Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts Cleveland Ledge Light main page / History / Bibliography / Photos History
© Jeremy D'Entremont. Do not reproduce any part of this website without permission of the author.
Cleveland Ledge, west of Bourne in Buzzards Bay and eight miles southwest of the entrance to the Cape Cod Canal, is named for President Grover Cleveland, who frequently visited the area to fish in the days when his summer White House was at the Gray Gables mansion in Bourne. The unique tower built here was the last commissioned lighthouse in New England. The decision to build a lighthouse here was part of a plan to convert the aids to navigation in Buzzards Bay from their original purpose of serving local navigation to the new purpose of guiding major shipping traffic through the Cape Cod Canal, which opened in 1914.
After the onset of World War II, construction was delayed because of the shortage of many materials. The new lighthouse was completed and commissioned on June 1, 1943. It was put through a grueling test a little over a year later.
When the seas subsided slightly, two of the men, with lifelines around their waists, made it to the broken skylight and managed to plug the break with oil drums, mattresses, and planking.
Four men were assigned to the lighthouse at the time of a newspaper article in December 1967. Each of the men had two weeks at the station followed by a week off. When asked how the crew felt about spending their holidays at the lighthouse, the officer in charge, Ronald E. Glass of Birmingham, Alabama, said, “Of course, the men would rather be home, but you always look forward to going there when you are off. Everyone here understands our mission. We earn our liberty and eventually we get it.” That holiday season, two of the men got time off around Christmas while the other two were off at New Year’s.
At the time of the 1967 article, the interior of the
lighthouse was described as “spit and polish spotless,” and as “warm as
toast” inside, thanks to a large oil furnace. The living facilities
included a galley, a lounge with a small television, sleeping quarters,
and a lavatory. A 44-foot patrol boat from the Woods Hole Coast Guard
station visited weekly with supplies, which were hauled up to the deck
at the lighthouse in a sling
The lighthouse originally had a fourth-order Fresnel lens, fueled by kerosene. In 1978, the lens was replaced and the light was automated, after the laying of an underwater cable to supply power. The Coast Guard crew was removed and the lighthouse was sealed off.
When he was a boy in the 1960s, James M. Howe of North Falmouth frequently visited the Coast Guard keepers at Cleveland Ledge, along with his two brothers. The men befriended the local boys. In 2005, with his good memories as an inspiration, Howe founded the Megansett Shores Lighthouse Foundation for the purpose of obtaining a lease for the lighthouse. Howe died in December 2005, but others pledged to carry on with the care of the lighthouse he loved.
Last updated 12/24/11 © Jeremy D'Entremont. Do not reproduce any part of this website without permission of the author.
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