Tarpaulin Cove Lighthouse

Gosnold, Massachusetts
Tarpaulin Cove Lighthouse is a historic lighthouse on the privately owned Naushon Island in Gosnold, Massachusetts. It was built in 1818.
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About This Location


Nestled on Naushon Island in Gosnold, Massachusetts, the Tarpaulin Cove Lighthouse stands as a striking symbol of maritime history and coastal beauty. This historic lighthouse, surrounded by the natural splendor of the Elizabeth Islands, has been a guiding light for sailors and a testament to the enduring allure of coastal New England.

Why was the lighthouse needed, and where was the designated placement?

The need for the Tarpaulin Cove Lighthouse arose from the intricate waters surrounding Naushon Island and the safety of vessels navigating the area. Tarpaulin Cove, on the south-central coast of the island, marked a crucial point where the coastline shifted from a westward to a southern direction. This change in direction created a need for a navigational aid to guide vessels safely through this coastal curve.

Establishment and Other Buildings:

The history of the Tarpaulin Cove Lighthouse dates back to the 18th century when Zaccheus Lumbert, a local tavern owner, established a light for the benefit of “Whalemen and Coasters” in 1759. However, it wasn’t until 1807 that the government decided to establish a formal light station. A rubble tower was built on the site in 1817, and the light was manned.

In 1856, the rubble tower was replaced by a brick tower constructed on a concrete foundation. A lightkeeper’s house was also built in 1890, although it was later demolished in 1962. The tower itself was replaced once more in 1891, with a new brick tower rising 28 feet high and featuring a cast iron lantern house. Additionally, a fog bell was added to enhance navigational safety.

Specifications of the Lighthouse:

  • Height: The Tarpaulin Cove Lighthouse stands at 28 feet in height, with a focal height of 78 feet above Mean High Water.
  • Shape: Its design features a classic conical tower constructed of brick.
  • Color: The tower is traditionally painted white, ensuring its visibility against the coastal backdrop.
  • Flashing Pattern: The lighthouse exhibits a distinctive flashing white light every 6 seconds, with a range of 9 nautical miles.
  • Beacon: A fourth-order Fresnel lens was installed in 1967, enhancing its navigational capabilities.

Listing on the National Register of Historic Places:

The Tarpaulin Cove Lighthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987, under reference number 87001505, recognizing its historical significance and architectural charm.

Ownership and Maintenance Today:

The Tarpaulin Cove Lighthouse remains an active aid to navigation, managed by the Cuttyhunk Historical Society. The society oversees the preservation and continued operation of this cherished maritime landmark.

Visiting the Lighthouse Today:

Visitors to Naushon Island can appreciate the Tarpaulin Cove Lighthouse from afar, taking in its scenic coastal setting and historical significance. While the lighthouse tower itself may not be open to the public, the surrounding natural beauty of Naushon Island and the lighthouse’s historic presence make it a captivating destination for those exploring the Massachusetts coastline.

For those interested in visiting, it is advisable to check with local authorities or organizations for any guided tours or special access opportunities that may be available. The charm of Tarpaulin Cove and its historic lighthouse is a testament to the enduring maritime heritage of the region.

Lighthouse Specs

  • Originally Constructed: 1818
  • Current Tower Constructed: 1891
  • First Lit: 1891 (current tower)
  • Construction: Brick
  • Tower Shape: Conical
  • Height: 28 feet
  • Focal Height: 78 feet
  • Markings: White tower with a small white building attached to the west side. The lantern is painted black.
  • Characteristic: Flashing white every 6 seconds
  • Range: 9 nautical miles
  • Status: Active
  • NRHP Number: 87001505


Address: Naushon Island, Gosnold, Massachusetts
Place GPS Coordinates: 41.468833, -70.757500
Parking GPS Coordinates: 41.468833, -70.757500
Parking Notes: Tarpaulin Cove Lighthouse is located on Naushon Island which is largely privately owned. There is no dedicated parking area for the lighthouse. Fortunately, visitors with boats can dock at the cove and walk to see the lighhouse. The lighthouse can also be viewed from a plane.

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