Straitsmouth Island Lighthouse is a beautiful and historic lighthouse located in Rockport, Massachusetts. The light station was establish in 1835 and is situated on Straitsmouth Island which is about 500 feet from the mainland. The need for the lighthouse became clear as many mariners were struggling to navigate in and out of Rockport Harbor during the 19th century. On June 30, 1834, Congress allotted the funds necessary to establish a light station for Rockport Harbor on the island. The original light station consisted of a 19-foot tall brick tower and an adjacent dwelling also made of brick. This first tower went into operation in 1835.
In 1842, the lighthouse was inspect by the well-known inspector, I.W.P. Lewis. Lewis reported that the lighthouse was poorly constructed as the mortar was badly laid, woodwork was rotten, and the lights were not positioned well. He also believed the lighthouse tower was not in the optimal location. Ultimately, Lewis wrote about the original lighthouse saying, “The present light is a positive injury to navigation, as it misleads strangers, who frequently get ashore on the low eastern part of the island, or strike on Alden’s ledge, upon which there is no buoy or other mark. The tower is not worth repairing, and should be taken down, and a firm and substantial structure erected on the eastern point of the island. One lamp only is required for this locality, instead of six now used.”
Many changes occurred at the lighthouse over the years following Lewis’ report. In 1850, another report insisted the tower be re-built and in 1851 construction began. A new 24-foot tall tower octagonal stone tower was erected and equipped with six lamps. In 1857, a sixth-order Fresnel lens was added to the second lighthouse. Another large change occurred in 1877 when a new one-and-a-half story keeper’s dwelling was constructed.
Ultimately, the second tower deteriorated quicker than expect and in 1896, the third and final tower was erected. It was built on the same foundation of the second tower which made it a little quicker to build. This third tower is a 37-foot, cylindrical brick tower with a black lantern room. It originally flashed a white light, but in 1931 it changed to a green light flashing every 6 seconds. Also in the 1930s the lighthouse was automated and the surrounding land on the island was sold to a private owner. The Coast Guard remained the owner of the light station.
The island property changed hands several times over the years as it was privately owned. In 1967 the island (except for the light station) was donated to the Massachusetts Audubon Society who maintains it as a wildlife sanctuary. In 2010 the lighthouse and 1.8 acres of land was given to the Town of Rockport by the Coast Guard. Between 2010 and 2013, the Massachusetts Audubon Society invested nearly $200,000 to restore the keeper’s dwelling. In 2013, the Town of Rockport and the Thacher Island Association non-profit organization completely renovated the lighthouse. In 2014 the Town of Rockport signed a 30 year lease with Mass Audubon for the use of the keeper and oil houses.
In 2019, Straitsmouth Island began to welcome public visitors for the first time in 180 years. Thacher Island Association volunteer keepers staff the island from June 1 through August 31. The island is open to the public for free from June 1 through August 31. Visitors can reach the island using kayaks, paddle board, and boats. Private charters and some locally sponsored boats can also get you to the island.
- Year constructed: 1835
- First lit: 1835
- Construction: Brick / Asphalt
- Tower shape: Cylindrical
- Height: 37 feet
- Focal height: 46 feet
- Markings: White tower topped with a black lantern
- Characteristic: Green light flashing every 6 seconds
- Range: 6 nautical miles
- Status: Active
- NRHP number: 87001487
- Address: Straitsmouth Island
- Town: Rockport
- State: Massachusetts
- GPS: Lat 42.6622515 Lng -70.5881626
- Parking notes: Parking for the lighthouse varies considering it can not be viewed from the mainland. Many visitors will park at Straitsmouth Cove Landing and then kayak over to the island.
- Parking directions: N/A
- Location directions: HERE