Description: Falmouth on Cape Cod was named for Falmouth, England, home port of explorer Bartholomew Gosnold, who gave Cape Cod its name. At first the English settlement in the area retained its Indian name, Suckanesset; it was changed to Falmouth in 1690.
The first Nobska Light ,One of Falmouth’s villages,Woods Hole, with its deep harbor, developed a substantial whaling fleet in the early years of the nineteenth century. Besides the local maritime traffic, Nobska Point was passed by a stream of vessels crossing through Vineyard Sound, bordered by Falmouth and the Elizabeth Islands to the north, and Martha’s Vineyard to the south. In 1829, the year the lighthouse was established, it was reported that more than 10,000 vessels passed through the area.
Prominent Nobska Point was an ideal place for a lighthouse. Congress appropriated $3,000 for that purpose on May 23, 1828. The first lighthouse, built in 1828 for $2,249, was a typical Cape Cod‚style structure with an octagonal lantern on top of the keeper’s house. There were three rooms on the first floor of the dwelling, and two small rooms upstairs. The lantern held a lighting system of 10 lamps and 14-inch reflectors, displaying a fixed white light 78 feet above the sea. Like some similar lighthouses, this one had problems with leaks, as the lantern created too much stress on the roof.
Because the light station was located on the mainland, the keeper was not provided with a boat. Lt. Edward Carpender surveyed Nobska Light in 1838 and recommended that an exception be made, saying, “Should the regulation be waived in favor of any one, I hope it will be extended to this individual, who once had it in his power, with the government boat, no longer serviceable, to rescue some persons from drowning.”
In 1843, engineer I. W. P. Lewis issued a scathing report to Congress after inspecting the lighthouses of the northeast coast, but Nobska Light was spared. Lewis reported that the station was “in good order and repair.”
Through much of the nineteenth century, the keepers had to count the vessels that passed the light. On one day alone in 1864, Keeper Frederick Ray counted 188 vessels — including 175 schooners — passing the point.
In 1876, the lighthouse was rebuilt as a 40-foot cast-iron tower lined with brick, with a fifth-order Fresnel lens. The individual sections of the lighthouse were cast in Chelsea, Massachusetts, and transported to Woods Hole in four sections. The new tower was painted a dark reddish-brown color.
The lens was upgraded to fourth-order in 1888, and a red sector was added to warn mariners of the dangerous L’Hommedieu and Hedge Fence shoals. New striking machinery for the fog bell was installed in the same year. Four years later, a 100-foot stone wall was added to protect the fog bell tower, which was closer to the water than the lighthouse. Further protection was added in 1900, and a new building was added to house the striking machinery.