Historic Structures

Nayatt Point Lighthouse, Barrington Rhode Island

Date added: November 21, 2022 Categories: Rhode Island Lighthouse

Established in 1828 at the entrance to the Providence River, the Nayatt Point Lighthouse is one of the few surviving structures directly related to the early nineteenth-century maritime trade of Providence. From the time of its establishment until it was deactivated in 1868 the light served to warn whaling ships, fishing boats and coastal freighters en route to Providence of sandbars and rocks between Nayatt Point and Conimicut Point, directly across the river. The original 1828 section of the house is the oldest surviving keeper's dwelling in Rhode Island. For a period of twenty-two years after it was deactivated, it continued to be used as a residence for the keeper of another nearby offshore light.

The first light was mounted on a freestanding octagonal tower built to the west of the present tower. The keeper lived in a small dwelling nearby which was also constructed in 1828. In 1856 the dwelling was enlarged with a two-story wing, and a second tower, attached to the new addition, was built to replace the original light.

The station remained active until November 1, 1868, when it was replaced by an offshore beacon east of Conimicut Point at the west side of the river's entrance. However, since the beacon had no living accommodations, the dwelling at Nayatt Point was kept as quarters for the keeper who rowed a mile across the river to the new light.

By 1870 the dwelling at Nayatt Point was in poor condition. Instead of making the needed repairs, the Lighthouse Board proposed selling the structure and building quarters at the Conimicut beacon. With the completion in 1874 of the new quarters, the Nayatt Point Lighthouse was placed under the supervision of a custodian but it was reoccupied the following year when the dwelling at the beacon was destroyed by an ice floe. At that time the Nayatt Point dwelling was repaired and enlarged in order to provide accommodations for the beacon's keeper and an assistant who had been hired to insure continuous operation of the Conimicut Light. Finally in 1890, after an entirely new tower with keeper's quarters was constructed at the site of the Conimicut beacon to replace the earlier tower, the Nayatt Point Lighthouse was sold for $4,000 at public auction. The light has been used as a private residence since that time.

Building Description

Nayatt Point Light is located on a 1/2-acre site at the western tip of Nayatt Point, on the east side of the entrance to the Providence River. The lighthouse consists of a brick keeper's dwelling attached to a brick tower, both painted white. No longer active, it is now used as a private residence.

The complex plan of the dwelling comprises three connected sections laid out at right angles to each other, each of which was constructed at a different period. In the center is the oldest part which consists of a 34-by-20-foot, one-and-a-half-story section, running north and south between two end wings, along with a 14-by-12-foot, 1-story ell of the same period off the back. Although the ell still stands, it has been incorporated into part of a more recently added wing on the east end and is difficult to distinguish. Built in 1828, this center section and the ell served as the keeper's quarters for an earlier freestanding tower constructed in the same year nearer the western tip of Nayatt Point. The one-and-a-half-story section of the oldest part features a chimney at each gable end and two dormers on the west side, while the chimney that was originally at the east end of the ell is now in the center of the newer east wing.

A one-story brick wing added in 1856, off the northwest corner of the center section, connects the original dwelling to the east side of the present tower. A shingled second story, with a center chimney and a gable roof with flared overhanging eaves, was added c. 1905.

A second two-story wing, the first floor of which was built in 1875, has been added on to the east end of the original ell at the back of the dwelling. Initially, this involved the lengthening and widening of the ell with a one-story brick addition in 1875. A full-length clapboarded second story was added at a later date, probably in the early 20th century. A doorway in the center of the ell's north side now serves as the building's main entrance.

The most recent addition consists of two small one-story cement block sunrooms that have been built on either side of the tower off the north and south ends of the front of the west 1856 wing; these were constructed in the mid-20th century.

The three-story square brick tower is attached to the west gable end of the west wing. Built in 1856 to replace the earlier freestanding tower, it retains most of its original features. At the top is a cast-iron lantern and ventilator, mounted on a wooden base, and an iron balustrade that surrounds the outer edge of the gallery.

A doorway on the tower's south side leads to a cast-iron circular stairway which climbs along the tower's brick circular walls to the lantern room. The lens and lamp were removed when the light was deactivated.

Along with the various additions, the interior of the dwelling has also undergone extensive alterations. The two-story, brick-and-shingle wing attached to the tower now contains a modern kitchen and dining room on the first floor with bedrooms above. The original keeper's dwelling is now a living room. Except for some bricks on the inside of the tower which are crumbling, the condition of the structure is excellent.

Nayatt Point Lighthouse, Barrington Rhode Island Light and keeper's dwelling, facing northeast (1984)
Light and keeper's dwelling, facing northeast (1984)

Nayatt Point Lighthouse, Barrington Rhode Island Light and keeper's dwelling, facing south (1984)
Light and keeper's dwelling, facing south (1984)

Nayatt Point Lighthouse, Barrington Rhode Island Light and keeper's dwelling, facing north (1984)
Light and keeper's dwelling, facing north (1984)

Nayatt Point Lighthouse, Barrington Rhode Island Light and keeper's dwelling, facing north (1984)
Light and keeper's dwelling, facing north (1984)