Rhode Island Lighthouse History

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Prudence Island Lighthouse

Prudence Island Lighthouse

Location: Sandy Point on the East Side of Prudence Island
Location: 1852 - present lLat 41 36 21 N - Long 71 18 13 W
Established: 1852
Lighthouse Constructed: 1823
Automated: 1939
Original Illuminating Apparatus: Fifth-Order Fresnel Lens
Current Illuminating Apparatus: 250-mm lens
Height: 30 feet
Status: Active Aid to Navigation
Light Characteristic: Fixed White (1906)

Light Characteristic: Flashing Green every 6 seconds (2005)
Range: Lighthouse: 10 miles (1906)
Range: Skeleton Tower: 9 miles (1988)
Range: 6 miles (2005)
Fog Signal: Bell Struck By Machinery (1912)
Fog Signal Characteristic: Bell Struck 1 Times (1912)
Fog Signal Characteristic: Silent for 15 Seconds
Fog Signal Characteristic: Bell Struck 1 Times
Fog Signal Characteristic: Silent for 15 Seconds

Prudence Island Lighthouse was originally built on Goat Island, in Newport, in 1823. It served as the Goat Island Light until 1842, when it was discontinued. In 1852, the light was dismantled and moved to Prudence Island. It was reassembled at Sandy Point on the East Side of the island. A wooden keeper's dwelling was built near the light. A fifth order Fresnel lens was installed in the light in 1856.

During the Hurricane of 1938, Martin Thompson, a former Prudence Island Lighthouse keeper, James Lynch, and his wife Ellen sought refuge with the light's keeper George Gustavus and his family in the keeper's dwelling. Thompson believed it was the safest place on the island. He said, "She'll stand it all right. She stood it for 25 years." He was wrong.

A tidal surge swept up Narragansett Bay, destroying the keeper's dwelling. The people inside were all swept into the bay. Only the keeper survived. He was pulled to safety by 18 year old George Taber. The surge also damaged the light.

After the hurricane, Milton Chase, general manger of the Homestead Utility Company, put a temporary light in the tower. He received a letter of commendation for his action.

Today the light is still an active aid to navigation. In 2000 the Coast Guard gave the Maine based American Lighthouse Foundation a 20 year contract to care for the light. A local group, the Prudence Island Conservancy, was also seeking a contract to care for the light. When the Conservancy found out about the Foundations's contract, they asked Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy for help. He wrote a letter to the Coast Guard asking to reconsider the contract with the American Lighthouse Foundation.

When the Foundation found out about the Convervancy's request to care for the lighthouse, it gave up its contract to gave for the light. In August 2001, the Prudence Island Convervancy was given the contract to care for the light.

See more of Prudence Island Lighthouse in Rhode Island Lighthouses: A Pictorial History by R Holmes.

Updated 2/14/2013