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Eighteen-acre Rose Island, about a mile offshore from Newport, Rhode Island, has a commanding position in Narragansett Bay’s East Passage. The waters around Newport were busy with passenger steamers, fishing boats, and freighters in the mid-nineteenth century. On July 20, 1868, Congress appropriated $7,500 for a lighthouse on the island, and the site chosen was a surviving bastion of eighteenth-century Fort Hamilton. The octagonal lighthouse tower rises from the west side of a mansard roof on top of the handsome one-and-one-half-story wooden keeper’s dwelling. The lighthouse went into service on January 20, 1870.
The light lost its importance as a navigational aid with the construction of the Newport Bridge in 1969. In the 1980s, a group of dedicated preservationists founded the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation to protect the historic structure. In 1985, the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation began the process of restoring the building inside and out. The lighthouse has been restored to the 1912-1915 period.
Below: Some of the rooms at Rose Island Light Station. Photos by Jeremy D’Entremont.
In 1992, the lighthouse was opened to the public, and on August 7, 1993, it was relighted as a private aid to navigation. You can now stay overnight at Rose Island for a taste of Lighthouse Service life. You can stay in the restored downstairs rooms or in the upstairs apartment. The Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation recently changed its name to the Rose Island Lighthouse and Fort Hamilton Trust, also known as the RIFH Trust. Brian Tefft is the executive director of the Trust. Brian is also a biologist with extensive experience with natural resource management, wetlands, environmental policy, and education.
Below: Video for the song “Flashing in the Dark” by Neptune’s Car, shot at Rose Island in 2012.
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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