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Broad Sound Channel Inner Range Lights
Spectacle Island, Boston Harbor, Massachusetts
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History
© Jeremy D'Entremont. Do not reproduce any part of this website without permission of the author.

This island serves the mariner more than any other location in the inner harbor, because it contains two lighthouses, called range lights. These safeguard the steamers coming up the harbor, for no pilot feels safe until he sees the two range lights combined into one, then steers his ship direct toward this mark.

                                             -- Patrick J. Connelly, Islands of Boston Harbor, 1932.

A pair of range lights had already been established on Spectacle Island, in Boston's inner harbor, in 1897. The addition of a second pair of range lights made Spectacle Island home to four working lighthouses, which was certainly unusual for an island of about 97 acres. The 1897 lights were discontinued in 1913.

In 1902, pairs of range lights were authorized for the harbor both on Lovell's Island and Spectacle Island. $13,000 was appropriated for the Spectacle Island beacons, and they were built in the spring of 1903 and first lighted on April 10 of that year.


Broad Sound Channel Inner Range Lights in the early 1900s

The 1903 lights on Spectacle Island were called the Broad Sound Channel Inner Range Lights. The new lighthouses were located very close to the 1897 range lights on the northeast part of the island. The two wooden towers were 337 feet apart, and they both held fourth-order Fresnel lenses manufactured by the Chance Brothers in Birmingham, England.

The front light was 53 feet above the water and flashed white every five seconds. The rear light was 70 feet above the water and displayed a fixed red light, produced by a red chimney over the lens. The towers were painted red initially, but the 1904 report of the Lighthouse Board reported that the color had been changed to white.

old photo of lighthouses

From the collection of Edward Rowe Snow, courtesy of Dorothy Bicknell
A new wood-frame, six-room keeper’s house was erected for the Broad Sound Channel Inner Range Lights, 65 feet from the rear tower. Photographs from the time show two keepers’ houses for the two pairs of range lights, and payroll records indicate that, for a time, there was a principal keeper and an assistant keeper caring for the four lights.

The two wooden towers were 337 feet apart, and they both held fourth-order Fresnel lenses manufactured by Chance Brothers in Birmingham, England. The front light was 53 feet above the water and flashed white every five seconds. The rear light was 70 feet above the water and displayed a fixed red light, produced by a red chimney over the lens. 

The towers were apparently painted red initially; the 1904 report of the Lighthouse Board reported that the color had been changed from red to white.

A 1909 inspection revealed that the water collected in the 2,000 gallon cistern, located in the cellar of the keeper's house, was unsatisfactory due to the high amount of smoke from the rendering plant on the island. The inspector recommended frequent cleaning of the cistern.

John Lelan Hart became keeper in 1926. When he retired in 1938 at age 68, Hart said that although he had spent his life on the sea or near it, he had "never really enjoyed it."

According to historian Edward Rowe Snow, the last keeper at Spectacle Island was said to have been murdered at the outbreak of World War II. Snow also stated that six murders had taken place on or close to Spectacle Island, including the sensational murder of heiress Lynn Kauffman, who washed ashore on the island in 1959.

The Broad Sound Channel Inner Range Lights were deactivated in the 1950s.

photo of keeper and his wife

John Lelan Hart and his wife on the occasion of his retirement in 1938. From the collection of Edward Rowe Snow, courtesy of Dorothy Bicknell

lighthouses and keeper's house

two lighthouse towers and keeper's house

The above two views show the Broad Sound Channel Range Light Station in October 1946, courtesy of Dorothy Bicknell

Spectacle Island is now jointly owned by the City of Boston and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. The Island Alliance and National Park Service assist with the management of the island. The island’s basic shape has once again been modified in recent years using dirt from Boston’s massive “Big Dig” project, a restructuring of the city’s highway system. The island has a visitor center, two sandy beaches, a café, and a marina. There are five miles of walking trails, with and a panoramic view from the island’s 157-foot- high summit.


Keepers: 

(This list is a work in progress. If you have any information on the keepers of this lighthouse, I'd love to hear from you. You can email me at nelights@gmail.com. Anyone copying this list onto another web site does so at their own risk, as the list is always subject to updates and corrections.)
Winfield Creed (c. 1906-1926), John Lelan Hart (1926-1938), ? Jaspers (c. 1941).

Last updated 1/30/11

© Jeremy D'Entremont. Do not reproduce any part of this website without permission of the author.

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