Restoration work needed on lighthouse foundation
For 263 years, the original lighthouse foundation at the most southern tip of Beavertail Point has survived the worse that Mother Nature has thrown at it, including the disastrous Great Hurricane of 1938.
The historic artifact was designed and constructed by Peter Harrison – America’s first architect – after shipping merchants in Newport collected funds for its establishment.
The foundation supported the first and second light until 1856 when the present granite tower was built. The foundation subsequently supported various fog signals, and during World War II the R.I. National Guard and U.S. Navy used it for surveillance equipment.
Hurricane Bob in 1991 and a host of winter storms, coupled with expanding ice, have loosened and dislodged foundation stones. A large cavity exists on the foundation’s southwest side and further deterioration is expected. The Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association is now preparing to try to save the foundation.
In 2008, a non-evasive underground radar survey was funded by the National Trust for Historic Places to determine the exact construction of the lighthouse foundation. In addition, two other detailed engineering studies were conducted by Victor Calabretta of Jamestown and James Wermuth of Newport on how best to repair and preserve the deteriorating artifact. Approvals by the Rhode Island Historic Preservation and Heritage Commission, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the state Coastal Resources Management Commission are in place and work is expected to begin in early October. Work will consist of removing loose shale, constructing a concrete base pinned to bedrock below the open cavity, and replacing missing stonework.
Although grant funding for the restoration of the original stone and lime mortar foundation was unsuccessful, the museum association has allocated $15,000 of its own funds to undertake immediate actions to prevent further loss of the stones and save the artifact. Complete restoration will be deferred until more funds are raised by donations. Donations can be sent to the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association, P.O. Box 83, Jamestown, RI 02835