To The Lighthouse: The Crazy, Cool Story Of RI's Pomham Rocks
A few weeks ago, I was eating a late lunch at Pazi's Place (a retro 50's and 60's diner in EP that if you haven't tried, you must and soon) and stumbled upon an interesting narrative about the Pomham Rocks Lighthouse, which I'd never ever heard of until that day. (Am I the only one who's daydreamed at some point about living in a lighthouse? I don't think so! Never gotten around to learning how to swim though, which might be a problem.) Thinking I could get a clear view of it from somewhere nearby, I set the Maps App on my phone and proceeded to drive around EP/Riverside for about a half hour, finally ending up at East Providence Water. I could see the lighthouse off in the distance, but figured the peeps at the plant wouldn't be too keen on my roaming around the grounds, trying to snap pix with my I-Phone camera. (The photo above is courtesy of a professional photographer - Nothing but the best for readers of PattyJ.com!) So, my attempt to get photos, or get anywhere near this landmark, failed, but that didn't stop me. From there, I emailed the gentleman who wrote the piece I'd read that afternoon in the diner [Note: Don't listen to some of the peeps at my previous job - I am so very results oriented and resourceful.] and he gave me the green light to go ahead and share it with you. And, ta dah, here it is:
The area around Pomham Rocks has been annoying and harassing ships ever since ships ventured into that part of Narragansett Bay. Difficult to see in the fog or at low tide, they have claimed many a victim. So, way back in 1828, a simple tower was put up to warn ships. This proved to be inadequate, so, in 1871, the Pomham Rocks Lighthouse was built. The actual name of the lighthouse and rocks is probably in honor of a Narragansett sachem who died in King Philip's War. (Lots of history and very old names around here.)
Many lighthouses look similar and have the same design, but the Pomham is a unique one that is more of a house than a light. In fact, at one time, it had a piano and people would stand on the shore, 800 feet away, and listen to the music played by the talented 'keeper'. [Note: That keeper's daughter, Marjorie, also had emergency surgery, to remove her appendix, at the lighthouse because she was too sick to travel ashore.] The half acre island also had a fine garden and and several dogs and cats living there. (Quite a comfy place!) One of the cats, named Tommy, actually became famous for his fishing skills. Legend has it that he would sit on the rocks near the water and when an unsuspecting fish would go by, Tommy would grab and drag it to shore.
The light was active until 1974 when it was replaced by a modular tower. After that, it just sort of sat neglected, like a lot of other lighthouses. Finally, in 1980, it was purchased by Mobil Oil. Hard to believe that a big oil company would give a flying crap about a lighthouse, but apparently, someone in the company did. [Note: Mobil, now Exxon Mobil, then turned around and leased it to out The American Lighthouse Foundation, which via it's local outlet, The Friends of Pomham Lighthouse, has overseen the subsequent restoration.] In 2006, the light was restored and relit. Hard to believe I would say something positive about a big oil company, but Mobil does deserve a big pat on the back for this.
The light can now be seen from the East Bay Bike Path or the Stone Gate Apartments on Rt. 103. Of course, kayaking out to the light would be the best view, but you absolutely cannot go on the island. (This is a unique light with tons of cool history!) Maybe someday it will be opened to the public and fools like me that dream about visiting old lighthouses?
*Reprinted here with permission from local RI author Brian S.
**Additional info courtesy of LighthouseFriends.com
Ciao For Now,
Photo Credits: Photo by kickstand/iStock /Getty Images