Previous Light:
Dutch Island
Next Lighthouse:
Conanicut Light

Plum Beach Lighthouse

plum beach light

North Kingston, Rhode Island
Built in 1899



Location:

Marking the west side passage of Narragansett Bay near Kingston on a ledge called Plum Beach Shoal.

Latitude: 41° 31' 49" N
Longitude: 71° 24' 19" W

 

Historic Stories:

Plum Beach is a dangerous rocky shoal that created havoc with mariners on foggy or stormy days. Although funds were allocated in 1896 to build a lighthouse there, bad weather and a difficult construction site on the ledge kept construction from completing Plum Beach lighthouse until 1899.

In the winter of 1918, people were able to drive their vehicles across the frozen river. The severity of the winter also cracked the foundation of the lighthouse which was repaired in 1922 with over 9,000 tons of stone added.

During the hurricane of 1938, two Keepers, Edwin Babcock and John Ganze, unable to get off the island, went up in the fog bell room and tied themselves to the central pipe that contained the weights for the clockwork mechanism rotating the lens. They survived through the hurricane’s 30-foot waves.

In 1941, the Jamestown Bridge was built next to the lighthouse, causing it to be closed as it was no longer needed as a navigational aid. No one wanted to bid for the lighthouse and it fell into disrepair for many years. It soon became the area's "eye sore".

In 1973, a paint company was hired to paint the Newport Bridge. James Osborn, one of the painters was taken off his job painting the bridge and was ordered to paint Plum Beach Lighthouse. While he was painting the lighthouse, he contracted histoplamosis, an eye disease, from bird poop, called "guano", that literally filled the lighthouse as it remained in disrepair. In 1984 he sued the state for $500,000. The case was in court for nearly 15 years. No one wanted to claim the lighthouse which kept the battle going. In 1998, the Rhode Island Superior Court decided that the state owned the lighthouse, and paid Osborn $42,000. The state then gave the title to an organization, The Friends of Plum Beach Lighthouse, who had petitioned to become owners of the lighthouse years before.

Deteriorated Beacon
Before Restoration

The lighthouse, with help and funds raised by the Friends of Plum Beach Lighthouse, was finally restored, repainted, and relit by 2003. It was an effort that many felt could not be accomplished, as one of the major efforts involved removal of nearly 50 tons of "guano" left by the birds that lived in the lighthouse for so many years.

 

Places to Visit Nearby:

The lighthouse can be viewed by boat, or, you can view the lighthouse driving on the Newport-Jamestown Bridge, crossing over from Newport into Jamestown, as it is located close to the sturcture. There are a host of parks with trails and small wildlife refuges for birding for visitors to relax and enjoy. There are more than 40 museums located within 40 minutes of Jamestown, many in Newport across the Newport –Jamestown Bridge.

Those in the Jamestown area include Watson Farm, a living history museum first established in 1789, that offers a glimpse into the way most people lived in Jamestown for three hundred years; the Jamestown Fire Department Memorial Museum collection of antique fire fighting equipment, and the Jamestown Museum collection of ferry system memorabilia, a restored windmill, and historic items that help tell the story of Jamestown's history. Ferry service is available from and to Jamestown, which you may be be able to view the lighthouse from a distance on the ferry, and there are plenty of opportunities for fishing off the dock in the harbor.

Discover the Quonset Air Museum in North Kingston to learn about Rhode Island’s aviation heritage. North Kingston is also part of Rhode Island’s South Country with its pristine beaches, golf resorts, and plenty of recreational activities.

 

 

Contact Info:
Friends of Plum Beach Lighthouse
P.O. Box 1041
North Kingstown, RI  02852

 

 

New England Lighthouses

 

Local Boat Tours

Boat cruises mentioned below offer many types of cruises, and will pass by the lighthouse on many of their trips.

 

Rhode Island Bay Cruises
Offers weekly lighthouse tours in season.

347 Roger Williams Way
North Kingstown, RI 02852
(401) 295-4040
info@rhodeislandbaycruises.com

 

 

Save the Bay Tours
Special organization for lighthouse and coastal preservation provides Ultimate Lighthouse Tour and Providence Sunset Lighthouse Cruise on specific days during the summer. Tours may include stopovers to tour inside a particular lighthouse.
100 Save the Bay Drive, Providence, RI 02905
(401) 439-0670


 

My 300-page book, Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Southern New England: Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, provides special human interest stories from each of the 92 lighthouses, along with plenty of indoor and outdoor coastal attractions you can explore, with lots of tours.

Look inside!

 

Back to Top