Frederick Mikkelsen was a Coast Guard light keeper at Conimicut Lighthouse in Rhode Island circa 1958 to 1961. The cast-iron “sparkplug” style lighthouse was built at the mouth of the Providence River in 1883. Conimicut was the one of the last lighthouses in the nation to be converted to electricity. The light was automated and the resident keepers were reassigned in 1963. On September 29, 2004, a ceremony was held to announce the transfer of the lighthouse to the City of Warwick under the guidelines of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act.
One of Fred Mikkelsen’s most memorable experiences in his three years at the lighthouse was a 1960 hurricane. Fred still lives in Rhode Island, and he sometimes gives presentations on his lighthouse keeping days entitled “Checked Main Light – Lighthouse Life in the 1950s.” His family calls Conimicut Light Station “Grandpa’s Lighthouse.”
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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
5 thoughts on “Light Hearted ep 43 – Frederick Mikkelsen, former keeper of Conimicut Lighthouse, RI”
Was just wondering……If the lighthouse ever was equipped with the Fresnel lens, commonly used in the old lighthouses we had? Fred may know. (I had the responsibility of two of the oldest, tallest, lighthouses on the west coast, my last 3 years in the CG at Cape D, SW WA on the Columbia River. One had the old lens in the late 70’s, early 80’s, while I was there. The other, had the newer rotating, double ended, metal, painted grey, spot (North Head).
Conimicut Lighthouse had a fourth-order Fresnel lens from 1882 to 1961. If you go to http://www.newenglandlighthouses.net/conimicut-light-history.html you can see a photo Fred took of the lens. It had a red sector that marked a dangerous shoal.
The light was electrified when I arrived there in September, 1960 and the lens had been replaced. The light was powered by a 250 watt bulb. The red sector warned ships to leave the light to port when entering
correction, my error. arrived September 1961
Thanks for your comments! Fred Mikkelsen left shortly before the light was electrified, earlier in 1961. http://www.lighthousedigest.com/Digest/StoryPage.cfm?StoryKey=1672