report of Lt. George M. Bache of the U.S. Navy, dated November 22,
1838, provides much detail. The focal plane of the light was 38 feet
above sea level, and the lighting apparatus consisted of six lamps and
reflectors. The concave reflectors were said to be much worn and full
of indentations, and two of them were bent from their original forms.
According to an 1859 report, the upper part of the tower was
“very much cracked,” and the structure was leaky. The dwelling was also
reported to be leaky, with some shingles missing from the roof.
A storm in January 1855 did much damage, and the authorities decided a new tower was in order. Two appropriations of $6,500 each were provided for the work in 1855 and 1856.
A new 25-foot-square brick tower was completed in 1856. It was attached to the 1828 dwelling by means of a new one-story brick wing added on the building's northwest corner. This wing was raised to two stories, with a gable roof and chimney, about 1905. The tower remains largely unchanged today. A door on the lighthouse's south side leads to a cast-iron spiral stairway leading to the cast-iron lantern room.
The new tower exhibited a navigational light for only about a dozen years. A new granite lighthouse was established offshore to mark Conimicut Shoal, and the light at Nayatt Point was extinguished for good on November 1, 1868. The fourth-order Fresnel lens was transferred to the new structure.
dwelling at Nayatt Point was retained for use as a shore station for
the keepers of Conimicut Light. Keeper Davis Perry rowed back and forth
from Nayatt Point—about a mile each way—to tend the new beacon. Several
keepers and assistants came and went in the next few years, all of them
often hindered by the elements during the treacherous commute across
the channel to the lighthouse.
After a new sparkplug-style lighthouse with integral living quarters was built at Conimicut Shoal in 1883, the property at Nayatt Point was sold to Charles Merriman for $4,000. The 1828 house is Rhode Island's oldest lighthouse keeper's house, although there have been additions to the structure.
Len and Barbara Lesko owned the Nayatt Point Lighthouse in recent years. Len Lesko is the chairman of the Egyptology Department at Providence's Brown University. He used the former keeper's office as his study, even using an original 1828 built-in desk overlooking the bay.
When severe weather threatened, the Leskos sealed up the building with heavy hatch covers over all the doors and windows. They never experienced any major storm damage, but did find quahogs on the roof after Hurricane Bob in 1991. The Leskos sold the property in 2001 after owning it for 18 years.
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 email@example.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.)
Daniel Wightman (1828-1845), John M. Carrie (1845-1849), Lewis B. Smith (1849-1852), Noel A. Mathewson (1852-1853), Wilmouth Heath (1853-1860), John Clark (1860-1861). A. W. Tripp (1861-1865), Davis Perry (1865-1868)