Description: Hyannis, one of the Town of Barnstable’s seven villages, takes its name from a corrupted version of the name Iyanough, a friendly sachem of the Cummaquid tribe of Wampanoag Indians.
Iyanough welcomed the Pilgrims when they landed in his part of Cape Cod. He provided them with dinner and entertainment and then came aboard their boat to lead them to Nauset. When they found themselves in his area again, he led them to fresh water and held a celebration of singing and dancing. The Pilgrims were impressed and described him as follows: “Iyanough, a man not exceeding twenty-six years of age, but very personable, gentle, courteous, and fair conditioned, indeed not like a savage, save for his attire. His entertainment was answerable to his parts, and his cheer plentiful and various.” Iyanough was President George W. Bush’s 10th great grandfather.
Daniel Snow Hallett moved a small, one-room shack to the spot where the Hyannis Lighthouse now stands. In the loft he installed a light that shone through a four-paned window. His only child, Daniel Bunker Hallet helped maintain the light. In the evenings, the boy walked two miles with his dog, Pilot, from Pickens Cove across the fields to the shack. He would sleep in the loft, keeping the whale-oil lantern trimmed and burning, then return home in the morning to eat breakfast before going to school. The shack became known as “The Bug,” and some say its lantern and reflector were surplus from Point Gammon Light.
The elder Hallett printed directions on how to sail into the harbor, which he sold to the captains of coasters to help finance the light. He also started a petition to Congress for the establishment of an official lighthouse.
On August 14, 1848, Congress appropriated $2,000 for a small harbor light with a fixed white light and red sector to warn vessels away from Southwest Shoal. “With much difficulty a small piece of land was purchased, a small tower erected and fitted up with lamps and reflectors, for the sum appropriated,” reported the Treasury Department. “A man has been employed to attend it, who has a house of his own in the neighborhood, at the rate of fifteen dollars per month.”
On Sept 28, 1850, $800 was approved for a keeper’s house to be connected to Hyannis Harbor Lighthouse via a covered walkway. In 1856, a fifth-order Fresnel lens was installed in the lantern room, replacing an antiquated system of five lamps set in reflectors. A new cast-iron lantern was placed atop the nineteen-foot-tall conical brick tower in 1863.
Following a lengthy career as a “branch pilot” (helping guide boats from Maine to Virginia), “Pilot John” H. Lothrop became Hyannis’ keeper in 1869. Lothrop’s son, Alonzo Freeman Lothrop, helped his father at the station and took over following his father’s demise in 1878.
Alonzo’s lighthouse records for 1882 show that an impressive 6,000 tons of coal, 1,250,000 feet of lumber and 4,000 barrels of fish passed through the harbor, carried by some of the 1,400 schooners and 100 steamers that called at the port. These numbers continued to increase right up to 1899, when Alonzo’s resigned due to poor health.
On July 7, 1884, $350 was earmarked for a small beacon to range with the main light at Hyannis. The structure was erected on the Old Colony Railroad wharf in 1885 and when aligned with the Hyannis Lighthouse, guided boats into the harbor. Although the concept was sound, Keeper Peak found himself frequently arguing with railroad personnel until they moved parked railway cars that blocked the front light.
Other changes to Hyannis Harbor Lighthouse included the addition of a summer kitchen and fuel-house to the dwelling in 1889 and the construction of a brick oil house in 1902. The wooden deck and brick parapet of the light tower were replaced by an iron deck and wooden parapet in 1904.
Lighthouse keepers accepted night-time treks to the top of their lighthouse towers to check their lights, but John Peak was rumored to have ingeniously positioned a bedroom mirror so that he could view the light from his bed. “Why should I get up to look when I can see it in the mirror?” he asked.
Waldo Leighton succeeded Peak as keeper in 1915, arriving from Race Point Lighthouse. One of Leighton’s three sons, Harvard, thoroughly enjoyed the place, calling it “a wonderful location, a nice place to live, a picturesque site overlooking the whole bay.” Keeper Leighton supplemented his humble salary by serving as a caretaker for a few nearby properties, including that of the Kennedy’s, and by selling clams and scallops that were easily obtained near the lighthouse.
When the area’s main wharf was relocated to Lewis Bay, Hyannis Harbor Lighthouse was decommissioned in 1929, and Keeper Leighton was transferred to Nobska Point Lighthouse in Woods Hole. A number of residents were sorry to see Leighton go and turned out to wish him and his family well.
The lantern room was removed from the inactive Hyannis Harbor Lighthouse, but the front range light remained functioning as an automatic acetylene gas beacon. A. W. Fuller purchased the defunct station for around $7,000. Over the years the property has been bought and sold several times, and the old keeper’s house has been markedly altered and enlarged.
The current owners, Janice Hyland and Alan Granby, transformed the dwelling into a fitting showcase for the display of their 18th and 19th century marine antiques. A new, albeit not quite traditional, lantern room was placed atop the tower in 1986 to bring the lighthouse back to a semblance of its former self. This photograph taken in 2013, shows the red stripes that have been added to the lighthouse
Keepers: Daniel Snow Hallett (1849-1851), James Bearse (1851-1853), Almoran Hallett (1853-1861), Franklin Baker (1861-1869), John Lothrop (1869-1878), Alonzo Lothrop (1878-1899), John Peak (1899-1915), Waldo Leighton (1915-1929).
Located on the shore near the entrance to Hyannis Harbor. The lighthouse is privately owned by antique dealers Janice Hyland and Alan Granby. Grounds/dwelling/tower closed.
The lighthouse is privately owned by antique dealers Janice Hyland and Alan Granby. Grounds/dwelling/tower closed.
Notes from a friend:Kraig writes:
The lighthouse is visible from the water aboard a Hyannisport Harbor Cruise. In addition to the lighthouse, you will also see the dwellings that make up the Kennedy compound. A good view of a replica of Nantucket's Brant Point Lighthouse is also possible on the cruise. This modern tower was built by a home owner in Hyannis Harbor.
See our List of Lighthouses in Massachusetts
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, Rich Schoeller, used by permission.