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Monday, May 31, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 49: Narragansett, RI

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In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 49: Narragansett, RI
May 13, 2010

            There is something about a beautiful drive along the coast that makes a perfect trip.  To accomplish this all one has to do is find the nearest ocean and go.  However, there are a few places that I have been to thus far that take the ‘drive along the coast’ and turn it into a breathtaking scene that I hoped would never end.  Narragansett, Rhode Island is one such place.  Anybody who has been there knows just what I am talking about, but for those who may have never experienced it I will try my best to do this incredible coastal wonderland justice.
            The Narragansett name itself comes from the tribe of Native Americans which lived on the land when it was first settled by Europeans in 1635.  Their name translated means ‘people at/of the small, narrow point.’  The Narragansett tribe absorbed members from other tribes during King Philip’s War to keep a Native American identity and they are still a recognized tribe to this day with some 2,400 members.
            Although not the official entrance into Narragansett, Ocean Road is definitely the place to begin any trip here.  The Towers(left) is the most famous landmark in Narragansett and it acts as a gateway into the historic district of the town.  What remains of the old Narragansett Pier Casino makes up The Towers; it is a beautiful archway stretching over the road.  The Casino was the center of social life during the late 19th century in Narragansett and rivaled the popularity of Newport’s Casino until it burned down in 1900.  
Built in 1883 the Narragansett Pier Casino burned during the Great Fire of 1900 in which the neighboring Rockingham Hotel burned and quickly caught the Casino on fire.  All that remained was the granite structure that made up The Towers.  It is an amazing site; there is a beautiful fountain just to the right as you approach the archway.  On the left as you approach is the ocean and the very popular Narragansett Beach.  It was filled with surfers on this day as is the norm; I had to make it a point to stop and watch since I have no talent for surfing as it is.  I spent a while just enjoying the scenery in the area surrounding The Towers but there is much more to see in Narragansett.
The Ocean Road Historic District is filled with incredible homes dating back more than a hundred years including the Dunmere house.  Built in 1883 this home sits on three and a half acres and has an amazing view of the Atlantic Ocean.  There are remnants of a fishing pier where the original owner, Robert Graham Dun, entertained the likes of the Vanderbilt family and President Grover Cleveland.
Running parallel to Ocean Road for a bit is Gibson Avenue, these two roads help to create a border of the Earlescourt Historic District.  Gibson Avenue features the Druidsdream house.  Built in 1884 for Joseph Peace Hazard who named it Druidsdream due to his interest in the druids which are adherents of an ancient Celtic religion the home currently is maintained as a bed and breakfast.  It is also open periodically for tours, by current owner Nancy Richards, of its eleven bedrooms and seven bathrooms as well as eleven fireplaces.  The Earlescourt Historic District, if you approach from the west, has a large stone tower standing guard as you drive down Earles Court.  Having Scargo Tower nearby I felt the need to stop and enjoy what many locals probably pass by without batting an eyelash.
Further down Ocean Road I found Scarborough State Beach(above) which to me seemed like a slice of California.  For one, it is about a mile long, running along the road.  It is separated into two sections, North and South; each has its own set of showers, a pavilion, seventy-five picnic tables, boardwalk, and an observation tower.  All of this makes this appear to be much more than an average beach.  The array of structures running along the sand were what made me feel as though I was on the West Coast rather than in Rhode Island; it was an unexpected surprise.
At the tip of Narragansett sits Point Judith and the lighthouse(right) of the same name.  It sits on the grounds of the local Coast Guard station but it is very easy to spot even from behind the chain link fence.  This lighthouse might be familiar to some folks as it is currently being featured in a Marines commercial which made it cool to see up close.
The current tower was built in 1857 and made of brownstone.  The actual Point Judith name origin is widely debated with some saying it was named for the mother-in-law of merchant John Hull while others say it was named for the Tribe of Judah in The Bible.  Ironically when first built the lighthouse did not do a good job in keeping vessels safe, in 1855 alone sixteen vessels were destroyed or stranded off of Point Judith.  The traffic passing Point Judith was greater than that entering New York Harbor into the early 20th century which is a truly remarkable fact.  Although I did not get to actually lay my hands on this piece of history it was enough for me to be within sight of it.  Point Judith Light was a highlight of my Narragansett trip but it was not my last stop.
I drove a little west to Galilee Port(left) where the Block Island Ferry departs.  The beach located on the east side of the port is fascinating for one big reason and that is the breakwater.  There is a breakwater on either side of the entrance to the port, but then more than a mile out to sea is a V-shaped breakwater which keeps the beach area very calm.  I could only stare out and wonder why and how it was created.  Along this shoreline sits the award-winning George’s of Galilee seafood restaurant.  It was hard to miss with its adorable fish logo both on its fa├žade and on the beach as well.
If my article has not yet tempted you to venture down to Narragansett I do not know what will.  This town is chock full of both historic places and beautiful seaside sights.  It may not have the same plethora of mansions like Newport but it has its share.  The Towers and Point Judith Light are reason enough to make the drive down to Narragansett.  I am definitely planning on paying this spot another visit and think everyone reading should do the same.  I cannot recommend Narragansett enough, it is spectacular.  Have fun and happy traveling!



To see a short video of my trip to Narragansett click here: YouTube - Narragansett, RI

My first book, In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, is now available at SchifferBooks.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Amazon.com, soon to be in stores everywhere!  Follow me on Twitter!

 
DirectionsThe Towers: From I-195 heading west take Exit 8A for Rt. 24.  Exit onto Rt. 114, turn right at Coddington Highway, continue onto JT O’Connell Rd., take 3rd exit at rotary for Admiral Kalbfus Rd.  Take Rt. 138 and cross the Newport Bridge and Jamestown Bridge.  Take Exit for Rt. 1A, keep right and follow signs for Narragansett.  Continue to Beach St., turn left at Ocean Rd.
Scarborough State Beach:  From I-195 heading west take Exit 8A for Rt. 24.  Exit onto Rt. 114, turn right at Coddington Highway, continue onto JT O’Connell Rd., take 3rd exit at rotary for Admiral Kalbfus Rd.  Take Rt. 138 and cross the Newport Bridge and Jamestown Bridge.  Take Exit for Rt. 1A, keep right and follow signs for Narragansett.  Continue to Beach St., turn left at Ocean Rd.  Follow Ocean Rd. just over 3 miles, make a U-turn to enter beach lot.
Point Judith Lighthouse:  From I-195 heading west take Exit 8A for Rt. 24.  Exit onto Rt. 114, turn right at Coddington Highway, continue onto JT O’Connell Rd., take 3rd exit at rotary for Admiral Kalbfus Rd.  Take Rt. 138 and cross the Newport Bridge and Jamestown Bridge.  Take Exit for Rt. 1A, keep right and follow signs for Narragansett.  Continue to Beach St., turn left at Ocean Rd.  Follow Ocean Rd. which becomes Rt. 108, follow it to the end, lighthouse is straight ahead but on private property.  
ReferencesGeorge's of Galilee
            The Towers, Narragansett
            Narragansett, RI - Official Site    

Thursday, May 27, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 48: South Kingstown, RI


In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 48: South Kingstown, RI
May 13, 2010

            Just across the Jamestown Verrazzano bridge sits a small town that seemed to have all of the comforts of home for me.  When driving around South Kingstown I got the feeling that I was on Cape Cod.  The only way I can explain it was that it was like seeing the most beautiful sections of Route 6A, but stretched out to encompass the entire town.  It ended up being the perfect rural area to enjoy on a warm sunny day.
            For being a small town that many may not have even heard of before South Kingstown is chock full of historical sites.  Chief among them is the site of the Great Swamp Fight during King Philip’s War in 1675.  This was a battle between the combined colonial militia and the Narragansett tribe of Native Americans.  The battle, a victory for the colonial militia, ended up being the crucial turning point which led to the defeat of the Narragansett tribe only a year later. 
Normally when I travel to a town my GPS system takes me to the ‘center’ of that town, normally the Town Hall.  For South Kingstown it was the same.  The Town Hall is usually a beautiful structure in a scenic area and it was here.  After getting my bearings I headed for the Old Washington County Jail, known today as the Pettaquamscutt Historical Society Museum(above).  Located on a small shady hill the first thing I noticed about this granite structure was its colors.  Besides the grey stone the building is trimmed in black and red, it is quite a sight.  The original jail was built in 1792 and closed in 1956, along the left side of the building sits a stone citing the former name of Kingston, RI as ‘Little Rest’ founded in 1792.  The museum contains many early-American artifacts donated by locals from their own personal ancestral collections.  The rear jail cells have been restored and are open to the public.
            A quick drive up the road is the Old Washington County Courthouse which looks more like a gothic cathedral than a courthouse.  It is no longer used for the judicial system, that takes place at the McGrath Judicial Complex on Tower Hill Road in the Wakefield section of South Kingstown.  The building is amazing and the surrounding grass holds many pieces of art which makes sense as the building now houses the Courthouse Center for the Arts at Historic Washington County Courthouse.  
            Although South Kingstown is a rural area it is made up of many small villages much like areas of Cape Cod.  Included as part of South Kingstown are the villages of Kingston, West Kingston, Wakefield, Peace Dale, Snug Harbor, Tuckertown, East Matunuck, Matunuck, and Green Hill; it can get a bit confusing to a first time visitor.
            There are many historic homes in South Kingstown that are neat to check out including the Cottrell House and Hale House.  Tops on my list after paying a visit is a place just called Red House(above, left).  Located on Post Road this historic home, built in 1732, is a beautiful shade of cranberry red.  As with many spots in this town it is in a very quiet area.  With only the sound of my idling car it made it easier to take in my surroundings.
            Another historic spot in a very quiet area is the Perry-Carpenter Grist Mill(right).  Built in 1703 by Samuel E. Perry the mill was originally located some 500 feet east of the current site on the south shore of Perry’s Mill Pond.  It was moved to its current location along Moonstone Beach Road in 1825 with a sluiceway dug to bring pond water to the mill to allow for the grinding of Rhode Island Whitecap Flint Corn.  The mill became known as Carpenter’s Grist Mill in 1874 when the Carpenter family became owners.  It is still in use today and its corn is used to make Carpenter’s Rhode Island Jonnycake Meal. 
            Matunuck Beach Road, located on the west side of the entrance of the Block Island Ferry, is filled with hundred year old homes, not to mention the beautiful string of beaches.   East Matunuck State Beach is located just to the east, easily accessible on Succotash Road.  South Kingstown Town Beach is located where Matunuck Beach Road reaches the shore.  I parked down at the Deep Hole fishing area(left) to allow me to take a walk along Matunuck Beach Road and enjoy the beautiful homes and sights.  This spot also has a great view of Point Judith Lighthouse located in nearby Narragansett.
            Much of the Matunuck village is farms; places like the Cottrell House on Waites Corner Road sit on the periphery of expansive farms.  Taking these drives along the rural roads and taking in the wide open spaces made the entirety of this trip enjoyable.  There are many places to see in South Kingstown but you do not need a set itinerary to get a feel for what this place is all about. 
            Small towns are a real treat for me as it reminds me of my home and South Kingstown is an ideal spot to spend a day or more with its many beaches and farms.  There is so much history scattered all over the many villages that make up this place that it will likely take more than a day to see it all.  I highly recommend taking the time to visit South Kingstown and enjoy a glimpse of so much untouched countryside so nearby.  Have fun and happy traveling!
            Carpenter's Grist Mill
            Pettaquamscutt Historical Society
            RI Parks - East Matunuck

Directions:  Pettaquamscutt Historical Society Museum: From I-195 heading west take Exit 8A for Rt. 24.  Take Exit for Rt. 114, turn right at Coddington Highway, continue onto JT O’Connell Rd.  Take 3rd exit at rotary for Admiral Kalbfus Rd., take ramp for Rt. 138, you will cross the Newport Bridge and Jamestown Bridge.  Take exit for Tower Hill Road, turn right at Mooresfield Rd., this becomes Kingston Rd., museum is #2636.

Carpenter’s Grist Mill: From I-195 heading west take Exit 8A for Rt. 24.  Take Exit for Rt. 114, turn right at Coddington Highway, continue onto JT O’Connell Rd.  Take 3rd exit at rotary for Admiral Kalbfus Rd., take ramp for Rt. 138, you will cross the Newport Bridge and Jamestown Bridge.  Take exit for Tower Hill Road, follow 14 miles, make U-Turn, take slight right at Moonstone Beach Rd.  Mill is a mile up on left.

Red House: From I-195 heading west take Exit 8A for Rt. 24.  Take Exit for Rt. 114, turn right at Coddington Highway, continue onto JT O’Connell Rd.  Take 3rd exit at rotary for Admiral Kalbfus Rd., take ramp for Rt. 138, you will cross the Newport Bridge and Jamestown Bridge.  Take exit for Tower Hill Road, follow nearly 13 miles, slight right at Rt. 110.  Take 2nd left onto Post Rd., house is a half mile up on right.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 47: Jamestown, RI

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In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 47: Jamestown, RI
May 13, 2010

            Perhaps known by many as a throughway connecting Newport and Narragansett, Jamestown and Conanicut Island are filled with amazing sites.  The Newport Bridge brings you into Jamestown from the east and the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge takes you to Narragansett to the west, but anybody who decides to visit either of those two incredible destinations needs to stop and give Jamestown a longer look.
            The island was home for hundreds of years to the Narragansett tribe of Native Americans, at least during the warmer months.  Conanicut Island is named for the Narragansett ‘sachem,’ or chief, Canonicus, who gave the English settlers permission to let their sheep graze on the island in 1638.  The oldest Native American artifacts found on the island an in the surrounding waters date back to 3,000 B.C.  It is here on Conanicut Island that the largest number of Native American burying ground in New England exists. 
            Jamestown itself was incorporated as a town in 1678 and named for James, Duke of York who would become King James II in 1685.  In addition to having strong ties to early-American and Native American history, Jamestown boasts several spectacular historic and natural landmarks that are must see attractions.
            The first spot I went to was the home of the third oldest lighthouse in America: Beavertail State Park.  Located on the southern tip of Conanicut Island, Beavertail State Park is more than just the home to Beavertail Light, but let’s start there.  Beavertail Light(above) was originally established in 1749 but has been rebuilt a few times in the years since, most recently after the Hurricane of 1938.  It has a very unique look, a smoky-gray stone rectangle; overlooking Narragansett Bay it is an incredible site. 
            Beavertail State Park is not just about the lighthouse though.  The shores all around the point are filled with slopes of rocks where the waves crash, while I was there I spotted many people sitting on their beach chairs perched on the rocks enjoying the sun.  There are small beaches along the shore as well if you are willing to climb down the rocks to get to them.   
            Another great spot to visit is the site of the Jamestown Windmill.  The current windmill, standing thirty-feet tall, was built in 1787 for the purpose of grinding corn.  The previous mill was destroyed by British troops around the time of the Battle of Rhode Island.  While it was operational it had to rely on the ocean’s breezes to power the windmill since Jamestown does not have any sort of running water to do that job.  The windmill is located on North Road and is open to the public on weekends during the summer.
            Fort Wetherill(right) was a strategic military location a few miles north of the southern tip of Conanicut Island.  It became a government run military base named in 1899, during the Spanish-American War.  It was named for Jamestown native Alexander Macom Wetherill who was killed at the Battle of San Juan Hill.  Inside the fort has been basically untouched since it was shut down in 1946.  The concrete structures that are built into the granite hillside were put in place prior to World War II.  Now there are trees and plants growing along the openings to the concrete structures.  It is a very eerie feeling going inside and walking down the hallways littered with crumbled concrete.  I found it ominous that each of the other openings down one of the hallways were blocked by growing trees.
            The site became a state park in the early-1970’s, it is fifty-two acres of amazing scenic views.  A dirt pathway takes you up a hill and lets you see the fort from above.  It is fenced in and not accessible but that should not take away from the trip.  From atop this hill there are no limit of sights: Narragansett Bay, Castle Hill Lighthouse in Newport, and Fort Adams which is almost directly across from Fort Wetherill.  I had a great time exploring this area; the beautiful sunny day only added to my experience.
            The final spot I visited during my time in Jamestown was the East Ferry Landing(right).  This is the area where ferry boats came across Narragansett Bay from Newport until 1969 when the Newport Bridge was opened.  The sailboats that are a symbol of the sea life around the Rhode Island coast were on display along Narragansett Bay stretching all the way down to the Newport Bridge.  It was around this time that I felt like I was seeing the soul of Rhode Island, the boats on the water, the shops on the wharf, all images I needed to burn into my mind.
            Though there are these sites I have listed here that should be visited it is just as good to come over either of the bridges and simply drive all over Conanicut Island.  I enjoyed doing just that.  It is while you take your time and explore a place like Jamestown that you really get a feel for what it is like.  Being that it is less than twenty-five square miles in size it is very easy to see all of the island in a day.
            Whether visiting Beavertail State Park, Fort Wetherill, Jamestown Windmill, or simply cruising the beautiful island roads you can’t go wrong.  I did both and loved it all.  Jamestown and Conanicut Island are one and the same, they are filled with history and house incredible views of the sea from all sides.  I highly recommend taking the time to cross either the Jamestown Bridge or Newport Bridge(left) and giving some time to this beautiful island town.  Have fun and happy traveling!  




     My first book, In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, is now available at SchifferBooks.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Amazon.com, soon to be in stores everywhere!  Follow me on Twitter!

DirectionsBeavertail State Park: From I-195 headed west take Exit 8A for Rt. 24, continue on Rt. 24 until exiting for Rt. 114, turn right at Coddington Highway.  Continue onto JT O’Connell Rd., take 3rd exit at rotary for Admiral Kalbfus Rd., Take ramp onto Rt. 138 West.  Take Jamestown Bridge-it is a toll road, right at E. Shore Rd., right at Canonicus Ave., Canonicus Ave. becomes Walcott Ave.  Turn right at Hamilton Ave., Hamilton Ave. becomes Beavertail Rd. follow it to the park.
            Fort Wetherill:  From I-195 headed west take Exit 8A for Rt. 24, continue on Rt. 24 until exiting for Rt. 114, turn right at Coddington Highway.  Continue onto JT O’Connell Rd., take 3rd exit at rotary for Admiral Kalbfus Rd., Take ramp onto Rt. 138 West.  Take Jamestown Bridge-it is a toll road, right at E. Shore Rd., right at Canonicus Ave., Canonicus Ave. becomes Walcott Ave.  Take slight left at Fort Wetherill Rd., take the 2nd right, turn right park will be on the left. 
            Jamestown Windmill:  From I-195 headed west take Exit 8A for Rt. 24, continue on Rt. 24 until exiting for Rt. 114, turn right at Coddington Highway.  Continue onto JT O’Connell Rd., take 3rd exit at rotary for Admiral Kalbfus Rd., Take ramp onto Rt. 138 West.  Take Jamestown Bridge-it is a toll road, right at E. Shore Rd., left at Canonicus Ave., take 3rd right onto Bryer Ave., turn right at Prudence Lane.  Prudence Lane turns left and becomes Whittier Rd., turn right at N. Rd.  The windmill is .1 miles up on the right.
            East Ferry Landing:  From I-195 headed west take Exit 8A for Rt. 24, continue on Rt. 24 until exiting for Rt. 114, turn right at Coddington Highway.  Continue onto JT O’Connell Rd., take 3rd exit at rotary for Admiral Kalbfus Rd., Take ramp onto Rt. 138 West.  Take Jamestown Bridge-it is a toll road, right at E. Shore Rd., right at Canonicus Ave., East Ferry Landing is on the left.
            RI Parks - Beavertail State Park
            RI Parks - Fort Wetherill
            Jamestown Historical Society
 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 46: Wellfleet, Mass. - Part Two

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In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 46: Wellfleet, Mass. – Part Two
April 28, 2010

            My second journey through Wellfleet had just as much to do with what was there as with what used to be there.  Wellfleet is the setting of two of the most fascinating Cape Cod legends.  Neither the Chequesset Inn nor Billingsgate Island still exist but their presence is still felt all over this town.  
 
-->           Billingsgate Island, now known as Billingsgate Shoal, is an article in and of itself.  I first became acquainted with this Cape Cod legend while at 4 C’s.  In my research for an article on erosion I came across this one-time small island community located a mile south of Jeremy Point.  At its peak in the 17th century Billingsgate Island was approximately sixty acres in size.  At one point in the mid-1800’s the island had thirty homes, a schoolhouse, a lighthouse(left), and even a baseball team.  The lighthouse was originally built in 1822 and was rebuilt twice before finally being destroyed due to erosion in 1915.
          
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           The erosion of the island was exacerbated by the fact that the inhabitants removed the trees holding the land together and allowed their livestock to graze on the land removing much of the beach grass.  After the island was virtually deserted around the time of World War I due to the extensive erosion many of the structures were floated off the island and reestablished in Wellfleet, Brewster, and West Barnstable.  Today all that remains of Billingsgate Island is a large sandbar at low tide with pieces of the lighthouse foundation and a scattering of bricks still to be found. 
 
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Billingsgate’s remains are accessible at low tide and the area is large enough for shellfishing and picnicking, but that’s about it.  The legend of this once thriving island community still lives throughout Wellfleet as many of the island’s homes ended up here.  It is said that Holbrook Avenue near Wellfleet Harbor is one hotspot for finding former Billingsgate homes.  Although in my research I found out that many of the homes on Holbrook are from Bound Brook Island near Wellfleet as well.  The guessing is half the fun.  The only spot that I know for certain once resided on Billingsgate Island now exists as part of the Wicked Oyster restaurant at 50 Main Street in Wellfleet as it is mentioned in its history.  
 
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The Chequesset Inn(right, above) has a history as rich as Billingsgate.  It was an incredible luxury resort built in 1902 on the 400-foot Mercantile Wharf that was comprised of sixty-two rooms.  The resort helped make Wellfleet a huge tourist destination but the rough waters of the harbor ended up claiming the Chequesset Inn in 1934.  A cold winter filled the harbor with ice and these chunks ravaged the pier’s pilings until the Mercantile Wharf collapsed during one particular winter storm.  The Inn was taken down shortly thereafter as was the pier.  There is a marker on the curve of Kendrick Avenue designating where the Mercantile Wharf jutted out into the harbor.  To the east is Mayo Beach and to the west of the marker are the Wellfleeter Condos, it is a very awe-inspiring feeling to stand at the edge of the water knowing what used to be there seventy-five years ago(right, below).  At low tide it is still possible to see the tops of what remains of the pilings that once made up Mercantile Wharf.
 
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            Mayo Beach, located next to Wellfleet Harbor, is a great beach with several great views.  To the east is the harbor while the Wellfleet Breakwater Beach is to the southeast and Jeremy Point and Great Island stretch out to the southwest; it is easy to become mesmerized by this unique area of Cape Cod.  There is another great spot to check out along Mayo Beach when you look inward away from the water. 
The parking lot is a sort of semi-circle of asphalt and in the middle is a grassy area containing a very old oyster shack(left).  The eight by ten cedar shack, built in 1935, once belonged to a man named Earle Rich and was moved to Mayo Beach in November.  It had originated along Duck Creek’s railroad bridge since back then oysters were sent to Boston and New York by train.  It is a great piece of Cape Cod history that is very accessible; these shacks once covered the shores along most of the Cape as little as sixty years ago.
 
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The Wellfleet Town Pier is a great spot to have lunch and just watch the fishermen and average boaters come in and out of the harbor.  Holbrook Avenue, the supposed resting place of many Billingsgate Island homes sits only a few hundred yards north for some perspective.  It is incredible for me to imagine how the actual lay of the land along the harbor has remained basically the same over the past hundred years and yet how much it has changed.
            Only a hundred years ago there was a huge resort stretching out into the water and Billingsgate Island still existed, although it was only inhabited by a lighthouse keeper and a few brave souls that spent days at a time alone shellfishing.  What happened to the Chequesset Inn and Billingsgate is a prime example of the fury of the sea.  It is possible that thousands of years from now people will be speaking of Cape Cod in the same way I am speaking of Billingsgate now; a once thriving community that the ocean reclaimed.
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The histories of these two Cape legends can be found at the Wellfleet Historical Society, the Nickerson Room at Cape Cod Community College, along with the Wellfleet book in the Images of America series.  These stories are fascinating, and not that well known with all of the hundreds of other more famous stories in Cape Cod history.  I highly recommend visiting Wellfleet and taking a look at where the Chequesset Inn once stood.  Or, if you are truly adventurous you could sail out to Billingsgate Shoal and stand where a once thriving community once stood.  That is definitely on my agenda at some point in the future.  Have fun and happy traveling!

     My first book, In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, is now available at SchifferBooks.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Amazon.com, soon to be in stores everywhere!  Follow me on Twitter!

Directions: Mayo Beach: From Rt. 6 heading north turn left onto Main Street.  Turn left at E. Commercial Street, continue onto Commercial Street, continue onto Kendrick Avenue.  Mayo Beach is on the left.  The marker for Chequesset Inn is on the curve next to Wellfleeter Condos.
            A Story of Billingsgate Island
            History of Billingsgate Lighthouse
            The Wicked Oyster Restaurant
Billingsgate Light photo found here: Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Chequesset Inn photo found here:  Google Books: Wellfleet: A Cape Cod Village






Monday, May 10, 2010

In My Footsteps: Cape Cod's Lighthouses


In My Footsteps – Cape Cod’s Lighthouses
Christopher Setterlund

            Lighthouses.  Their defined purpose is that of steering ships from the treacherous coasts that they inhabit.  These guardian angel structures do their job and yet have also gained stature as historic landmarks wherever they stand.  For me, any of my trips that have included coastlines have to include at least one lighthouse; they make the trip.  Luckily for me there are many of these amazing beacons located such a short drive away all over Cape Cod. 
            Incredibly the first lighthouse was not built in America, nor was it even built in the last thousand years.  No, the first example of a structure built to aid in navigation for sailors was the Lighthouse of Alexandria.  Built between 280 and 247 B.C. on the island of Pharos at Alexandria, Egypt the lighthouse was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  It used fire and reflective mirrors to produce a visible light and was said to be visible from up to twenty-nine miles away due to its incredible height of between 393-450 feet.  Two earthquakes in 1303 and 1323 damaged the lighthouse so much that it was rendered useless; its remains are able to be seen during diving expeditions.
            Cape Cod’s lighthouses can be divided into three categories: easy access, difficult access, and inaccessible.  Obviously the easily accessible lighthouses are the most popular as well. 
Easy Access:  First on this list is Nobska Light(left) in Falmouth.  Located right on the point of Nobska Road and Church Street the current tower was built in 1876 and overlooks a tremendous view of Vineyard Sound, Martha’s Vineyard, and the Elizabethan Islands.  It is available to be toured on specific dates set by the Coast Guard from June to August.
            Also falling into the easily accessible lighthouses is Chatham Light.  Located right across the street from North Beach and run by the Coast Guard, this lighthouse is still an active aid for sea travelers.  Built in 1877 Chatham Light was originally one of two towers on the same location; ironically the second tower is next on the list of easily accessible lights. 
            Nauset Light in Eastham(right) once resided along the shores of Chatham before being moved further north in 1923.  This tower stands out with its red and white body and hovers over Nauset Beach from its perch on a hill.  You can walk right up to the tower here and place your hands on a piece of history.  It is probably this reason that makes it my personal favorite of the lights listed here.  
            Difficult Access:  The second category of lighthouses, the difficult to access lights, deals with ones that you can get to but it takes a bit of leg work.  All of these are highly recommended and the walks are very much worth it.  One such lighthouse is Stage Harbor Light in Chatham.  Located at the mouth of Stage Harbor it does not have its lantern top anymore and is a mile walk down Harding’s Beach.  The walk is surprisingly easy as the dirt path taken doubles as the road for vehicles going to the lighthouse.  The immediate area around the lighthouse is private but you get very close and the beach which faces the Monomoy Wildlife Refuge is very secluded due to its distance from the parking lot.
            Cape Cod Light, also known as Highland Light, in Truro is not as long of a walk but it is still enough of a drive off of the beaten path that I decided to include it here.  This light is unique due to how much it was affected by erosion from the Atlantic Ocean.  Built in 1857 this tower was originally five hundred feet from the coast, by 1990 it was only a hundred feet away, and another forty feet of land was lost during 1990 alone.  In 1996 Highland Light was jacked up and moved to a spot 570-feet from the menacing sea.  The grounds are open year round and the lighthouse itself opens for tours in mid-May including the unique ‘full moon tours’ when appropriate.
            Finally in the list of difficult to access lighthouses on the Cape is Race Point Light in Provincetown(left).  It is accessible from two spots, both are long ways.  First if you have the ability you may drive out to the lighthouse from Race Point Beach, a nearly two-mile drive.  Second is the way I went which is to walk the Province Lands bike trail which begins at the end of the Herring Cove Beach parking lot.  From there you may take a dirt road which connects with the four-wheeling dirt road that leads to the lighthouse, about a mile and a half total.  It sounds like a lot of walking, and it is, but the feeling I got standing next to the lighthouse was one of total peace.  On my trip there the only sounds were the ocean waves and the sea birds.  As with the other lighthouses listed it is well worth the trip.
Inaccessible:  I won’t spend too much time with the inaccessible lighthouses as they are only able to be viewed from a distance, but they are huge parts of Cape Cod history.  Out on the private Great Island in West Yarmouth is Point Gammon Light which is best viewed from the ferry or Centerville’s beaches.  It can be seen from two-miles away but can only be visited with permission from a resident of the island.
            Monomoy Point Lighthouse is located out on South Monomoy Island off the coast of Chatham.  Only accessible by boat it is located a mile from shore and is possibly the least visited lighthouse on the Cape due to its remoteness.  There are excursions to the island which include a visit to the lighthouse; it is the only evidence of any human presence on the island.
            On the west coast of the Cape is Wings Neck Light in Pocasset(right) which is at the end of a private road and is probably better off being viewed from the water.  While on the water in that area there is also Cleveland Ledge Light, a lesser known lighthouse named for President Grover Cleveland.  Located eight miles southwest of the mouth of the Cape Cod Canal this lighthouse was the last commissioned to be built in New England in 1943.  It is visible from Old Silver Beach in Falmouth, or by boat.
            No need to worry about those lighthouses that you cannot reach; there are so many that can be visited that seeing them all will take several days.  Nobska, Chatham, and Nauset Lights are right on main roads you can reach out and touch them.  While Stage Harbor, Highland, and Race Point Lights are a bit of a hike they are great for excursions on a sunny day.  The history of the lighthouse goes back more than 2000 years and even though the Cape Cod lighthouses don’t go back that far they all are their own slice of history individually.  I highly recommend each and every one of them, even the ones that are harder to get to if you so desire.  Have fun and happy traveling!
Directions: Nobska Light, Falmouth: From Rt. 28 heading west take left onto Shore St.  Continue onto Surf Dr., continue onto Beach Rd.  Continue onto Oyster Pond Rd., take left onto Fay Rd, bear left onto Nobska Rd.  Lighthouse will be on the right.
            Chatham Light:  From Rt. 28 heading east, take 3rd exit at rotary for Main St.  Turn right to stay on Main St., lighthouse is on the right, parking across the street.
            Nauset Light, Eastham:  From Rt. 6 heading north turn right onto Nauset Rd., continue onto Doane Rd.  Turn left onto Ocean View Dr., follow it to Nauset Light Beach on right, lighthouse is across the street.