Posted/Updated by Bryan Penberthy on 2012-12-02.
On May 19, 1828, the Congress of the United States appropriated $3,500 for the establishment of a lighthouse at Nayatt Point to mark the narrow passage between the point and a shoal just off Conimicut Point. The tower was a twenty-three-foot tall octagonal brick tower illuminated with six lamps and reflectors. Reports show the first keeper was Daniel Wightman with a yearly salary of $350.
The lighthouse was poorly constructed, and a winter gale in January of 1855 did considerable damage such that a replacement lighthouse was recommended. The following entries are from the Report on Finances section of the Executive Documents of the Senate of the United States dated 1855-56:
Nayat Point - The present tower and sea-wall at this point is in a very decayed condition. The tower is cracked on four sides from top to bottom; its floor is too low, and the stairs are inconvenient. The lantern is very bad, the astragals broad, glass small, bad, and patched, and lamps bad. The tower has been undermined-has been protected by a ring-wall and this has been breached and repaired. A wall has been built along the south beach, to prevent the sea from cutting off the light-house site, and this too, is broken down in great part. An entire renovation of this whole construction is required, and should be so executed as to be truly permanent. The present plan of seawall is radically faulty, and new lines are required, with more reference to wave and tide actions. Two principal lines, one along the south beach and one along the west beach, and the tower on the angle thus made, seems to me the proper plan, and I shall estimate accordingly. I estimate that an appropriation is required, for a new tower, illuminating apparatus, and sea-wall at Nayat Point, of $6,500.
Nayat Point, R.I. - The sea wall at this point is again considerably damaged; the walls of the tower are cracked and settling, and I am of the opinion that money expended in repairing them is thrown away, and have to recommend that a new tower be erected further back on the point, behind and near the dwelling, and that a sixth-order lens to illuminate 270 degrees be substituted for the six lamps and reflectors, which are quite worn out.
An appropriation of $6,500 was set aside on August 18, 1856 for the erection of a new lighthouse. The new whitewashed square brick tower stood thirty-one feet tall. It was placed twenty-two yards north and eastern of where the old tower stood. A notice to mariners was distributed stating that the tower would be lighted for the first time on or after December 25, 1856, and that it would exhibit a fixed white light at a height of forty feet above sea level. The light would be visible at a distance of eleven miles in clear weather.
Another $6,500 appropriation was made on April 7, 1866 for rebuilding the seawall and general repairs to the lighthouse. Also in the mid-1860s, the Lighthouse Board erected a round granite day-mark to call attention to the sandy shoal just off Conimicut Point.
Soon after the day-mark was constructed, mariners urged the Lighthouse Board to light it. On November 1, 1868, the Conimicut Point Lighthouse was established. As the day-mark was never intended to be a lighthouse, no provisions were made for a keeper's quarters. The keeper was to live at the Nayatt Point Lighthouse and row the one mile to the Conimicut Point Lighthouse. At this point, the Nayatt Point Lighthouse was discontinued and its fourth-order Fresnel lens was installed in the Conimicut Point Lighthouse.
This arrangement lasted a few years until 1873 when a five-room keeper's dwelling was constructed on an attached pier at the Conimicut Point Lighthouse. In March of 1875, a large field of floating ice moved down the Providence River and struck the pier demolishing the keeper's dwelling. Keeper Horace Arnold and his son barely escaped with their lives.
With the pier and attached dwelling gone, the keeper was again to occupy the quarters at Nayatt Point Lighthouse and row the one mile out to the Conimicut Point Lighthouse to care for it. At this time, provisions were made to hire an assistant keeper so that the tower at Conimicut Point was always staffed. The dwelling at the Nayatt Point Lighthouse was enlarged to accommodate both keepers and repairs were made.
In 1883, a new cast-iron Conimicut Point Lighthouse was built that encompassed a dwelling. The Nayatt Point Lighthouse was then placed into the care of a custodian, until it was sold to Charles Merriman for $4,000 at an auction in 1890. The lighthouse has changed hands several times since 1890 and exhibits a light today although it is not an official aid to navigation.
Note: The lighthouse is private property, please respect this and do not trespass.
Directions: The lighthouse is private property, therefore the best viewing location is from Conimicut Point Park in Warwick. The lighthouse is just across the river.
Access: The lighthouse is private property. No access to the grounds or tower is permitted.View more Nayatt Point Lighthouse pictures