100 Lighthouse Rd, Scituate, MA 02066, USA
Owned By: Scituate Historical Society
Also known as Old Scituate Light, this c. 1810 structure was the 11th lighthouse built in the United States. Small plaques posted at various points on site offer tidbits of the property’s history. Outdoor visitors are welcome year-round on the lighthouse grounds as well as the stone breakwater/jetty that extends behind the lighthouse into Scituate Harbor. Occasional tours are available from the Scituate Historical Society.
Notes: The keeper’s house is a private residence. The lighthouse is currently (2024) undergoing renovations.
Long before the arrival of European settlers, Scituate was inhabited by members of the Massachusett (Massachuseuk) tribe, who maintained villages on the eastern shore of the Gulf River, as well as in Scituate Harbor. To learn more about local Native American tribes, we encourage you to interact with their members. The Mattakeeset band of the Massachusett, and the Massachusett tribe at Ponkapoag, both share information on their websites.
According to the Scituate Historical Society, the original Scituate Lighthouse — a 25-foot tower composed of split granite blocks — was constructed at Cedar Point in 1810. It was activated in 1811, with a fixed white light
By the early 1800s, Scituate’s fishing industry was robust. While small, its harbor was sheltered and inviting, with Cedar Point to the north and First Cliff to the south. However, entering the harbor could be difficult, due to mud flats and shallow water. Citizens successfully petitioned the government for a lighthouse. The United States Congress provided $4,000 in funding, and a crew of workers from Hingham was hired to construct it.
The first lighthouse keeper was Captain Simeon Bates. He and his wife, Rachel, and their 9 children lived in the 1.5-story house attached to the lighthouse. During the War of 1812, Abigail and Rebecca Bates, daughters of Simeon, prevented the British from attacking the town by hiding behind a thick cluster of cedar trees and playing the fife and drum. Local lore explains how they produced enough sound to trick the British into thinking an entire regiment was lying in wait. The sisters have gone down in history as “The Army of Two.” A plaque in the family’s honor is posted on site.
By 1827, the government added 15 feet to the height of the lighthouse, placing mortared red bricks on top of the granite blocks. Mariners had complained that the distance from which they could see Scituate Light was not far enough away for them to make proper heading adjustments. While the lantern remained a fixed white light, a red light was added to the lower windows; the intention was to differentiate this lighthouse from Boston Light a few miles away.
The lighthouse was removed from service in 1850, due to the construction of Minot’s Ledge Light, to the north near today’s Minot Beach. It was put back into service two years later, after a storm destroyed the first light at Minot. A new Fresnel lens was installed in 1855. After a new tower was constructed at Minot’s Ledge, the Scituate Lighthouse was deactivated in 1860, with its lantern room removed. Between 1885 and 1890, the federal government built a 630-foot breakwater at Cedar Point to further protect the harbor. A 450-foot extension was added later.
In the decades that followed, the lighthouse fell into disrepair. It was put up for sale by the federal government in 1916, and purchased by the Town of Scituate (with help from private donors) in 1917 for $4000, saving it from public auction. A new replica lantern was added in 1930. This was a significant expense during the Great Depression, but according to the Scituate Historical Society, it was justified by the town because “a community is judged by the condition of its public buildings; therefore the lighthouse should be well kept and in pleasing looking condition.”
In the decades that followed, the structure once again fell into disrepair. In 1962, the Scituate Historical Society appropriated $6500 to repair it. In 1968, the town granted custody and administration of the lighthouse to the Scituate Historical Society.
In 1988, the Scituate Lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1991, the lighthouse was relit. At first, the light was only visible from land, however in 1994, it was made visible from sea as a private aid to navigation. The white light can now be seen from 4 miles away. Funds from the Community Preservation Act help to maintain the safety and structural integrity of the lighthouse and cottage.
Also of note is a shipwreck that occurred nearby during a blizzard on March 16, 1956. The Italian freighter, Etrusco ran aground; its crew was rescued by the Coast Guard, using a breeches buoy. The ship remained in place until the end of the year. It was eventually removed at high tide, after the rocks surrounding it were blasted away. A plaque on site commemorates the event.
Click here for a full list of Scituate Lighthouse keepers, as well as several historical photographs.
Sources: Scituate Historical Society; New England Lighthouses: A Virtual Guide.
To read more about the Scituate Lighthouse and see live video footage, visit the Lighthouse Keeper’s blog.
No dedicated trails, but the neighborhood itself is a pleasant, easy walk on pavement. Also, the more adventuresome can walk on the stone jetty (breakwater) behind the lighthouse, which extends into the ocean, providing safer passage for boats coming into and out of Scituate Harbor.
Habitats and Wildlife
This lighthouse is located on the Atlantic Ocean, at the entrance to Scituate Harbor.
Historic Site: Yes
Boat Launch: No
Hours: Dawn to Dusk.
Parking: Limited on-site parking at 100 Lighthouse Road.
Trail Difficulty: Easy, Medium
Benches, trash receptacles, informational plaques and kiosks. Interior is not open to the public.
Dogs: Dogs must remain on leash. Scoop the poop!
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: Yes
Scenic Views: Yes
Waterbody/Watershed: Scituate Harbor/Atlantic Ocean