Monday, March 2, 2009

The Romancing of Lighthouses

My next installment of lighthouses is one that is in Beverly Massachusetts which is on the Northshore.  I found this lighthouse very interesting because instead of being round it was square.

Hospital Point Lighthouse 1 blog


Hospital Point, in Beverly on Boston's North Shore, derives its name from a smallpox hospital built there in 1801. The hospital, used as a barracks in the War of 1812, burned down in 1849. It's believed a watch house was previously located there as early as 1711. The area was the site of an earthwork fort that saw action in the fall of 1775 when the British ship Nautilus fired on the town. Cannons at the point and at Fort Lee in Salem were fired at the Nautilus, which ran aground as the tide fell. The vessel escaped when the tide rose again.

Besides its importance as an aid to navigation, Hospital Point became known as a sort of lovers' lane. One local newspaper reported in the early 1900s that "Many a Beverly maid's heart was lost and found on the rocks beneath the faithful light.


Hospital Point Lighthouse 2 blog


On May 1, 1927, the lighthouse officially became the Hospital Point Range Front Light. A rear range light, created by adapting discarded lightship equipment, was installed in the steeple of Beverly's First Baptist Church, a mile away.

The light, seen through a window in the steeple, is 127 feet above mean high water. The additional light was lined up by incoming mariners with the front range light, as an added guide to Salem Harbor.

The steeple was the only part of the church to survive a disastrous fire in 1975.

Don Decker, a former Coast Guardsman who serviced several lighthouses in the area, says that his least favorite light to service was the Hospital Point Rear Range Light in the church steeple. The steeple was a favorite nesting site for pigeons, making it a very unpleasant place to visit, says Decker.

Arthur Small, whose wife was killed at New Bedford's Palmer's Island Light in the hurricane of September 1938, became keeper in 1939 after he had recovered from his own injuries. During World War II, Keeper Small maintained a shore patrol in the area and had to check the lights at Derby Wharf and Fort Pickering in addition to Hospital Point. The keeper's house was enlarged during the war to provide barracks for 20 men.

The lighthouse was automated in 1947, and since then this tidy lighthouse station has been home to the commander of the First Coast Guard District and his or her family

Admiral William B. Ellis and his wife Dorcas lived at the lighthouse for a time in the 1960s. Mrs. Ellis told the Boston Traveler:

One night the beacon went out, and I felt as though I should put a lantern in the tower, as they did in the old days. But a repair team from the Salem station came over and repaired it immediately.

Hospital Point Lighthouse blog


While the lighthouse is easy to drive to, the grounds are not open to the public, with the exception of one day early in August each year, when an open house is held as part of the week-long Beverly Homecoming celebration.


Thanks to New England Lighthouses: A Virtual Guide where I got all this information.
Lots more information is available in Jeremy D'Entremont book, "The Lighthouses of Massachusetts."