Decommissioned lighthouse in Rhode Island

Poplar Point Lighthouse, North Kingstown Rhode Island
Date added: November 27, 2022 Categories: Rhode Island Lighthouse
Light and keeper's dwelling, north side (1984)

Established in 1831 at the entrance to Wickford Harbor on the site of a Revolutionary War battle, Poplar Point Light is significant as the oldest surviving lighthouse in Rhode Island on its original site. Earlier lights were established at eight other locations, but only one of these structures survives. It, however, is not on its original site and was disassembled during the move. Although the Poplar Point lantern is not original and the dwelling has been altered and added to since the light's active period, the oldest section is a good early example of a keeper's dwelling with an attached tower.

The tower and dwelling were constructed in 1831 by Charles Allen of Kingston at a cost of $1,888. In 1869 the Lighthouse Board recommended that the dwelling, which was in need of repairs, be renovated, and that the original lantern be replaced. This was done two years later, but in 1878 the Board cited the need for an additional navigational aid to mark the entrance to Wickford Harbor. It proposed the establishment of another lighthouse on Old Gay Rock, 500 yards north of Poplar Point. When the new Wickford Harbor Light was completed on November 1, 1882, Poplar Point Light was discontinued after fifty-one years of service.

The government retained ownership of the light until 1894 when it was sold at public auction to Albert R. Sherman of Pawtucket, who remodeled it as a residence. Sherman commissioned the architectural firm of Straight and McKenzie to design the gambrel-roofed additions. Shingles were applied to the outside of the original dwelling at that time. The lighthouse continues to be used as a private residence.

Lighthouse Description

Poplar Point Light occupies a one-and-a-half-acre site at the southern side of the entrance to Wickford Harbor. Built in 1831 and no longer an active light, it has undergone some alterations and additions since passing to private hands in 1894.

The house is a rambling, shingled structure laid out in the shape of a Y, with the original 1831 keeper's dwelling and roof-mounted light tower at the north end nearest the tip of Poplar Point. Although the outside of the keeper's dwelling is now covered with shingles, its walls are made of cut stone. Three bays long and one-and-a-half stories high, with two small dormers on each side of the gable roof, the dwelling features a full-width bow window in the north gable end overlooking the harbor. Inside is a dining room and a living room on the first floor, separated by a central chimney and center stairway, with two bedrooms above.

Rising through the dwelling's roof at the north end is a three-story wooden octagonal light tower sided with clapboards. At the top is an octagonal cast-iron lantern with a spherical roof ventilator and an iron balustrade around the outer edge of the gallery deck. The lens and lamp have been removed.

Two shingled wings were added to the south end of the dwelling n 1894. These form the top half of the building's Y shape. The larger wing, which overlooks Narragansett Bay, to the east, is a two-story, gambrel-roofed addition containing a large living room on the first floor with bedrooms above. On its east side is a central shed dormer flanked on either side by two large gabled dormers. On the west side of this wing, is the main entrance into the house from the driveway. Two small dormers are located on the sides of the cross-gable. A porch added also in 1894 extends along both the west and east sides of the original dwelling as well as along the east side of the larger addition. Originally, it wrapped around the south end of the addition as well, but this section has been enclosed to create a sunroom.

The other Shingle Style wing is a one-story gable-roofed addition with two adjoining cross-gables at the west end. This contains a kitchen and another bedroom. A one-story flat-roofed garage is attached to the wing's west end. The entire building is in good condition.

A plaque embedded in a stone in the middle of the driveway refers to a Revolutionary War battle that took place on the site. It reads:

On this point during the Revolution stood a cannon protecting Updike's Newtown now Wickford against enemy excursions on the main. It was manned by the Newtown rangers whose charter was granted April 17, 1777.

Although a separate boathouse was built near the lighthouse, the property on which it stood has been separated. A dwelling built on this site may have incorporated parts of the original boathouse into its construction.

Poplar Point Lighthouse, North Kingstown Rhode Island Light and keeper's dwelling, north side (1984)
Light and keeper's dwelling, north side (1984)

Poplar Point Lighthouse, North Kingstown Rhode Island Light and keeper's dwelling, east and south sides (1984)
Light and keeper's dwelling, east and south sides (1984)