CREDITS: I would like to thank Jeremy D'Entremont for providing much of the history one can find on this site. He is a speaker, author, historian, and tour guide who is widely recognized as the foremost authority on the lighthouses of New England. For a story on Jeremy or to visit his site (New England Lighthouses: A Virtual Guide), use the corresponding link in the right hand information bar under "Related Links".

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I have set up this site as a means to share my photographs of lighthouses. Since retiring and finding more time to study photography, my interests have expanded a little. For some of my work other than lighthouses please enjoy my Facebook page at, John Shaw Photography. Come visit, enjoy, and 'LIKE' if you wish.

Also, for your enjoyment, I have provided a slideshow of our journey. To view it please use the link on the right under 'Site Navigation Tools'.

I sincerely hope you enjoy my efforts and use my site not only for information and education but also to provide directions for many enjoyable, inspirational visits to the beacons along our beautiful coas.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Wood End Lighthouse - Provincetown - Cape Cod

     The first two lighthouses in the vicinity, at Race Point and Long Point, were established by 1826. By the 1860s, it was determined that another aid was needed at Wood End, the southernmost extremity of the curving spit of land that protected the harbor. A white pyramidal day beacon was first erected at Wood End in 1864, and Congress appropriated $15,000 for a lighthouse on June 10, 1872.
     A 38-foot brick tower -- originally painted brown -- was erected, and the light went into service on November 20, 1872. A fifth-order Fresnel lens exhibited a red flash every 15 seconds, 45 feet above the sea. A keeper's dwelling was built about 50 feet northeast of the lighthouse. The first keeper, Thomas Lowe, remained at the station for 25 years.
     In spite of the three lighthouses around Provincetown, wrecks still occurred with some regularity. Lowe occasionally had to make hasty trips to town to awaken sleeping citizens to help with the rescue of shipwreck victims.
     A lifesaving station had been established at Race Point in 1872, and one was finally added at Wood End in 1896, a short distance east of the light station.
     In 1896, a new wood-frame keeper's house was built, along with a storage shed and a small brick oil house for the storage of kerosene.
     New machinery for the revolving lens was installed in 1900. Two years later, a 1,000-pound fog bell and bell tower were added near the lighthouse.
     Eight days before Christmas in 1927, the Navy submarine S-4 and the Coast Guard cutter Paulding collided a half mile south of Wood End Light. 40 men on the S-4 died in the disaster. The S-4 was raised three months later and was used to help devise greater safety measures for future submarines.
    During a stretch of severe cold in February 1935, Keeper Douglas Shepherd was marooned at the light station for weeks. The Boston Globe reported:  “Keeper Shepherd has struggled vainly to break through the arctic expanse that extends for miles beyond his light. Several times he has attempted it, using axe and crowbar to attack the ice blocks in his path, but each time he has been forced to turn back.”
     Ordinarily, Shepherd made a daily trip into town. He had no worries despite his isolation, according to the newspaper report, as the Coast Guard kept him in touch with the mainland.
     James Hinkley Dobbins served as a relief keeper for a period in 1937. His wife, Ruby Kelley Dobbins, recalled in her book The Additional Keeper that her husband gave her explicit instructions to “buy all the mousetraps in stock” at a local hardware store before she came for her first visit; the keeper’s house was overrun with mice. The Dobbins family had some time for sightseeing in Provincetown and especially enjoyed seeing the traditional town crier, ringing his brass bell and shouting the news of the day.
     The lighthouse was automated in 1961 and all the other buildings except the oil house were destroyed. The lighthouse's original lens had been replaced by a fifth-order lens in 1916, and this was replaced by a modern optic when the light was automated. The light was converted to solar power in 1981.
     The Cape Cod Chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation has been licensed by the Coast Guard to restore and maintain Wood End Light. Volunteers painted the tower and oil house in the fall of 2000.

     Directions:  You can walk to Wood End Light across the breakwater built in 1911, but breaking waves sometime make the going tricky at high tide. It's a fairly strenuous walk of 30-45 minutes each way to the lighthouse. There are limited parking spaces available near the start of the walk; it's an additional walk of around 20-30 minutes from the center of town.
     The lighthouse, still an active aid to navigation, is also viewable from some of the excursion boats out of Provincetown.

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