Palmer Island Light Station

[photo] Palmer Island Light Station
Photos by Jeremy D'Entremont,
Palmer Island Light Station is located on the northern point of Palmer's Island in New Bedford Harbor. The island received its name from William Palmer, one of the first settlers of Dartmouth. New Bedford, Massachusetts, was the whaling capital of the Nation reaching its peak in the 1850s with a fleet of 239 ships. The level of ship traffic in New Bedford Harbor necessitated the construction of an aid to navigation. Designed by architect Charles M. Pierce, Palmer Island Light was illuminated on August 30, 1849. The original, 24-foot tall, conical stone tower exists today, but associated buildings including a keeper's dwelling and an enclosed walkway (1849), a fog signal building (1900) and an oil house (1905) were destroyed by the Hurricane of 1938.

Palmer Island Light Station, note fog bell tower attached to face of light tower, c. 1900
Photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard

To prevent future hurricane damage, workers constructed a hurricane barrier wall in 1963. The barrier wall stretched across New Bedford Harbor just south of the Palmer Island Light eliminating the light tower's usefulness. As a result, Palmer Island was deactivated in 1962. A fire destroyed the tower interior, and vandals caused further damage. In 1978, the City of New Bedford obtained ownership of Palmer Island Light and initiated a preservation effort to restore the tower interior. Restoration work resumed in 1989, but was followed by more vandalism. After rebuilding the badly damaged lantern room in 1999, the City of New Bedford once again illuminated the Palmer Island Light Station as a private aid to navigation.

Palmer Island Light Station is located on rocky Palmer's Island in the Acushnet River at the entrance to New Bedford Harbor. It is owned and maintained by the City of New Bedford as an active private aid to navigation. The lighthouse is not open to the public except by special arrangement. Palmer Island Light is visible by boat. For more information about visiting the Palmer Island Light Station call the City of New Bedford's Tourism & Marketing Waterfront Visitor Center at 508-979-1745 or visit the city's website.

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