Stage Harbor Light, also known as Harding Beach Lighthouse, is one of the primary landmarks of Chatham, Massachusetts on Cape Cod.
Stage Harbor Lighthouse was recommended in 1878 by the Lighthouse Board. An excerpt from the Annual Report of the Lighthouse in 1878 reads, “The establishment of a light at this place, giving a good range with one of the Chatham lights, would serve as a guide into Old Stage Harbor, and would be of great value to vessels seeking refuge there at night and during bad weather. If built on the beach, the light-house, with keeper’s dwelling, including apparatus (fifth or sixth order) and land, would cost, say, $10,000. An appropriation of this amount is respectfully submitted in the estimates.” The recommendation for the lighthouse was well-received and funds were appropriated on March 3, 1879.
Construction of the lighthouse began in 1879 at the Eastern tip of Hardings Beach in Chatham. At a cost of $9,862, a 48-foot cast-iron tower and a wood-framed keeper’s residence were built. On July 15, 1880, the light was first turned on, displaying a fixed white light from a fifth-order Fresnel lens viewable up to 12 nautical miles. A chimney ventilator was built a few years later, in 1882. A barbed-wire fence was added around the lighthouse site the next year. Various basic repairs occurred thereafter.
Over the years, many lighthouse keepers were stationed at Stage Harbor Lighthouse and helped with maritime events including capsizes, boats that ran aground, and more. In 1933, plans were announced to discontinue the use of Stage Harbor Lighthouse and instead use an unmanned light located 308 feet away on a skeleton tower. Stanley Gunderson, the lighthouse keeper at the time, did not like the idea of installing this new automated light. Gunderson talked about how unmanned lights often break down quickly and are not maintained regularly. Also, he argued that the power of the unmanned light would only allow the lighthouse to be seen for 3-10 miles. Compared to the 18 miles of range Stage Harbor Lighthouse offered. Ultimately, the automated lighthouse was added and Gunderson was unhappy and out of his job.
The lantern was decommissioned, removed, and capped following the automated light being installed. The lighthouse and the three acres it stood on were then sold to an army commander by the government. Henry Sears Hoyt bought the lighthouse property in early 1936. It was later discovered the lighthouse and land were part of 4,000 acres granted to Hoyt’s ancestor William Nickerson, the founder of Chatham, by local Native Americans.
The lighthouse is still owned by the Hoyt family, who open it to the public on occasion. It is still quite rudimentary, with no plumbing other than a single pump and no power. The neighboring skeleton tower is still being used as a navigational aid. The closest parking lot to the lighthouse is the eastern parking lot at Hardings Beach. Visitors can then walk just under a mile to the lighthouse on the beach or via a dune path.
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- Constructed: 1880
- First lit: 1880
- Construction: Cast Iron
- Tower shape: Conical
- Height: 42 feet (13 m)
- Focal height: 42 feet (13 m)
- Markings: White
- Characteristic: N/A
- Range: N/A
- Status: Deactivated – Privately Owned
- Address: Stage Harbor Light
- Town: Chatham
- State: Massachusetts
- GPS: Lat 41.65865 Lng -69.98354
- Parking notes: The closest parking lot to Stage Harbor Lighthouse is the second parking lot at Hardings Beach. Visitors can then walk just under a mile to the lighthouse.
- Parking directions: HERE
- Location directions: HERE