Featured in this episode of Light Hearted is an interview with Scott Brown, president of Friends of Sakonnet Lighthouse. In 1882, Congress appropriated $20,000 for a lighthouse on Little Cormorant Rock at the entrance to Rhode Island’s Sakonnet River, near Little Compton. Sakonnet Point Lighthouse is a typical offshore “sparkplug” lighthouse of its period. The hurricanes of 1938 and 1954 damaged the structure, and the last Coast Guard keepers were removed. Coast Guard officials decided to discontinue the light.
The General Services Administration sold the property at auction in September 1961. A preservation effort began when the Friends of Sakonnet Lighthouse was formed in 1984.
With funding from the federal Transportation Enhancement Program combined with privately raised funds, a thorough restoration was completed in 2012.
Also in this episode, hosts Jeremy D’Entremont and Cindy Johnson detail the dramatic story of what happened at Sakonnet in the hurricane of September 21, 1938–the worst hurricane in recorded New England history. Keeper William Durfee, one of two men trapped in the lighthouse during the storm, wrote, “We gave up and wrapped ourselves in blankets . . . wondering when the wind would shift and quiet the sea down so we could get outside to look around. . . . And we were surprised when we looked to the point and saw that everything had been washed away.”
Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org