The historic Nobska Point Lighthouse in Woods Hole Massachusetts, one of Cape Cod’s most photogenic light stations, will now be under the control of a new nonprofit: the Friends of Nobska Light.
When the Coast Guard announced in 2014 that they wanted to excess Nobska Point Lighthouse under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, the local community immediately stepped forward to agree that the lighthouse should remain under local control.
Although the lighthouse has been automated since 1985, Coast Guard personnel continued to live in the keeper’s house, and in past years it served as housing for the commander of the Woods Hole Coast Guard Station. Members of the local Coast Guard Auxiliary adopted the lighthouse and have periodically held open house tours of the tower.
Because there might be environmental issues that the Coast Guard would be liable for, it was then decided that the Coast Guard would not excess the lighthouse but would instead grant a license to a qualified nonprofit or other government agency to restore and maintain the historic structures, but the Coast Guard would still maintain ownership.
Representatives of four nonprofit organizations - the Woods Hole Community Association, the Falmouth Historical Society, the Woods Hole Historical Museum, and Historic Highfield - met to map out a plan. It was quickly agreed that a consortium of the nonprofits would be the most competent entity to manage, fundraise, and operate the lighthouse, but that the license should be held by the Town of Falmouth with a new nonprofit acting as the town’s agent. The town agreed and a letter of interest was submitted to the Coast Guard. Then a team of town officials and the nonprofits met and carefully constructed a comprehensive plan that was approved by the communities’ elected officials, and the new 501c3 nonprofit, The Friends of Nobska Light, was created. Brian Nickerson was elected as the new group’s first president.
The U.S. Coast Guard then approved the master plan, saying that it was one of the best and most complete it had ever received. Although at press time the actual license was yet to be officially signed, The Friends of Nobska Light was moving forward in their fundraising efforts, which may have to be substantial. In 2014 the Coast Guard estimated that $550,000 was needed to make repairs to the keeper’s house. However, nonprofit groups often have a certain knack for bringing restoration costs down, oftentimes through labor and time donations.
The Nobska Point Light Station was established in 1829 with the spelling being Nobsque Point, to which it is still sometimes referred. The current tower was built in 1876 to replace a lantern that protruded from the roof of the keeper’s house. The light station also had a fog bell with several different bell housing structures that were used over the years. The fog bell was eventually changed to an automated horn with two blasts every 30 seconds. A 4th order Fresnel lens was installed in the tower in 1888 and is still in use.
In 2001 the first ever Coast Guard Change of Command Ceremony to take place at Nobska Point Lighthouse occurred when Capt. James F. Murray took command of Coast Guard Group Woods Hole from Commander Russell Webster, who had lived at Nobska Point Lighthouse since 1998.
In 2013 the Friends of the Flying Santa held a ceremony to place a plaque inside the Nobska Lighthouse tower to honor World War II aviator Albert S. Aucoin, who was the long-time pilot to Edward Rowe Snow the longest and most notable Flying Santa to the lighthouse keepers of yesteryear.
Nobska Point Lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the few New England lighthouses to still have small brass lighthouses on the finials of the railing on the outer walkway that goes around the lantern. There is a small free parking area by the lighthouse and the grounds have always been open to the public.
If you would like to become a volunteer or learn more, go to www.FriendsofNobska.org or write to them at Friends of Nobska Lighthouse, Box 183, Falmouth, MA 02541-0183.
This story appeared in the
Jan/Feb 2016 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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