The handsome Castle Hill Lighthouse is built right into a cliff face, and almost appears as a natural feature of the landscape. It is believed the design was by the influential architect Henry Hobson Richardson. The granite tower stands thirty-four feet tall and in former times featured a 1,300-pound fog bell. The keeper’s house had six rooms and an attached kitchen, and was set back about a quarter mile from the tower in Castle Hill Cove. Some sources claim the dwelling was destroyed in the hurricane of September, 1938, but it is actually still in place, though slightly modified.
The first keeper at Castle Hill was a Connecticut native named Frank W. Parmele, who was transferred from the Saybrook Breakwater Light. Parmele took a drop in wages with the move, going from $540 to $520 per year, but presumably that was offset by the huge convenience of being on duty at a land-based station.
The original beacon was a kerosene-powered fifth-order Fresnel lens, and in 1899 a set of new model fifth-order lamps were given to the keeper. That same year, the upper half of the station was repainted from gray to white. The lens was replaced with a modern 300-mm plastic lens when the station was automated in 1957.
Castle Hill Lighthouse is a solidly built structure, and has needed little more than routine care and maintenance over the years. The original wooden stairs were replaced by concrete steps in 1992. The Castle Hill Light remains an important active aid to navigation, showing a flashing red light every thirty seconds. It has been used countless times as a beginning and ending point for the famous yacht races taking place in Newport.
Although the lighthouse itself is not open to the public, the grounds are easily accessible by footpaths in the area. If you can afford it, you can stay nearby at the Inn at Castle Hill, which was formerly the cottage/laboratory of Alexander Agassiz. The lighthouse is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Travel Directions: From Newport, take Thames Street south along the harbor and then turn right onto Wellington Avenue. At the first stop sign, turn right onto Harrison Avenue and then turn right at the next stop sign to remain on Harrison Avenue. When the road forks, bear right onto Ridge Road. After going past the Coast Guard Station the road turns sharply to the right and becomes Castle Hill Avenue, and then turns sharply to the left and becomes Ocean Avenue. From Ocean Avenue, make a quick right onto Castle Hill Road, which leads to the Castle Hill Inn and Resort. Public parking is available at Castle Hill Cove Marina, located on your right before the inn. A trail leads west to the lighthouse from the parking area.
- Was this helpful? 1