The Elizabeth Islands are a chain of small islands that extend about 16 miles to the southwest from the southern coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. There are seven major islands in the chain. Naushon Island is the largest at 7.4 square miles. Tarpaulin Cove, on the east side of the island, was a place where seamen traveling through Vineyard Sound often stopped for a meal or a night’s stay at a tavern run for many years by Zaccheus Lumbert. Lumbert erected an early navigational light on the island in 1759.
In 1817, the federal government established a light station at Tarpaulin Cove with a rubblestone tower showing a fixed white light 71 feet above mean high water. A new 38-foot-tall brick tower was built in 1891. After the light was automated in 1941, the keeper’s house and outbuildings fell into disrepair and were torn down in 1962. The lighthouse tower at Tarpaulin Cove is now maintained by the Cuttyhunk Historical Society. The Society was launched in 1978 and operates the Museum of the Elizabeth Islands on Cuttyhunk, the westernmost of the Elizabeth Islands.
Also discussed in this episode is the lost lighthouse of Cuttyhunk, which was established in 1823. Paul Elias is a longtime summer resident and a trustee of Naushon Island.
He’s also a former board member of the Cuttyhunk Historical Society and the “point person” for Tarpaulin Cove Lighthouse.
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