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Whale Rock, RI  Lighthouse destroyed.   

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Whale Rock Lighthouse

1872 – The Whale, Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island.—This is a reef of rocks awash at all stages of tide, and a dangerous obstruction to navigation in the approach to the west channel of Narragansett Bay. This channel is habitually used by the daily line of Providence steamers which pass the locality during the night, carrying large numbers of passengers and valuable freights, and it is recommended that a light and fog-bell be erected on the ledge. The estimate of the engineer of the district for the structure is $35,000, which is embraced in the estimates of the board.

1873 – The Whale, Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island.—In the last annual report it is stated that “This is a reef of rocks awash at all stages of the tide, and a dangerous obstruction to navigation in the approach to the west channel of the Narragansett Bay. This channel is habitually used by the daily line of Providence steamers which pass the locality during the night, carrying large numbers of passengers and valuable freights, and it is recommended that a light and fog-bell be erected on the ledge. The estimate of the engineer of the district for the structure is $35,000, which is embraced in the estimates of the board.” The recommendation is renewed, also the estimate for the structure, namely, $35,000.

1881 – For the erection of a light-house and fog-bell on Whale Rock, at the entrance of Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, March 3, 1881, $35,000.

1881 – Whale Rock, near west entrance to Narragansett Bay. Rhode Island.—An appropriation was made by Congress at its last session for the establishment of a light at this point. The necessary cession of jurisdiction was obtained for the site, and plans for an iron pier and tower were approved. The iron work is under contract and already under way. A ring has been cut into the natural rock to receive the first section of the cast-iron pier. The work will be pushed forward as fast as the materials are received from the contractors. A shed for the temporary storage of the iron and other building materials was erected on Dutch Island, whence the work may readily be reached.

1882 – Whale Rock, near the west entrance to Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island.—This work progressed last year to the cutting in the natural rock of the ring to receive the first section of the iron pier. It continued until late in the autumn, when it was stopped by the severity of the storms at this exposed site. The pier was completed and filled, and was roofed over for the winter. The tower, which included the keeper’s dwelling and the lantern, was set up this season, and the interior finish is now in progress. The station will be ready for lighting before winter.

1883 – Whale Rock, entrance to Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island.—The work at this important station was well advanced at the close of the last fiscal year. The structure, consisting of an iron pier surmounted by a cast-iron tower and lantern, with accommodations for the keeper, was completed during the year, and was lighted on October 1, 1882, for the first time.

1890 – Whale Rock, Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island.—A platform supported by iron brackets secured to the pier, fitted with davits for hoisting boat and material, was set up.

1897 – Whale Rock, Rhode Island.—The old and worn-out Stevens fog-bell-striking machine was replaced by a No. 4 Gamewell machine.

1915 – The acts of May 27,1908, March 4, 1909, and June 25, 1910, each appropriated $10,000 for establishing isolated oil houses for the storage of kerosene, etc. During the fiscal year oil houses were completed at the following named stations: Whale Rock, R.I.

1915 – Purpose.—Isolated fireproof structures for the storage of kerosene and other inflammable supplies were erected at 7 light stations, in order to lessen the hazard of fire at such stations. These oil houses were constructed under allotments made from the balances existing under appropriations of $10,000 each by the acts of May 27, 1908, March 4, 1909, and June 25, 1910. Details regarding each are shown in the following table: Whale Rock, RI, one tank installed, competed in Sept., 1914, $164.

1918 - V. Knies, assistant keeper, repaired disabled engine of boat and towed boat to Newport.

1923 – George Tooker, keeper, loaned pair of oars to man and boy in skiff whose oar had been broken.

1923 – George Tooker, keeper, towed power boat, whose propeller was broken, ashore with two men in boat.

1924 – At Whale Rock Light Station, R. I., (During storm of August 26) 7 sections, about one-half of roof over main gallery, including cast-iron gutters and sheet-iron plates, 1 cast-iron column, 2 sections of railing, and one-half of the water leader, were carried away by the sea. The cost of replacing same is approximately $600.
The keepers of these stations report that solid water was going over the roof of main gallery and spray over the top of lantern during the height of the storm.

1924 – Following is a report of damages done by storm August 26, 1924 to station. Seas tearing off 6 sections of rain shed and damaging 1 section so as it is unserviceable, also tearing off 5 sections of the gutters of rain shed and damaging 2 so as they are unserviceable and one stanchion breaking off also that holds rain shed. 2 sections of railing around deck, 4 feet of 3 in. pipe and 3 in. elbow that leads from rain shed to water supply tank. All of said damages are on south east side of station.
12 ft. boat, No. 39s, was damaged slightly also be seas raising it and slamming it against one of the stanchions, punching small hole in the bow. Boat was repaired following day and is in good condition. Grindstone was smashed by part of rain shed falling on same. F.B. White, Keeper. 1872 – The Whale, Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island.—This is a reef of rocks awash at all stages of tide, and a dangerous obstruction to navigation in the approach to the west channel of Narragansett Bay. This channel is habitually used by the daily line of Providence steamers which pass the locality during the night, carrying large numbers of passengers and valuable freights, and it is recommended that a light and fog-bell be erected on the ledge. The estimate of the engineer of the district for the structure is $35,000, which is embraced in the estimates of the board.

1873 – The Whale, Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island.—In the last annual report it is stated that “This is a reef of rocks awash at all stages of the tide, and a dangerous obstruction to navigation in the approach to the west channel of the Narragansett Bay. This channel is habitually used by the daily line of Providence steamers which pass the locality during the night, carrying large numbers of passengers and valuable freights, and it is recommended that a light and fog-bell be erected on the ledge. The estimate of the engineer of the district for the structure is $35,000, which is embraced in the estimates of the board.” The recommendation is renewed, also the estimate for the structure, namely, $35,000.

1881 – For the erection of a light-house and fog-bell on Whale Rock, at the entrance of Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, March 3, 1881, $35,000.

1881 – Whale Rock, near west entrance to Narragansett Bay. Rhode Island.—An appropriation was made by Congress at its last session for the establishment of a light at this point. The necessary cession of jurisdiction was obtained for the site, and plans for an iron pier and tower were approved. The iron work is under contract and already under way. A ring has been cut into the natural rock to receive the first section of the cast-iron pier. The work will be pushed forward as fast as the materials are received from the contractors. A shed for the temporary storage of the iron and other building materials was erected on Dutch Island, whence the work may readily be reached.

1882 – Whale Rock, near the west entrance to Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island.—This work progressed last year to the cutting in the natural rock of the ring to receive the first section of the iron pier. It continued until late in the autumn, when it was stopped by the severity of the storms at this exposed site. The pier was completed and filled, and was roofed over for the winter. The tower, which included the keeper’s dwelling and the lantern, was set up this season, and the interior finish is now in progress. The station will be ready for lighting before winter.

1883 – Whale Rock, entrance to Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island.—The work at this important station was well advanced at the close of the last fiscal year. The structure, consisting of an iron pier surmounted by a cast-iron tower and lantern, with accommodations for the keeper, was completed during the year, and was lighted on October 1, 1882, for the first time.

1890 – Whale Rock, Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island.—A platform supported by iron brackets secured to the pier, fitted with davits for hoisting boat and material, was set up.

1897 – Whale Rock, Rhode Island.—The old and worn-out Stevens fog-bell-striking machine was replaced by a No. 4 Gamewell machine.

1915 – The acts of May 27,1908, March 4, 1909, and June 25, 1910, each appropriated $10,000 for establishing isolated oil houses for the storage of kerosene, etc. During the fiscal year oil houses were completed at the following named stations: Whale Rock, R.I.

1915 – Purpose.—Isolated fireproof structures for the storage of kerosene and other inflammable supplies were erected at 7 light stations, in order to lessen the hazard of fire at such stations. These oil houses were constructed under allotments made from the balances existing under appropriations of $10,000 each by the acts of May 27, 1908, March 4, 1909, and June 25, 1910. Details regarding each are shown in the following table: Whale Rock, RI, one tank installed, competed in Sept., 1914, $164.

1918 - V. Knies, assistant keeper, repaired disabled engine of boat and towed boat to Newport.

1923 – George Tooker, keeper, loaned pair of oars to man and boy in skiff whose oar had been broken.

1923 – George Tooker, keeper, towed power boat, whose propeller was broken, ashore with two men in boat.

1924 – At Whale Rock Light Station, R. I., (During storm of August 26) 7 sections, about one-half of roof over main gallery, including cast-iron gutters and sheet-iron plates, 1 cast-iron column, 2 sections of railing, and one-half of the water leader, were carried away by the sea. The cost of replacing same is approximately $600.
The keepers of these stations report that solid water was going over the roof of main gallery and spray over the top of lantern during the height of the storm.

1924 – Following is a report of damages done by storm August 26, 1924 to station. Seas tearing off 6 sections of rain shed and damaging 1 section so as it is unserviceable, also tearing off 5 sections of the gutters of rain shed and damaging 2 so as they are unserviceable and one stanchion breaking off also that holds rain shed. 2 sections of railing around deck, 4 feet of 3 in. pipe and 3 in. elbow that leads from rain shed to water supply tank. All of said damages are on south east side of station.
12 ft. boat, No. 39s, was damaged slightly also be seas raising it and slamming it against one of the stanchions, punching small hole in the bow. Boat was repaired following day and is in good condition. Grindstone was smashed by part of rain shed falling on same. F.B. White, Keeper.

1938 – The Whale Rock Light Station, in the western passage of Narragansett Bay, close to Narragansett pier, was completely swept from its base and destroyed. In this catastrophe, the first assistant keeper, Walter B. Eberle, the only person at the station at the time, lost his life. The head keeper at the time was on shore and was prevented from returning to the station by the severity of the storm. 1938 – Investigation showed the caisson pier and ladder to still be intact and sound, including the basement and concrete deck. Most of the kitchen floor was still in place, as well as the cast iron basement stairs. But above this deck level everything is gone or wrecked. As near as could be determined, the first and second floors above the deck, including both the cast iron sections and wood flooring and all wall brick with most of the cast iron shell supporting same, was dropped and still remains or slightly overhangs the northwest side of the deck and landing platform. No evidence was found of any portion of the tower or lantern which existed above the second floor. The landing platform is still intact, but badly twisted. The cast iron tower shell plates were broken into pieces, sot that it was difficult to positively identify the previous location of many of them. Several sections of the second story course were identified, same still bearing the angle iron to the lower leg of which the deck roof had been fastened but from which it is now mostly broken away. One plate was found bearing the name “W. W. and F. S. Smith Iron Co., Boston, Mass.” Inquiry discloses that this company liquidated without successors about 1915. No sections were positively identified as those whose bottom flanged edges had borne on the concrete pier. However, two or three sections of the concrete base, six to ten feet in length, were sufficiently cleared of debris along the perimeter of the tower base to disclose no evidence of anchor bolts or any other means by which the cast iron tower platers were actually held to the masonry pier, except for the brick tower lining, which appear to be 8” thick at the bottom, and the mass of the entire tower. All other vertical and horizontal plate section edges bore evidence of butting flanges inwardly fastened by bolts of apparently 7/8” diameter. Many flange holes were unbroken and empty, showing that bolts had been either sheared off, pulled through, or missing. Remaining flange bolts are badly corroded and slightly turned, and burred head edges on a few indicate that they were pulled through the plate flange holes. All portions of the wreckage that remains on the base are nearly directly below their original positions, with most shell plates broken and pushed out from the circumference of the floors which they surrounded. Several light and washable items, such as marine libraries, books, shoes, clothing a made-up bed, etc., are still intact, appear to have been water soaked but show not evidence of having had water rushing over or around them.
From these findings it would appear that the top two stories, watch room and lantern, broke loose from the lower two stories and went overboard. Most keepers at other similar stations who were on duty during the storm state that they took refuge in the top story, as the seas smashed out the ordinary sash but did not break the port lights. The deceased keeper of Whale Rock was undoubtedly in the same place when the top portion of the tower went. The keeper of another similar tank light states that the seas shook his station quite violently until the deck roof gave way, when the shock was appreciably decreased. Whale Rock’s roof undoubtedly withstood similar shocks, which no doubt jarred loose the bolting of the flanges of the sections that went overboard, and broke down the interior brick work. With the top gone and brick lining gone or weakened, the remaining two floors dropped down, probably distorting the shell plates sufficiently to collapse them. Due to the fact that the bed, wood floors, wood book cases, wood boxes, etc., were not washed away and that the debris is nearly all intact on the pier with but a slight leaning to the northwest, it would appear that the lower two sections of the tower collapsed after the high waters had receded and the wind had died down somewhat.
Due to the indefiniteness of the anchorage of all similar tank lights, it is recommended that investigations be made at all similar tank lights be removing sufficient brick wall lignin to definitely ascertain whether or not all such towers are properly anchored to their piers, and that proper anchorage be made where same is absent or at fault.
George E. Eaton, Superintendent

1939 – Remains of tower removed from foundation and a skeletal tower erected.

Keepers:

  • Head: Nathaniel Dodge (1882 – 1885), Elam P. Littlefield (1885 – 1891), Edward Andrews (1891 – 1893), Charles E. Smith (1893 – 1895), Sylvester R. Allen (1895), Judson G. Allen (1895 – 1899), Joshua A. Overton (1899 – 1900), Nelson Sprague (1900 – 1901), Silas E. Stanton (1901), Joseph D. Meade (1901 – 1902), Peter M. Peterson (1902 – 1906), William F. Aichele (1906 – 1908), Hans C. Anderssen (1908 – 1910), John J. Sheridan (1910), John C.W. Porter (1910 – 1911), Theodore De Shong (1911 – 1913), Joseph O. Bouley (1913 – ), Edward Grime (1914 – 1915) William Hissey (1916 – ), George H. Tooker (at least 1917), Paul A. Southard (1919 – ), George H. Tooker (at least 1921 – at least 1923), Fred B. White (1924 – 1927), Daniel A. Sullivan (1927 – 1938).
  • First Assistant: John W. Dodge (1882), John N. Dodge (1884), Elam P. Littlefield (1884 – 1885), Joseph B. Eddy (1885 – 1886), Charles Wright (1886 – 1887), Eugene R. Milliken (1887 – 1888), William Homan (1888 – 1890), Edward Andrews (1890 – 1891), Henricus de Vries (1891), Nelson Sprague (1891 – 1892), Herbert G. Kenyon (1892), Charles E. Smith (1892 – 1893), Frank Tardiff (1893 – 1894), Sylvester R. Allen (1894 – 1895), Judson G. Allen (1895), Isaac G. Hoard (1895 – 1896), Henry Nygren (1896 – 1897), Joshua A. Overton (1897 – 1898), Charles W. Oliver (1898 – 1899), Joshua A. Overton (1899), John G. Skipworth (1899), Bernice A. Francis (1899 – 1900), Nelson Sprague (1900), Silas E. Stanton (1900 – 1901), Martin W. Ekman (1901 – 1902), Willis A. Green (1902 – 1903), Morell E. Hulse (1903 – 1905), Edward R. Curtis (1905 – 1906), John A. Burke (1906), Ernest Bloom (1906), Hans C. Anderssen (1906 – 1908), Simon Sfvorinich (1908 – 1911), Robert G. Lauier (1911), Joseph O. Bouley (1911 – 1913), John Larsson (1913), Arthur E. Larkin (1913 – 1914), Otis L. Barstow (1914 – 1915), George H. Tooker (1915 – ), Victor Knies (at least 1917), Earl W. Caswell (1919 – ), George A. Scheer (at least 1921), George T. Gardiner (1921 – 1925), Daniel A. Sullivan (1925 – 1927), William O. Chapel (1927 – ), James Gallen (1930), Joseph G. Hindley, Jr. (1930 – 1931), Peter Roudeau (1931 – 1937), Joseph H. Dubois (1937 – 1938).
  • Second Assistant: Casper Bedell (at least 1921), Thomas H. Winn (1923 – 1925), Alfred Auger (1925 – 1927), Marvin O. Barrett (1927), Robert H. Lyons (1927 – 1928), Joseph G. Hindley, Jr. (1928 – 1930), Harold E. Davis (1930 – 1931), Ernest H. Stacey (1931 – 1935), Walter Eberle (1937 – 1938), Gustav H. Larson (1938).

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