|Nayatt Point, RI|
Description: The first lighthouse at Nayatt Point was built in 1828 to mark the narrow channel between Nayatt Point and the reef off Conimicut Point at the entrance to the Providence River. Though greatly expanded, the original brick house still stands today, and is the oldest keeper’s dwelling still standing in Rhode Island. The stone tower originally attached to the house has since been rebuilt. Atop the old tower, a typical beacon of that time consisting of multiple lamps set in reflectors produced a fixed white light for mariners.
A deed was recorded on June 13, 1828 in the office of the town clerk of Barrington County in which Anna Lilly “conveyed to John Quincy Adams, President of the United States, for the use of the United States, a certain tract of land being the south westerly part of Nayatt Point.”
When the Nayatt Point Lighthouse was constructed, the law required the government to accept the lowest bid for the project. The contractor’s qualifications or general competence had no bearing whatsoever on the selection process. This law came back to haunt lighthouse authorities more than once over the years. In the case of Nayatt Point, Stephen Pleasonton of the U.S. Treasury Department wrote, “As there is no option left us by law but to accept the lowest offer, you are authorized to accept and enter into contract with William Halloway and Westgate Watson accordingly.”
As soon as it was finished, the first stone tower at Nayatt Point started falling apart. The wooden spiral staircase in the tower was too narrow and difficult to negotiate, and the lantern room was apparently designed with very short and extremely skinny keepers in mind. In 1855, a strong winter storm almost destroyed the seawall that protected the structure. The tower’s foundation was undermined, and large cracks appeared from top to bottom. Results of a survey indicated that the tower wasn’t worth the cost of fixing it, so the following year it was replaced by a twenty-five foot square tower, attached to the original house.
In 1863, the optic was upgraded to a fourth-order Fresnel lens, but the Nayatt Point Light was still considered inadequate, partly because it was only at thirty-one feet above the river. Around the same time, the Lighthouse Board put up a round granite tower just offshore on the sand shoal near Conimicut Point. At first it was merely a day mark, but responding to petitions from local mariners, it was decided that a lighted warning beacon on the shoal would not only be easier for ship traffic entering the Providence River to see, but it would also better help mariners avoid going onto the point. In 1868, the Fresnel lens was transferred from the Nayatt Point tower to the new Conimicut Point Lighthouse, and Nayatt Point was deactivated permanently.
For the next few years, the old keeper’s house served as the residence for the Conimicut Point keeper. The present Conimicut Lighthouse, an iron spark plug tower, was finished in 1883, allowing the keepers to live on-site. No longer needed by the Lighthouse Service, the Nayatt Point Lighthouse and grounds were auctioned off in 1890 to Charles H. Merriman for $4,000. Over the years, various owners have altered and expanded the building, but the original purpose of the structure is still evident.
The Nayatt Point Lighthouse is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, but as it is a private residence, it is not open to the public. The lighthouse is best viewed from the water, preferably in a boat with a shallow draft. In 1997, the historic lighthouse and keeper’s residence went on the market for an asking price of $1.275 million, and eventually sold in 2001. A fourth-order lens from a lightship is presently used in the tower as an unofficial light.
Located on Nayatt Point in Barrington, marking the
eastern side of the entrance to the Providence
River from Narrangansett Bay. The lighthouse is privately owned. Grounds/dwelling/tower closed.
The lighthouse is privately owned. Grounds/dwelling/tower closed.
Notes from a friend:Kraig writes:
Two miles north of Nayatt Point is Bullock's Point from where you can see the stone crib that once was home to the Bullock's Point Lighthouse.
See our List of Lighthouses in Rhode Island
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.