Lighthouses

Brant Point Light is a welcoming beacon to guide vessels safely into Nantucket Harbor. Perched at the point where the ferry rounds the corner to dock, this little white majestic landmark welcomes both visitors and islanders alike. First erected in 1746, Brant Point Lighthouse is America’s second oldest wooden lighthouse. Standing at only 26 feet tall, the existing structure has endured over 110 years of strong winds, coastal flooding, harsh New England winters and a few Nor’easters. Its red light flashes every four seconds and is visible ten miles out to sea. On October 28th, 1987, Brant Point Light became a part of The National Register of Historical Places, with the distinction of being the tenth lighthouse at this location. Located within walking distance from town, Brant Point offers visitors a tranquil place to relax and unwind, while watching boats come and go.

Many Nantucket visitors who come to the island look forward to the time honored tradition of the penny toss when leaving the island. While rounding Brant Point it is customary for visitors to toss a penny off the back of the ferry and make a wish. Some even believe it will ensure a trip back to the Little Grey Lady. While we were familiar with the tradition, we had never witnessed a family doing this until last summer! The family invited us to join them as they tossed their pennies into the sea and although we knew we would be returning, we couldn’t resist to be a part of this time honored tradition.

Sankaty Head Light is located at the easternmost point of the island, in the village of Siasonset. In the 1840’s the United States government decided that a prominent lighthouse should be erected to alert mariners of the hazardous navigation around Nantucket. After congress appropriated approximately $20,000 the 60 foot (18 m) light house was erected and went into to service in February of 1850. Back in the day a brick house was built next to the tower to house the light keeper’s family but today it stands alone overlooking the picturesque Sankaty Head Golf Club.

Today the lighthouse stands at 70 feet tall, as renovations were made to install a new section to house a new lantern. Sankaty Head Light was one of  the first lighthouses in the United States to receive a Fresnel lens. The original lens was removed in 1950 and is now housed in the Nantucket Whaling Museum. The lighthouse was fully automated in 1965 and in 1987 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In October of 2007, the Sconset Land Trust acquired the lighthouse, and had it moved approximately 400 feet away from the eroding bluff. The picture to the right shows just how close it was to the ocean before it was relocated. The fence was put in place to prevent people from falling down the steep embankment.

Great Point Light, officially, Nantucket Light is located at the end of a seven-mile long strip of sand on the northernmost point of the island and requires a 4 wheel drive to get there. The beautiful stone lighthouse stands 70 feet in height, flashes a white light every five seconds, and sits nestled in the dunes between the currents of where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Nantucket Sound. Built in 1784, the original wooden tower was first erected on an area of land known as Sandy Point but was later destroyed by fire in 1816.

Due to the thriving whaling industry in the late 1700’s, this passage was one of the busiest areas on the East Coast. Hidden shoals and strong currents made the thoroughfare difficult for mariners to navigate.

In 1816 the tower was destroyed by fire and the following year a stone tower was erected which stood until a hurricane-force storm toppled it on March 29, 1984. Rebuilt again in 1986, the stone tower was built to replicate the old one but was moved three hundred yards from its former location to avoid erosion, and still remains in operation today. New modern additions include a 190mm solar-powered modern optic which replaced the tower’s Fresnel lens, solar panels to recharge the light’s batteries, and a sheet pile foundation and 5-foot (1.5 m) thick concrete mat to help withstand erosion. According to www.lighthousefriends.com the new tower, built of reinforced concrete with a rubblestone exterior that includes some material from the 1818 tower, was dedicated on September 7, 1986 with Senator Kennedy raising a flag, smashing a bottle of champagne against the lighthouse, and declaring “Great Point is alive and well again.”

According to Wikipedia, Great Point Light was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 as Nantucket Light and removed after the destruction of the listed structure in 1986.