Digest>Archives> October 1995

Doomsday List-Clark's Point Light

By Edward Camara, Jr.


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Second light at Clark's Point, located atop old ...

The original lighthouse at Clark's Point in New Bedford, Massachussetts was built on a small parcel of land sold by the city in 1800. The 42 foot stone tower was completed in 1804 and served for almost 70 years as a beacon to ships entering the harbor. During the Civil War and after its conclusion, a large 7-sided granite fortress was constructed at the same location as the light. Ironocally, the design of the fort was in part those of a Seargant Robert E. Lee. As the walls of the fort grew higher than the light itself, it was decided to move the lantern room and the lighthouse keepers quarters to the top of the North End of the fort. The light in its new location, began operating on June 15, 1869.

Special considerations wre made in the construction of the new light that would eliminate potential damage from vibrations of giant Rodman cannons located immmediately below. Cushioning mechanisms for the lantern house and delicate lamp and lens were installed, but never tested, as the cannons remained forever silent.

In 1889, Butler's Flat Light at the entrance to the New Bedford Harbor was completed and began service, eliminating the need for a redundant Clark's Point Light and went dark in the summer of that year. In the many years since that time, Old Fort Taber (named for Isaac Taber, an early mayor of the city) was never really used and had its name changed to Fort Rodman at the start of the Spanish American War. While additional bunkers and armaments were placed on either side of the fort, the granite structure and old light remained locked and abandoned.

As might be expected from a site so inviting in its isolation, the old fort and light became a gathering spot for vandals who practically destroyed the entire lighthouse structure, even after its restoration in the early 1970's. Currently, the entire land complex of what was once Fort Rodman, with all its parade fields, barrack and training buildings from World War I and II are being transformed. A multi-million dollar state of the art wastewater treatment facility is being built on the site. It will be invisible to the public due to the embankments of earth, heavily planted with thousands of trees and shrubs that will hide all the structures. Even large sludge tanks inside a building, eliminating any possible odor coming from the site.

A 12 foot wide bicycle/walking path has already been constructed around the perimeter of the point and the plans call for the eventual restoration of the fort including the elimination of all graffiti and restoration of the fort including the lighthouse. The stairwells, hand rails and granite block are all in fine condition. It is obvious that a serious effort should be made to again restore the keeper's quarters and lantern room. Additionally, the lands around the fort will be converted to a giant lawn for public use and recreation.

Work is still progressing on the waste-treatment facility and the site is not open to the general public at this time. The granite fort is securely locked and access is not available for inspection. For information, contact the New Bedford Office of Tourism, Wharfinger Building, Pier #3, New Bedford, MA 02740.

This story appeared in the October 1995 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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