighthouse faced adversity in the form of Hurricane Carol in 1954, which inflicted substantial damage. Consequently, the U.S. Coast Guard decided to decommission and abandon the lighthouse. Local residents protested the closure, and it was purchased at auction in 1961 for $1,111.11 by Carl Haffenreffer, president of Narragansett Brewing, who sought to protect the lighthouse from potential harm. It was subsequently transferred to the Friends of Sakonnet Point Lighthouse non-profit organization in 1985.

In recognition of its historical and architectural significance, Sakonnet Lighthouse earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places on February 10, 1983. This prestigious listing, awarded by the National Park Service, underscores the lighthouse’s pivotal role in preserving maritime heritage (reference number: 83000179).

The U.S. Coast Guard reactivated the lighthouse in 1997, with its light emitting a white flash with a 6-second red sector. The white sector boasts a range of 7 nautical miles, while the red sector’s light can be seen from up to 5 nautical miles away.

In 2012, a remarkable $1.45 million restoration of the lighthouse was successfully completed. In recognition of their unwavering commitment to preserving this maritime gem, the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission honored the Friends of the Sakonnet Lighthouse with the esteemed Rhody Award in 2012.

Visitors seeking to witness this maritime marvel can find the best view from Lloyd’s Beach in Little Compton. While there’s no parking directly at the beach, parking is available on Bluff Head Avenue in front of the Sakonnet Point Marina. A short stroll down Rhode Island Road will lead you to the beach. And for those fortunate enough to have access to watercraft, a closer and more intimate view of this historic lighthouse awaits, offering an unforgettable maritime experience.

If you visit Sakonnet Lighthouse and feel inclined to help support the non-profit foundation which keeps this beacon maintained, please consider making a tax-deductible gift at http://www.sakonnetlighthouse.org/.

Location

Address: Rhode Island Road, Little Compton, Rhode Island
Place GPS Coordinates: 41.453135, -71.202559
Parking GPS Coordinates: 41.453135, -71.202559
Parking Notes: The lighthouse can be best viewed from Lloyd’s Beach in Little Compton. There is no parking directly at the beach. Instead, you should park on Bluff Head Avenue in front of the Sakonnet Point Marina and walk down Rhode Island Road to the beach.

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