Scituate Lighthouse

Saturday, April 11, 2020

To me, summertime always meant trips to the beach. While I preferred Tobay, a town beach on the barrier island of Jones Beach, my father often chose to drove to one of the rocky beaches on the north shore of Long Island. That would frequently include a stop to buy clams on the way home, which we’d eat “on the half shell” while waiting for dinner.

But it was always the large waves of the Atlantic Ocean that attracted me, pounding the coastline, the water rushing in and then pulling back endlessly. The rhythmic pulse of the surf has always relaxed me, made me feel calm, no matter what personal storms raged within me. So it was only natural that I developed an affinity for lighthouses as well.

When I moved to the south shore of Boston, Boston Light was frequently in view. This tall, white spire can be seen for miles just off the coast of Hull, Massachusetts. It’s the oldest lighthouse in America, originally built in 1716. The current lighthouse was built 1783 to replace the old one. You can take a tour during the summer, which I did at least once.

But the lighthouse that captured my imagination was Scituate Light, built on the coast of a small town south of Boston. A latecomer when compared to Boston Light, this smaller structure was built it 1811, just in time to play a part in the War of 1812.

Lighthouses aren’t needed as much with modern charts and navigation aids, and many have been auctioned off to private parties who, like me, are fascinated with their history and operation. The Town of Scituate saved Scituate Light from this fate, purchasing it from the U.S. Government in 1916. In 1968, the town awarded custody and administration to the Scituate Historical Society.

What’s fascinating about Scituate Light is the attached keeper’s cottage. In the adjoining picture, you can see the long structure that attaches the cottage to the entrance to the lighthouse, sheltering the lighthouse keeper from severe weather on his way to and from maintaining the light. Along this hallway are a series of pictures illustrating the history of the lighthouse and its various keepers.

When I learned that the historical society rented out the cottage, I was intrigued by the idea of what it would be like to live there. Designed to be utilitarian, it’s still charming, with the feel of what it must have been like in earlier days. Yes, I’ve been inside it. Several times a year, the historical society runs tours of the property. One of the conditions of the lease is that the current renter must make the cottage available for these tours.

For years, I thought about a mystery series where the detective would live in this cottage. He’d be a recluse, of course, and there wouldn’t be any tours. He’d be wealthy from some mysterious source, have a particular talent, and be sought out to solve crimes. I never figured out what that talent was. Sometimes I’d think he would be a cyber-sleuth. Other times, he would be similar to Sherlock Holmes.

I never did get around to writing that mystery, but if you’ve read Unsafe Harbor, you might recognize the description of Scituate Light as being very much like the Shipwreck Point lighthouse where the murder takes place. I’ve moved it to my fictional town, and of course, it’s 1894, so no cyber-sleuth could live there. But I love that I’ve finally used that wonderful location in a book.

Top photo by Timothy Valentine copyright 2016
Small photo by Theresa O’Connor copyright 2012

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