2018-06-14 / Upcoming Events

Beavertail museum set for silver anniversary

The Beavertail Lighthouse, situated where the third-oldest Colonial beacon once stood, is the most visited landmark in Jamestown.

Rising 64 feet at the southernmost tip of Conanicut Island, the state estimates more than 200,000 visitors flock annually to the 150-acre park.

A healthy dose of that success can be attributed to the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association, a nonprofit organization founded in 1993. To commemorate its silver anniversary, the museum will host a celebration for the dedicated volunteers responsible for preserving one of America’s valued treasures.

The public is invited to celebrate the milestone from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Light refreshments will be served and the tower will be open at 1 p.m. for tours.

Twenty-five years ago, association founders gathered the remains of a state effort to create a so-called Bay of Parks headquartered on the light station’s grounds. A cash shortage in 1989, however, coupled with the breakout of Lyme disease, disbanded the project.

That’s when saviors Robert Sutton, Frances Shocket and Henry Armbrust recognized that the abandoned Coast Guard buildings were in jeopardy. They formed the Friends of Beavertail Lighthouse, which was later incorporated into the 501(c)(3) Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association.

For more than a decade, the organization operated a two-room museum with a modest gift shop in the assistant keeper’s house. Volunteer docents told stories of the light station’s history. They described the original construction in 1749; they detailed British soldiers burning the tower to the ground 30 years later; they explained the fourth-order Fresnel lens; they recounted the devastating 1938 hurricane.

When the appointed custodians vacated their residence at the complex in 2006, the museum association developed a master plan to preserve the entire light station. This was in preparation of a congressional act that was transferring the ownership of historic lighthouses to qualified agencies and organizations.

Although the process for Beavertail was delayed because of soil contamination, what followed was the restoration of every structure, including the expansion of the museum into the first floors of every building. In 2014, updated story boards and the inclusion of interactive touch-screen displays turned the museum into one of Rhode Island’s beckoning jewels.

Climbing rules

Climbers must be at least 4 feet tall.

Climbers should wear footwear other than flip flops.

Carrying pets and children is prohibited.

A $5 donation is suggested for each adult climber.

Both hands must be free for climbing.

Along with 49 steps on the spiral staircase, a 7-foot ladder must be scaled to reach the observation catwalk.

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