Nestled into Bristol Township in the state of Rhode Island, Bristol Ferry Lighthouse is situated underneath the Mount Hope River Bridge. The bridge was created in the late 1920s and opened in 1930, rendering Bristol Ferry Lighthouse useless. Although the lighthouse has been retired from use since the bridge’s opening, it still stands as a historic landmark and serves as a way for many to look into Rhode Island’s past.
lighthouse bristol ferry, 2
There lies a passage of water separating Narragansett Bay and Mount Hope Bay. Although the Mount Hope River Bridge connects the two shores today, this wasn’t always the case. Before the bridge’s or the lighthouse’s construction, this area of water was dreaded by seamen. This area was very dangerous to sail over, especially during storms, due to the shoals (sand bars, shallow waters) on the sea floor. Determined to better the area for fellow seamen, Rhode Island’s captain William Brown wrote a letter to Congress asking for a grant to finance to construction of a lighthouse for danger-filled area. In response in 1854, Congress awarded $1,500 to the building of the Bristol Ferry Lighthouse.
Apart from the lighthouse’s tower which stands 28 feet tall, there is also a house for the person who maintained the lighthouse. This building, known as a ‘keeper’s house’, as well as the tower itself, are made of brick. The house portion of the building contains seven rooms, including a sitting room, dining room, and three bedrooms on the second level. The stairs leading to the top of the tower are located within the ‘keeper’s house’ off the front hallway. The tower is square shaped and has a wooden deck running around it’s top allowing the keeper to circle it completely. The light first used in the tower was powered by whale blubber.
The man who first ran Bristol Ferry Lighthouse was the very same man who had owned the land underneath it before its creation. George Pearse sold the piece of land to the government for $100 after they issued the grant. Soon, however, a man named Henry Dimon took over the job. He died shortly after, leaving his wife to tend to the lighthouse. She, too, died only months after her husband had passed.
The small area of rocky land surrounding Bristol Ferry Lighthouse flooded often, especially during storms, causing the ground floor of the home to become partially submerged. Plans were made to raise the floor higher and to add better water drainage to the area, but nothing was done. Soon the construction of the Mount Hope River Bridge began and the lighthouse closed up forever. The Rhode Island Bristol Ferry Lighthouse building remains a historic landmark.