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Brant Point, MA - $4.95

America's second-oldest lighthouse (after Boston) owes its existence to a town meeting held on Nantucket Island in 1846. Tired of seeing their whaling ships miss the Nantucket Harbor and pile up on nearby beaches, the island folk approved spending two hundred English pounds to construct a small wooden light tower.

Brant Point Lighthouse on Nantucket Island, MA

BOSTON HARBOR LIGHTHOUSE America's second-oldest lighthouse (after Boston) owes its existence to a town meeting held on Nantucket Island in 1846. Tired of seeing their whaling ships miss the Nantucket Harbor and pile up on nearby beaches, the island folk approved spending two hundred English pounds to construct a small wooden light tower. The little lighthouse burned to the ground several times during its more than 250 years of service, but it was always rebuilt. Shining from a height of only twenty-six feet above the water, its occulting red light has a range of about ten miles.

This lighthouse has been reproduced and is on exhibit at the Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic, Connecticut

 

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Brant Point Lighthouse, Nantucket, MA (and Mystic Seaport Museum)Brant Point Lighthouse instr

The Brant Point light at the entrance to Nantucket Harbor survived the Revolution, but not for long. In 1783 it burned, and the local people erected a fourth light that same year. Cheaply made and simply erected, this light became known to mariners as a "bug" light because of the dimness and smallness of its beam. Unsatisfactory, the 'bug' light was replaced by a stronger one in 1786. This light survived two years, when a storm blew it down. Some time between 1788 and 1795, when Massachusetts turned the Brant Point light over to the central government, a more substantial structure rose up on the point. This building resisted the blows of Nantucket for thirty or more years, but by 1825 it had become unsafe, and the government condemned it. This time the fifth auditor erected a frame tower on top of a dwelling. Completed in 1826, this tower lasted for thirty years. In 1837, an inspector found that the light consisted of eight lamps with twelve-and-a-half-inch reflectors. Its light was poor, and no wonder: the interior of the lantern was smoked, as were the chimneys, and the reflectors were black and spotted.

By the time the Lighthouse Board arrived on the scene the structure had deteriorated badly, and in 1853 the district engineer felt the lighthouse was beyond repair and recommended rebuilding it. Completed and lighted on December 10, 1856, the new tower, located on the west side of the entrance to Nantucket Harbor, was constructed of brick and stood forty-seven feet above the ground. It was equipped with a fourth-order lens.

During the last half of the nineteenth century the channel into Nantucket Harbor shifted, thereby reducing the effectiveness to vessels of the Brant Point light. A temporary light was installed at the extremity of Brant Point in 1900 while a new cylindrical, wooden tower was built nearby. Lighted on January 31, 1901, this tower has survived to the present, and is the lowest lighthouse in New England; the focal plane of the light is but twenty six feet above sea level. The old brick tower was left standing and was there at least as late as 1945.

Much more impressive, although not necessarily as historic, are the lighthouses at Great Neck, on Nantucket's northernmost point, and Sankaty Head, near the village of Siasconset. The aero-marine beacon atop the 1850 Sankaty Head Light tower is visible up to twenty-four miles at sea. The Great Point Light station dates back to 1748, but the existing rubble-stone tower was built in 1818. Its third-order Fresnel lens is still in use, flashing white and red twelve times a minute.