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Block Island South East Lighthouse

July 9, 2019
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Block Island South East Lighthouse, New Shoreham, Rhode Island
Built in 1873

BLOCK ISLAND (SOUTHEAST) LIGHT

Location: MOHEGAN BLUFFS/BLOCK ISLAND
Station Established: 1875
Year Current Tower(s) First Lit: 1875
Operational? YES
Automated? YES 1990
Deactivated: 1990-1994
Foundation Materials: GRANITE/CONCRETE/BRICK
Construction Materials: RED BRICK
Tower Shape: OCTAGONAL PYRAMIDAL ATTACHED TO DUPLEX
Height:    52-feet; height of focal plane 258-feet
Markings/Pattern: NATURAL W/BLACK LANTERN
Characteristics:    flashing green light every 5 seconds
Relationship to Other Structure: ATTACHED
Original Lens: FIRST ORDER, FRESNEL 1875
Foghorn:    Horn one blast every 30 seconds (3-second blast)

HISTORICAL INFORMATION:

  • 1856: Congress appropriated $9,000 to build the lighthouse in 1856; however, the Lighthouse Board spent the money to rebuild the Block Island North Lighthouse on a site further inland after the 1837 lighthouse was swept into the sea.
  • 1872: Subsequently, President Grant signed the congressional appropriation bill in 1872 to build the station.
  • 1875: Block Island Southeast Light was first lighted on February 1, 1875. The original optic was a first-order Fresnel lens with four circular wicks feeding on whale oil.
  • 1880: In 1880 this optic was replaced by a single kerosene-fed lamp inside a modified first-order classical lens that rotated on a bath of mercury and was driven by weight powered clock work that had to be rewound every four hours.
  • 1990: The light was deactivated by the Coast Guard in 1990 and transferred its mission to a beacon placed on a nearby steel tower.
  • 1993: In 1993 the 2,000-ton lighthouse was moved about 300 feet back from the eroding cliffs. The Fresnel lens was removed from the tower for the move. However, due to the potential hazard caused by the mercury float of this lens, it was decided not to reinstall and re-light it. It was replaced with Cape Lookout’s original first-order lens, which had been on display at the Coast Guard’s Support Center in Portsmouth, Virginia. The original Block Island lens is on display in the museum. The same firms that moved Cape Hatteras Lighthouse – International Chimney Corp. and Expert Movers of Maryland, carried out the move of the Southeast Lighthouse.