Rhode Island Lighthouse History

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Rose Island Lighthouse


Rose Island Lighthouse
© 2004 R. Holmes


Location: Newport Harbor
Location: 1870 - present lLat 41 29 43.680 N - Long 71 20 33.780 W
Established: 1870

Lighthouse Constructed: 1870
Deactivated: 1971 - 1993
Reactivated: 1993
Original Illuminating Apparatus: Sixth Order Fresnel Lens
Current Illuminating Apparatus: Sixth Order Fresnel Lens
Height: 35 feet
Status: Private Aid To Navigation
Light Characteristic: Fixed Red (1906)

Light Characteristic: Flashing White Every Six Seconds (2005)
Range: 7 miles (1906)
Range: 6 miles (2005)
Fog Signal: Bell Struck By Machinery (1912)
Fog Signal: 2nd-class Reed Horn (1952)
Fog Signal Characteristic: Bell Struck 2 Times (1912)
Fog Signal Characteristic: Silent for 15 Seconds
Fog Signal Characteristic: Bell Struck 2 Times
Fog Signal Characteristic: Silent for 15 Seconds

Fog Signal Characteristic: Horn Blast for 2 Seconds (1952)
Fog Signal Characteristic: Silent for 13 Seconds
Location: Established: Lighthouse Constructed: Deactivated: Reactivated: Original Illuminating Apparatus: Current Illuminating Apparatus: Height: Status: Light Characteristic: Range: Fog Signal: Fog Signal Characteristic:


Rose Island Lighthouse was built in 1869. The two-story wood keeper's dwelling and attached light tower was built on the southern top of the island, on the ruins of a bastion of Fort Hamilton. The light was first lighted on January 20, 1870.

During the Revolutionary War, Rose Island was used by both the British and the Americans to defend Newport. The island was later used by the Navy to build and store torpedoes and mines. The Navy abandoned the island in the mid-1950's.

On August 7, 1958, the lighthouse was nearly lost when two tankers, the Gulfoil and the S.E. Graham, collided in dense fog near Fort Adams. The ships exploded into flames. The Graham, her engines dead, was pushed into Newport Harbor by the tide. The burning tanker drifted to within 200 feet of the Rose Island Lighthouse. It was so close that the lighthouse's walls became hot. The keepers, Theodore Bank and Robert Flynn, had to leave the lighthouse. The tide and wind moved the Graham away from Rose Island and saved the light. Between the two ships eighteen men were killed.

In 1969 the Newport Bridge was finished. It also finished Rose Island light. The Coast Guard closed the lighthouse in 1971. The University of Rhode Island used it as a marine research facility for a short time. With no one to watch over it, the lighthouse was vandalized and left to decay. It was declared surplus by the government in 1984. The city of Newport acquired the lighthouse and the land around it.

The Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation was formed in 1984 to in restore and maintain the lighthouse. After years of hard work the light was relighted in 1993 as a private aid to navigation. To raise money to maintain the lighthouse the foundation started a guest keeper program. Visitors pay to stay at the lighthouse overnight or become a keeper for a week. Rates vary depending on the length of your stay.

On June 25, 1999 the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation acquired the rest of the island. The whole island will now be protected.

On August 12, 2013 a reproduction of a sixth-order Fresnel lens and pedestal was installed in the lantern room at Rose Island Lighthouse. It was built by Artworks Florida; the company restores historic Fresnel lenses and makes custom reproductions of Fresnel lenses. The lens cost $30,000; this includes the pedestal, lens, lamp and installation. It took six months to build the lens.


Rose Island Fresnel Lens - 2013
1924 Musselbed Shoals Lighthouse Keeper
Courtesy of Dan Spinella and Artworks Florida


Interior of Rose Island Fresnel Lens - 2013
Exterior Plan of 1924 Musselbed Shoals Lighthouse
Courtesy of Dan Spinella and Artworks Florida


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


Rose Island Lighthouse in 1900
Rose Island Lighthouse
 Courtesy of N.L. Stebbins


For information on the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation, contact:

Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation
P.O. Box 1419
Newport, RI 02840


Updated 10/9/2016

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