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Gull Rocks Lighthouse
(Gull Rock Light)


Gull Rocks Lighthouse
 Courtesy of Coast Guard Historian's Office


Location: East Side of the Newport Bridge
Location: 1887 - 1969 l Lat 41 30 12 N - Long 71 20 01 W
Established: 1887

Lighthouse Constructed: 1887
Replaced with Skeleton Tower: 1960
Discontinued: 1969
Original Illuminating Apparatus:Two Post Lanterns (1887)
Second Illuminating Apparatus: Two Lens Lanterns (1899)
Third Illuminating Apparatus: 375-mm Lens
Height: Lighthouse: 40 feet (1906)
Height: Skeleton tower: 45 feet (1969)
Height: None (2005)
Status: No Longer Exists
Light Characteristic: Lighthouse: Fixed Red from the east side of lighthouse (1887)
Light Characteristic: Lighthouse: Fixed White from the west side of lighthouse (1887)
Light Characteristic: Lighthouse: Fixed White from the east side of lighthouse (1899)
Light Characteristic: Lighthouse: Fixed Red from the west side of lighthouse (1899)

Light Characteristic: Skeleton tower: Flashing Green every 3 seconds (1940)
Light Characteristic:Skeleton towerFlashing Green every 5 seconds (1952)
Light Characteristic:Skeleton towerFlashing Green every 3 seconds (1968)

Light Characteristic: None (2005)
Range: Lighthouse: 12 miles (1906)
Range: Skeleton tower: 10 miles (1968)
Range: None (2005)
Fog Signal: Bell Struck By Machinery (1912)
Fog Signal: Bell Struck By Machinery (1912)
Fog Signal Characteristic: Bell Struck 1 Times (1912)
Fog Signal Characteristic: Silent for 5 Seconds
Fog Signal Characteristic: Bell Struck 1 Times
Fog Signal Characteristic: Silent for 5 Seconds

Fog Signal Characteristic: Bell Struck 1 Times (1952)
Fog Signal Characteristic: Silent for 20 Seconds
Location: Established: Lighthouse Constructed: Replaced with Skeleton Tower: Discontinued: Original Illuminating Apparatus: Second Illuminating Apparatus: Third Illuminating Apparatus: Current Illuminating Apparatus: Height: Status: Light Characteristic: Range: Fog Signal: Fog Signal Characteristic:


In the years before the Civil War, the Old Colony Steamboat Company built and maintained several aids to navigation to help its ships travel safely up and down Narragansett Bay. John Swan, an employee of the company, was the navigational aide on Gull Rocks. He would row out to the rocks and sit under a shelter, blowing a horn as a warning to oncoming steamers. The company later placed a light on Gull Rocks.

In 1885 the Lighthouse Board wanted to replace the Old Colony light with a government lighthouse. It would be two years before Gull Rocks Lighthouse was built. The A-frame lighthouse was equipped with two post lanterns. They were hung from the gables on the east side and west side of the lighthouse. They were replaced by more powerful lens lanterns in 1899. In 1928, the twin lights were replaced with a single light on a 45 feet skeleton tower.

On September 26, 1894, the light's keeper, Frederick Purington, was assaulted at the lighthouse. His wife was on the second floor when she hearld her husband cry out. She ran downstairs and found her husband on the floor bleeding and unconscious. She rowed to the nearby Naval training station for help for her husband. A sailor went back to the lighthouse to help her husband. It was believed that his attacker was a fisherman that he had a problem with.

Gull Rocks Light was converted from acetylene gas to electricity on July 18, 1956. The electricity came from an underwater cable from the nearby navy base. The electricity brought improvement to the light and life at Gull Rocks. The light was increased from 120 candlepower to 900 candlepower. It also cut down on the light's maintenance. The keepers had to constantly clean the gas burning apparatus. The light was also equipped with a backup generator in case the power from nearby navy base failed. The keeper's lives were also easier with electricity, as they could finally watch television. The fog bell was now rung automatically. Before it ran on a clockwork mechanism the keepers had to wind up.

The lighthouse was automated in September 1960. The light was increased to 1800 candlepower during the automation. The keepers at Rose Island light controlled the light and foghorn.

In 1961 the Coast Guard hired The Newport Demolition Company to destroy Gull Rock lighthouse because the cost of maintaining it would be too much. It was burned on July 12. While it burned many people called the police and fire departments to report it. When they were told it was being legally burned, many said "It's a shame; it such a pretty thing out there in the harbor." All that remained of the lighthouse was an oil house and a concrete pier.

When the Newport Bridge was completed in 1969, the light was no longer needed because boats couldn't travel under the low deck of the bridge on the East Side of the bay and it was turned off. On January 8, 1970 a Coast Guard helicopter removed the light and flew it the Bristol Coast Guard Depot.

The site of Gull Rocks light was declared surplus by the federal government in 1972. It was offered free to any state and local government and eligible non-profit institutions for public use. Some of the public uses listed were a public park or recreation area, a school or education use, or for the protection of the public health. On August 3 Newport's recreation director, Daniel J McCarthy, and Robert Reed, a registered real estate appraiser inspected the site. In a letter to the Newport City Council they said "It is our joint opinion that this small area had no potential for recreational use without a large expenditure of funds for cleaning and docking facilities ... We believe it is not practical for the city to purchase of so-called Gull Rock,"

In 1973 after Rhode Island and Newport refused the Gull Rocks light, the General Services Administration offered it for sale. Sixty people bided on it. They bids were open October 12. The high bidder was submitted by Frank Manuella. His bid was $3,462. An article in November 2, 1973 issue of the Newport Mercury, said Manuella, an artist, had plans to decorate it with an eternal one-man one piece show.





In 2012 I saw a for sale sign leaning against the oil house. The asking price for it was $195,000. It apparently didn't sell because the Newpot property tax records for 2014 shows Frank Manuella still owns it.


Gull Rock Lighthouse in 1900
Gull Rocks Lighthouse
 Courtesy of N.L. Stebbins


Updated 6/2/2015

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