Crazy, Cool Stories About This Under The Radar Rhody Landmark
It all started with a late lunch at a retro diner and 3 (maybe 4) cups of coffee. While scrolling my phone, I stumbled across an interesting narrative about the Pomham Rocks Lighthouse, which I'd never even heard of until that day but happened to be in the vicinity. (Am I the only one who's daydreamed at some point about living in a lighthouse? Don't think so. I've never gotten around to learning how to swim either though, so that might be a prob.)
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 Riverside in East Providnce for about a half hour or so, finally ending up at EP Water. I could see the lighthouse (the last of what was once 5 Lights on the Providence River) off in the distance, but figured the ppl at the plant wouldn't be too keen on my roaming around the grounds, trying to snap pics with my I-Phone. The photo above is courtesy of a professional photographer, nothing but the best for PattyJ.com readers!
So, my attempts to get photos, or get anywhere near it, failed, but that didn't stop me. From there, I emailed the gentleman (We'll call him Brian S.) who'd written the piece I'd read that afternoon in the diner and he gave me the green light to go ahead & share it with you. So, without any further adieu:
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. [Patty J 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. Doesn't sound pleasant!] 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. [Patty J: The stories about Tommy, the cat who fished, were featured in several national newspapers at the time.]
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. [Patty J: 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.
Update: An extensive interior renovation of the Lighthouse, costing more than $325,000, and courtesy of the Abcore Restoration Company, is scheduled to begin this month. When the project is completed (They're saying January 2018 at the latest.), there will be a museum space that (I imagine) will be open to the public. See Brian, dreams do come true!
Reprinted here with permission from local RI author Brian S. Additional info courtesy of LighthouseFriends.com
Photo Credits: Photo Of Ponham Rocks Light by kickstand/iStock /Getty Images and used with permission
**Revised and updated from the original version, published on the blog during the winter of 2016.**