Hospital Point Range Front Lighthouse

Beverly, Massachusetts - 1872 (1872**)

Photo of the Hospital Point Range Front Lighthouse.

History of the Hospital Point Range Front Lighthouse

Posted/Updated by Bryan Penberthy on 2017-04-30.

The point of land overlooking Beverly Cove and Salem Sound was originally known as Paul's Head or Thorndike's Point for its 17th-century owner Paul Thorndike. Its name was changed to Hospital Point around 1801 when a smallpox hospital was established on the point thus giving its name to the Hospital Point Lighthouse.

Beverly, originally part of Salem, was first settled by Europeans in 1626. Due to religious differences, it split off and was incorporated as Beverley in 1668, after the county town in East Yorkshire, England.

In 1747, Salem set aside 50£ to build a pest house - a place for quarantining and treating people with communicable diseases, especially, small pox, cholera, and tuberculosis. The first pest house was at Roaches Point, and soon, there was a second one built in Salem's Great Pasture, which today is South Salem.

The pest house at Roaches Point was discontinued in 1801 in favor of a new hospital built on the point overlooking Beverly Harbor, which became known as Hospital Point. Although the hospital was used as a barracks during the War of 1812, it remained a hospital until it burned down in 1849.

Shipbuilding and fishing were an early part of the history of Beverly, Massachusetts. However, during the Revolutionary War, the harbor would become home to privateers, whose vessels were armed and authorized to attack British vessels.

National Archives photo of the Hospital Point LighthouseHospital Point Light (Courtesy National Archives)

Although both the City of Beverly and the Town of Marblehead both claimed to be the "Birthplace of America's Navy," it was later determined that the Town of Marblehead was the homeport of the schooner Hannah, the first of five vessels authorized by George Washington to form "Washington's Navy." The Hannah, was outfitted at Glover's Wharf and sailed out of Salem Harbor on September 5, 1775.

After the American Revolution, although Beverly remained an active fishing and trade port, it was due to the prosperity of Salem's Harbor that the Lighthouse Board proposed that three lights be built to allow vessels to enter at all times. The locations recommended were Hospital Point, Derby Wharf, and Winter Island (Fort Pickering). Congress approved the request and appropriated $30,000 on July 15, 1870.

The lights at Fort Pickering and Derby Wharf were both completed and lit on January 17, 1871. The light for Hospital Point was exhibited from a temporary tower on May 1, 1871 while the permanent tower was being erected, which was completed in 1872.

The Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board had the following entry:

64. Hospital Point, Salem Harbor, Massachusetts - A wooden dwelling for the keeper and a brick tower have been erected. The light, which has been exhibited from a temporary building, has been removed to, and is now established on the new tower.

Constructed were a 45-foot-square brick lighthouse and adjacent two-story, Queen-Anne Revival-style keeper's dwelling. Inside the lantern was a three-and-a-half-order Fresnel lens, frequently found in lighthouses on the Great Lakes, which made it rare in New England.

To help ensure mariners were on the correct path into the harbor, a condenser panel was placed on one side of the Fresnel lens, which focused the light on the correct path. If a mariner was to stray off the correct path, the light would diminish in intensity, providing feedback to the mariner, allowing them to correct their course.

Like most stations, things have evolved over the years. In 1882, a window was substituted for leaky glass doors on the west side of the dwelling. In 1898, the station was fenced in, and in 1901 the station was connected to the City of Beverly water supply. The following year, a brick oil house was built.

Shortly after being elected President of the United States, Howard Taft, wanting to escape the stifling heat of summers in Washington, D.C., chose Beverly, Massachusetts as his family's summer residence.

Hospital Point Range Rear LighthouseHospital Point Range Rear Lighthouse

President Taft accepted an invitation by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Evans to stay in the guest house of their summer estate at Woodbury Point, which today is Lynch Park. The guest house, called Stetson Cottage, became known as the "Summer White House."

On one visit to the Hospital Point Lighthouse, Taft's son Charley, about 12 years old at the time, climbed the tower, but had a panic attic. The Boston Globe article of August 24, 1909 reported the following: "He climbed the lighthouse in order to look out on to the water and when he reached the top he complained of being sick. The little fellow was assisted to the ground floor. . . and he felt much better."

Robert Evans had passed away before the Tafts had begun summering at the cottage. Soon after the newspaper had announced that the presidential family would be in Beverly, people began poking around the estate, trying to get a glimpse of the Tafts.

Mrs. Evans soon tired of the disruption brought on by the gawkers and the secret service patrolling the grounds, and trampling her flower beds. Therefore, in the fall of 1910, she sold the cottage. The new owner had it cut in half, barged across the harbor, and reassembled in Marblehead.

The following summer, the Tafts stayed at a home called "Parramatta", on East Corning Street. The home's owner, Lucy Peabody, was so pleased to host the Tafts that she painted the house a patriotic white.

Hospital Point Range Rear Light

On May 1, 1927, the Hospital Point Lighthouse was officially renamed the Hospital Point Range Front Light after a rear range light was established using discontinued lightship equipment, which was placed in the steeple of the First Baptist Church in Beverly, nearly one mile away.

The light, which projects a very narrow beam, only 2° either side of the range course, was visible through a window in the steeple. When lined up with either the Hospital Point or Baker's Island, it let the mariner know that they were in the middle of the channel.

The Coast Guard maintained the rear range light in the steeple, which stood 127 feet above mean high water. Due to the location, servicing the light was frequently unpleasant due to a family of nesting pigeons.

Standing at 221 Cabot Street, the First Baptist Church was originally erected in 1869. Over the years, it would withstand, wind, rain, and on April 26, 1975, a major fire. The fire nearly consumed the entire structure. At one point, it was reported that the steeple had started leaning to the left, but surprising, as if almost a miracle, it straightened up and stood tall. In the end, it was all that remained of the structure.

After the fire, the community came together to rebuild. A modern church was built and attached to the historic steeple. Today, the light in the steeple is still in use as the rear range light for both the Baker's Island and Hospital Point Lighthouses.

After the Hospital Point Range Front Lighthouse was automated in 1947, the dwelling became the home of the commander of the First Coast Guard District and their family. This arrangement limited public access to lighthouse to one week per year, which was during the Beverly Homecoming Week.

During 2009, Rear Admiral Dale Gabel, agreed to improve public access to the Hospital Point Lighthouse. His plan included using the Coast Guard Auxiliary to staff and provide tours of the historic light station several times per year, and possibly as frequently as once a month.

Today, the Hospital Point Lighthouse is open several times per year, during guided tours.


  1. Annual Report of the Light House Board, U.S. Lighthouse Service, Various years.
  2. The Lighthouses of Massachusetts, Jeremy D'Entremont, 2007.
  3. Beverly Revisited (Images of America) , Beverly Historical Society, 2010.
  4. "Standing tall: Beverly church to get a fix-up from sidewalk to spire top," Cate Lecuyer, The Salem News, July 24, 2008.
  5. "From Small Pox to Poverty - Salem's Public Health History," Jerome Curley, Salem Patch, May 20, 2012.
  6. City of Beverly Website website.

Directions: The Hospital Point Range Front Lighthouse is located at the end of Bayview Ave. From Highway 127 (Hale Street), turn onto East Corning Street and as it crosses over Nepture Street, it will change names to Bayview Ave. Follow that to the end. The front light is also visible from Woodbury Point in Lynch Park and across the harbor from Salem Willows Park.

The Hospital Point Range Rear Light is atop the steeple of Beverly's First Baptist Church located at 221 Cabot Street.

Access: Hospital Point Range Front Lighthouse: tower is owned by the Coast Guard. Grounds, dwelling, and tower closed. The grounds and tower are open during the Beverly Homecoming and Essex National Heritage Area's Trails and Sails.

Hospital Point Range Rear Light: Grounds open, tower closed.

View more Hospital Point Range Front Lighthouse pictures
Tower Information
Tower Height: 45.00'
Focal Plane: 70'
Active Aid to Navigation: Yes
*Latitude: 42.54600 N
*Longitude: -70.85600 W
See this lighthouse on Google Maps.


* Please note that all GPS coordinates are approximated and are meant to put you in the vicinity of the lighthouse, not for navigation purposes.

** This year denotes a station date. This is the year that a lighthouse was first reported in the vicinity or at that location.

All photographs and information on this site is copyright © 2016 Bryan Penberthy unless otherwise specified. No content may be used without written permission. Any questions or comments, please email me.