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Chatham Light
Chatham Light MA.jpg
Chatham Light and Coast Guard Station (2007)
Chatham Light is located in Massachusetts
Chatham Light
Chatham Light
Location in Massachusetts
Location Chatham, Massachusetts
Coordinates 41°40′16.704″N 69°57′.554″W / 41.67130667°N 69.95015389°W / 41.67130667; -69.95015389
Year first constructed 1808
Year first lit 1877 (current structure)
Automated 1982
Foundation Concrete
Construction Cast iron plate with brick lining
Tower shape Conical
Markings / pattern White with gray lantern
Focal height 80 feet (24 m)
Original lens 4th order Fresnel lens
Current lens Carlisle & Finch DCB-224
Range 24 nautical miles (44 km; 28 mi)
Characteristic Fl (2) W 10s, lighted continuously
Fog signal none
Admiralty number J0394
ARLHS number USA-158
USCG number 1-525

Chatham Lighthouse, known as Twin Lights prior to 1923, is a lighthouse in Chatham, Massachusetts, near the "elbow" of Cape Cod. The original station, close to the shore, was built in 1808 with two wooden towers that were replaced in 1841 in spite of questions as to why a single tower would not be adequate. In 1877, two new towers, made of cast iron rings, replaced those. One of the towers was moved to the Eastham area and became Nauset Light in 1923.


Chatham Lighthouse two towers MA
The 1841 brick towers

The station was established in 1808; it was the second light station on Cape Cod. To distinguish it from Highland Light, the first Cape Cod light, and to act as a range, twin octagonal 40-foot (12 m) wooden towers were built. They were on skids so that they could be moved to keep them in line with the entrance channel as it shifted. Samuel Nye was appointed as the first Keeper of the Chatham Lights by President Jefferson on October 7, 1808. The light had an interesting history afterwards.

  • 1841 The wood octagonal towers are replaced with two 40-foot (12 m) brick towers
  • 1857 Fourth order Fresnel lenses are installed, fueled by lard oil
  • 1877 New twin towers of brick lined cast iron and a keeper's dwelling are built further from the shore, because of concerns caused by erosion
  • 1893 A brick oil house is added
  • 1923 Northern tower of the pair is moved roughly 12 miles (19 km) north to become Nauset Light
  • 1939 Chatham Light, kerosene fueled since 1882, and rotated via a clockwork drive, is converted to electricity; the light remains active during WWII
  • 1969 The Fresnel lens is moved to Atwood House Museum, replaced with a Carlisle & Finch rotating light generating over 2.8 million candlepower
  • 1982 Automated
  • 1983 Aerobeacons installed in the lantern room
  • 1993 New DCB-224 aerobeacons are installed

Chatham Light was added to the National Register of Historic Places as Chatham Light Station on June 15, 1987, reference number 87001501.

Light keepers

The following individuals were the principal light keepers over the years.

  • Samuel Nye (1808 – 1813)
  • Joseph Loveland (1813 – at least 1833)
  • Samuel Stinson (at least 1835 – 1839)
  • Lot Norton (1839 – 1841)
  • Collins Howes (1841 – 1845)
  • Simeon Nickerson (1845 – 1848)
  • Angeline M. Nickerson (1848 – 1862)
  • Charles H. Smith (1862 – 1872)
  • Josiah Hardy, Jr. (1872 – 1899)
  • Charles H. Hammond (1899 – 1907)
  • James T. Allison (1907 – 1928)
  • George F. Woodman, Jr. (1928 – 1940)
  • George T. Gustavus (1940 – 1945).

Current status

Chatham lighthouse daytime
Chatham Light in 2015

Today, the former keeper's house is an active U.S. Coast Guard station, and on-duty personnel living quarters. Search and Rescue, maritime law enforcement, and Homeland Security missions are carried out here. Flotilla 11-01 of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary operates from this station.

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