Historical Dates

1797 - In Truro, the government built Highland Light or Cape Cod Light, a single light tower with a stationary beam shining out to sea.

1808 - In Chatham, the government built Chatham Light with two light towers, each with a stationary beam shining out to sea.

1838 - In Eastham, shipwrecks continued, and citizens petitioned the government for a lighthouse. Three 15-foot tall brick towers were built near what is now known as Nauset Light Beach, 150 feet apart, with Winslow Lewis stationary lamps shining out to sea. Mariners could identify it as Nauset Light because of the number of lights they saw. This is the only place in the country where three light towers were built in one location. Painted white, with black tops, the Eastham lighthouses were nicknamed the “Three Sisters,” because it was said that looking shoreward from at sea, they looked like three ladies in white dresses wearing black hats.

1838 - The first Keeper’s House was built.

1858 - The original lamps were replaced by 6th order Fresnel lenses with “Valve Lamps.”

1873 - The Three Sisters’ 6th order Fresnel lenses were replaced by 4th order lenses.

1875 - The second Keeper’s house was built; it is still present at the lighthouse site.

1877 - The two original Chatham light towers were replaced with twin cast iron, brick-lined towers, 48 feet tall, weighing 90 to 100 tons.

1892 - Erosion caused the original Three Sisters brick towers to be replaced with three movable wooden towers, 22 feet tall, painted white with black tops, and placed thirty feet from the cliff. The lights and lanterns were transferred from the old towers and were 97 feet above mean high water. A new Oil House was also built that year; it is still present at the lighthouse site.

1911 - The center tower of the Three Sisters was selected to be fitted with a revolving Fresnel lens, with a triple flash sequence: 3 flashes every 10 seconds. A clock-work mechanism rotated the light. the tower became known as “The Beacon.” Chatham light also received a rotating Fresnel lens, installed in the South Tower. The North tower became surplus and was left in place.

1918 - The two end towers of the former Three Sisters were sold for $3.50 to Mrs. Helen M. Cummings for use as a summer home, which she located on Cable Road, and a one-story addition was built to connect them. Later, this structure was used as living space for a New York City ballet school.

1923 - The surplus North Tower in Chatham was dismantled and moved to Eastham to replace the last wooden tower. This iron tower was located more than 200 feet from the cliff. A 20,000 candle-power kerosene lamp was installed within the existing 4th oder Fresnel lens.

1924 - Albert and Mary Hall of Eastham bought the last wooden tower (“The Beacon”) at public auction and attached it to a summer cottage. The tower retained its lantern room.

1940 - The top half of the iron Nauset Light tower was repainted red as a day mark.

1952 - Electricity was brought to Nauset Light Station, and the lighthouse was automated with an electric lamp and mercury float pedestal. A keeper was no longer needed, and the Keeper’s house was sold to a Boston judge, William Shaw McCallum, who in turn sold it to Col. Lucian A. Rowell, USAF, in 1957. In 1982, Miriam Rowell sold it to Mary Daubenspeck van Roden.

1965 - The National Park Service purchased two of the three of the old wooden towers for the use of the Cape Cod National Seashore. The third tower was purchased in 1983.

1981 - Nauset Light’s 4th order Fresnel lens was replaced by two rotating aero beacons. The light signal was changed from three white flashes to one red flash and one white flash, with a five-second interval between them. The light is 114 feet above mean high water and is visible for 17 miles. The Fresnel lens that was removed can now be seen on display at the Salt Pond Visitor Center Museum.

1988 - The Cape Cod National Seashore restored the Three Sisters in their original configuration and located them in a park off Cable Road just west of Nauset Light.

1993 - Now about 50 feet from the cliff, the Nauset Lighthouse had to be moved soon or be lost. Since there was no money available to move it, the Coast Guard declared Nauset Lighthouse to be surplus and to be darkened. They planned to dismantle and remove the lighthouse.

11/10/1993 - The Nauset Light Preservation Society was established to raise funds to move the lighthouse.

1995 - The U.S. Coast Guard granted an operation and maintenance lease to the Nauset Light Preservation Society. In addition to funds raised by the Society, the U.S. Department of Transportation provided a grant of $300,000 for the move.

10/12/1996 - A groundbreaking ceremony was held to initiate the move of the tower to the new lighthouse site, which had been provided by the National Park Service. The new site was located about 300 feet southwest of the tower.

11/15-16/1996 - International Chimney of Buffalo, NY, assisted by Expert House Movers of Maryland, moved the lighthouse across the street to its new home as a cost of $330,000. The Oil House was also moved to its new location near the lighthouse, in the same orientation as on the original site.

5/10/1997 - A relighting ceremony was held, and ownership of the light was transferred from the U.S. Coast Guard to the National Park Service. The National Park Service gave the Nauset Light Preservation Society a partnership agreement to operate and maintain the light as a “private aid to navigation,” and the tower was opened to the public for tours from mid-May through October.

10/27/1998 - Because it too was in danger of being lost to erosion of the cliff, the U.S. Department of Transportation made a second grant to pay for the move of the Keeper’s house, after the owner agreed to donate the house to the National Park Service in exchange for the right to use it as a private residence for 25 years. It will remain in private hands until 2024.