photo © 1995 Nicolas Nobili
ighthouses are an integral part of Cape Cod history. The first lighthouse station for Eastham, known as the Nauset Beach Light Station (nicknamed The Three Sisters), was completed in 1838. It consisted of a group of three lights atop 15-foot high brick towers located approximately 800 feet east of where the present light now stands.
Because of the encroaching cliff edge, the brick towers were replaced by three 22-foot high wooden lighthouses in 1892 and located thirty feet from the edge.
In 1911, the continuously retreating shoreline made it necessary to move the lights again. Two of the towers were sold at auction. The third tower was moved back, put on a brick foundation, and attached to the keeper's house. A rotating Fresnel lens flashing three times every ten seconds was installed.
The present Nauset Lighthouse, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is made of cast iron with a brick lining and stands 48 feet high. It was built in 1877, and was located in Chatham as a twin to the one that is there today. In 1923, the smaller wooden lighthouse in Eastham was retired, and the north tower in Chatham was dismantled, moved to Eastham, and reconstructed about 200 feet from the edge of the cliff near the relocated keeper's house. In the 1940s, Nauset Light was painted red and white as a daytime indicator of the red and white beacon.
Coastal erosion continued to plague the lighthouse, and by 1996, it was dangerously close to the edge of the cliff. Less than 35 feet remained in November 1996 when Nauset Lighthouse was moved in one piece approximately 300 feet to a new site across the road. For the previous 73 years, the lighthouse had provided guidance to mariners traveling along the treacherous coastline of Cape Cod. It is hoped that in its new location Nauset Light will be safe for another 75-100 years.