I just recently finished reading a library book – a real, honest to goodness hardback book with paper pages that I could hold in my hands while curling up in my comfy family room armchair and reading. Our favorite library once again opened its doors for visitors and we gladly walked inside to borrow a stack of books yea-high.
What, you may ask, does this have to do with my usual Tuesday Tour post about lighthouses Papa and I have visited over the years? One of the mysterious elements in the plot of the novel I just completed was the image of a lighthouse, connected to a violent crime.
Are lighthouses mysterious? I suppose they certainly could be considered that. They are usually stationed in isolated places. The solitude of living in a lighthouse definitely connotes an air of mystery, I think.
While considering lighthouses as a source of mystery, my mind wandered to one of the places Papa and I have visited – Mystic, Connecticut. The word ‘mystic’ conjures up a person or place that exudes mystery, something difficult to explain or secretive in my mind.
For some reason, Mystic Seaport has always been on my list of places to visit, so Papa and I included the spot on our way south from our Boston tour one summer. While this place didn’t exactly provide a great mystery, we did find it fun. And while there and on a side trip to Newport, Rhode Island, we spied three lighthouses, although one was just a replica.
We enjoyed touring the Mystic Seaport Museum, which includes historical sea-going vessels, tall, wooden sailing and whaling ships, and a walk-through village to transport you back in time to a 19th century seaport with authentic New England buildings from the 1800’s.
As we strolled through the village learning about maritime history, we noticed the Mystic Seaport Light, or as it’s also known, a replica of the Brant Point Light, which was a lighthouse built in 1901 on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts.
This recreated lighthouse is a small, two-story white wooden structure with a glass-enclosed lantern on top and is located at the south end of Mystic Seaport. Constructed in the late 1960’s, it wasn’t lit because of navigational regulations from the U.S. Coast Guard. However, it now is an active light, although it does not serve as an official aid for navigation.
Constructed as a lighthouse example for museum visitors, the structure was closed to the public, but became an actual exhibit called Sentinels of the Sea in 2008 when the tower was opened for visitors, who can view two educational videos about the history and architecture of American lighthouses inside.
After our visit in Mystic, we decided to drive an hour or so east to Newport, Rhode Island, where we thoroughly enjoyed scenic, relaxing views of the Atlantic Ocean along Ocean Drive, a 10-mile trip along the southern coastline of Newport.
We stopped several times just to sit on a park bench and relish the gorgeous scenery and cooler temperatures. Our day concluded with a stop at Fort Adams State Park, where we were treated to a panoramic view of the Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay.
We watched sail boats drifting by and of course, I pulled out my camera when I realized two such vessels traveling in different directions would pass by each other making a neat photo opportunity.
I hauled out my telephoto lens to capture those shots and when I did, I noticed something I hadn’t seen before. A mystery to me. A little lighthouse situated very near the long Newport Bridge as shown in the photo at the beginning of this post.
The Rose Island Light was built on Fort Hamilton, located on Rose Island in the Narragansett Bay, as it was needed to guide steamships back and forth between Newport, New York, and Boston. Its fixed red light was first illuminated in 1870, a fog bell was added in 1885, and finally a fog horn in 1912.
The U.S. Coast Guard managed Rose Island Light from 1941 until 1970 when the lighthouse became obsolete because navigation aids were placed on the newly constructed Newport Pell Bridge. Vandals ruined the lighthouse but it was later restored by the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation and on National Lighthouse Day (August 7) in 1993, the lighthouse once more shined its beacon.
Today, the Rose Island Light is a private aid to navigation, officially sanctioned by the U.S. Coast Guard, is maintained by the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The 35-foot tall wooden lighthouse sits upon a two-story keeper’s house and can only be reached by boat. Visitors can tour the museum in the keeper’s house and can pay to spend a night as a guest in one of the two rooms in the upper story or even a week as a “lighthouse keeper.” Staying overnight in an empty lighthouse on an island sounds mysterious to me.
Again, the photo I captured is not of the best quality since I shot it from quite a distance away, but I was happy to later research and solve the mystery of this lighthouse’s name and history.
Later on our jaunt back from Rhode Island to Connecticut, we once again crossed the Jamestown Bridge across the Narragansett Bay. While peering out our vehicle window, I spied a squat little lighthouse sitting atop what looked like a tiny island of rocks in the bay just after we left the island where the town of Jamestown is located.
In my hurry to grab my camera and try to snap a photo through the bridge railings while Papa kept up with traffic, I didn’t manage the best photo.
Later I identified it as Plum Beach Light, a sparkplug lighthouse which was constructed from 1896 to its completion in 1899. The interesting fact about this structure is its foundation was built onshore and then towed out into the bay where it sank to the bottom. Using something called pneumatic caisson engineering, eventually Plum Beach Light was completed.
By 1941, the lighthouse became deactivated due to construction of the Jamestown Bridge and it fell into disrepair, became dilapidated, and eventually abandoned. Decades later, the lighthouse was rescued, restored, and its beacon reactivated by the non-profit Friends of Plum Beach Lighthouse. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard as a private aid to navigation.
It didn’t take a ‘mystic’ to figure out the mystery behind these three simple, small lighthouses. They just were there. Waiting to be noticed. Not creating much fanfare, just being a source of light.
Kind of like the person I hope I am – not a mystic, not a mystery, just a person who attempts to shine some light in this dark world.
“Like a simple little lighthouse, my true ideal is to just be…having no trace of seeking, desiring, imitating, or striving, only light and peace.” ~ Bodhi Smith