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North Conanicut Island Lighthouse

conanicut light

Jamestown, Rhode Island
Built in 1886


North end of Conanicut Island. Private residence.

Latitude: 41° 34' 25" N
Longitude: 71° 22' 18" W


Historic Stories:

The Wickford Rail and Steamboat Company operated a ferry between Newport and Wickford, in Narragansett Bay, also operating a light beacon on the northern tip of Conanicut Island for the ferry captains’ livelihood. In 1882, the company became one of the forces behind a petition asking for an official lighthouse on the site, as the company would also benefit with the new light. Construction was approved and a site chosen in 1884 but was delayed because one of the land owners was in Europe. Construction began in 1885.

While building the Conanicut North Island lighthouse, a temporary beacon was put up at that time during the winter of 1886. Still, it wasn't effective enough to keep the steamer Eolus from running aground on the rocks nearby during a blinding snowstorm. Luckily, nobody was injured in the incident.

conanicut light
Vintage image courtesy of
US Coast Guard

The first keeper at Conanicut, Horace W. Arnold, was an eighth-generation descendant of Benedict Arnold.

He was famous for an incident that occurred at another station at Conimicut Lighthouse one winter in 1875. As heavy ice floes were seriously threatening the lighthouse, Arnold decided, along with his son to abandon the station. They were able to get on top of an ice flow with a mattress to escape the danger.

Captain Sutton of the tug Reliance, who rescued the two hours later, would write that the keeper appeared as if he were “sitting like a man on a magic carpet.” Keeper Arnold was frostbitten so badly that it was several months before he could resume his duty at the light station, his son was also hospitalized for frostbite. The lighthouse survived the ice flows, but the keeper's house was destroyed, so Arnold and his family stayed at nearby inactive Nayatt Point light until the quarters were rebuilt.

The lighthouse was sold at auction in 1934 for $2,874.



Places to Visit Nearby:

Jamestown is located on Conanicut Island connected by bridges from the Newport area. It is an area filled with history, 18th and 19th century architecture, and hosts many community events.

Lobsterboat Leaving Jamestown Harbor.

There are a host of parks with trails and small wildlife refuges for birding for visitors to relax and enjoy.

Beavertail lighthouse is located in Beavertail State Park for picnicking and hiking. Be sure to visit the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum. Other museums in the area include include Watson Farm, a living history museum 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; the Sydney L. Wright Memorial Museum collection of artifacts from ancient and Colonial period Narragansett Indians and Seventeenth Century Europeans found in Jamestown in 1966 and 1967; and the Jamestown Museum collection of ferry system memorabilia, historic photos, maps, and other items that help tell the story of Jamestown's history. There are more than 40 museums located within 40 minutes of Jamestown.

Fort Wetherill State Park is situated on top of 100 foot high granite cliffs for a spectacular view of Narragansett Bay. Charter fishing is available at the Dutch Harbor Boat Yard.




Directions for a Distant View:

Best views of the lighthouse are from the water. To get a partial view the lighthouse from the street:


Local Boat Tours

Boat cruises mentioned below offer many types of cruises, including specific lighthouse cruises.


Rhode Island Bay Cruises
Offers weekly lighthouse tours in season. Their narrated cruise covers 10 Rhode Island Lighthouses in Narragansett Bay along with a complete Newport Harbor Tour.

347 Roger Williams Way
North Kingstown, RI 02852
(401) 295-4040


Save the Bay Tours
Special organization for lighthouse and coastal preservation provides Ultimate Lighthouse Tour, Northern and Southern Bay Lighthouse Tours on specific days during the summer.
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 and tours.

Look inside!

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