race point lighthouse

12 Things You Didn’t Know About the Race Point Lighthouse

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This blog was originally published in 2015; we have since updated it to reflect the most current and accurate information possible. 

Lighthouses are some of the most iconic features along the New England coast.

There are 14 in Cape Cod alone, and most of them are still operational and open for tours!

Riding around the Cape and touring these amazing pieces of history are an excellent way to spend a weekend day, day off or special trip with friends and family.

Now that we’re veering into warmer weather, it’s a good idea to plan your visit while the days are long.

When you head out to one of these majestic coastal features, take some time to learn about the history of each.

Learn About Race Point Lighthouse

Let’s start off with a bit of a history lesson on the northernmost lighthouse on the Cape: the Race Point Light.

1. Built of “rubblestone”, the Race Point Lighthouse was lit for the first time on November 5th in 1816

2. The light was initially set a mere 25 feet above sea level, but that has since changed over the years.

3. To set the Race Point Lighthouse apart from the other lighthouses on the Cape, the Race Point Light was fitted with a revolving light, one of the earliest of its kind.

4. The lighthouse was added to and improved upon throughout the years, the first of which was the Keeper’s House that was built in 1840.

5. Over the next few decades a fog bell was installed (1852) and a fourth order Fresnel lens was installed (1855).

6. After advancements were made with steam-driven technologies, the original fog bell was replaced with a new fog signal in a new building in 1873.

7. A lot of changes the Race Point Lighthouse were made during 1876. A new Keeper’s house was built and the original stone lighthouse tower was replaced with a 45-foot cast-iron, brick-lined tower. The original Keeper’s dwelling was torn down and a new one built in its place. The following year, in 1877, a water cistern was added.

8. Although there were only two Keeper’s houses, three different Keepers and their families lived on the property. Their children were forced to walk three miles on the sand to get to school until a Keeper named James Hinckley retrofitted a Ford into a dune buggy, shortening the trip to just 30 minutes.

9. It wasn’t until 1957 that the Race Point Light was fitted with electricity and the light itself wasn’t automated until 1972.

10. In 1960, one of the Keeper’s houses was torn down while the other was remodeled and given modern features.

11. In true homage to the advancements of technology, the Race Point Lighthouse was converted to solar power in 1994. After being boarded up for 20 years, the Keeper’s house was modified to be solar powered as well in 2003. A wind turbine was later added in 2007, making the Race Point Lighthouse an excellent beacon to self-sufficiency.

12. The Coast Guard abandoned the lighthouse, but it was later leased to the New England Lighthouse Foundation in 1995. They’ve since brought in different companies and craftsmen in to remodel and renovate everything from the doors and floors to the roof and chimney. Once the renovations were completed, they opened the remaining four-bedroom Keeper’s house to the public for overnight stays.

For those that are looking to visit, tour, and stay at the Race Point Lighthouse, make sure you’re prepared for a two mile walk over the soft sand of Race Point Beach.

However, if you’re lucky enough to own a 4WD, you can register for a permit to drive on the beach at the Coast Guard Station.

Hopefully we’ve provided you with just enough history to motivate you to consider an overnight stay at the Race Point Lighthouse this holiday season!

Photo Credit: m01229

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Tim Kelly