By Mary Moran
The Stage Harbor Lighthouse is located on Harding’s Beach at the west side of the entrance to Stage Harbor, in the Cape Cod town of Chatham. It is about an hour’s drive from the Palmer House Inn and is part of the South East area of Cape Cod. A day trip to this charming Cape Cod town with its quaint shops and charming restaurants is a must, while staying at The Palmer House. Stage Harbor was named for the racks that were used for drying fish during colonial times.
The area of Stage Harbor was once a busy fishing port in the 19th century with maritime traffic increasing steadily alongside the fishing industry itself. Unfortunately, the waters near Chatham proved to be a dangerous area for vessels, not only from the strong tides, but from a common covering of thick, vision-hindering fog. In 1880, a lighthouse station was established in order to guide vessels into safety in Stage Harbor during dangerous weather conditions when Captains and their passengers were seeking refuge from the creeping fog. The Stage Harbor station was issued ten thousand dollars to build the new lighthouse. The tower stood 48 feet tall and was created completely of cast-iron. It contained a fifth-order Fresnel lens that gave off a continuous white light that was visible for up to twelve nautical miles. Stage Harbor Light was located next to the freshly built keeper’s house. The keeper’s house became the home of Stage Harbor’s first light keeper, Enoch Eldridge. His yearly salary of five hundred sixty dollars, almost as slim as his stay at the lighthouse. Only four years after construction, Enoch Eldridge passed away leaving his duties to be taken over by other keepers throughout the light’s existence. In 1933 an automated light on a skeleton tower replaced the lighthouse. The Hoyt family, that first bought the property after its decommissioning own it to this day. They have maintained it in its original condition. The skeleton tower is still being used and offers a continuous flashing white light for vessels and their passengers traveling by. When Henry Sears Hoyt first visited the lighthouse it is said that he remarked, “A more desolate spot would be hard to imagine….A howling gale, whistling around angry sea but never the less a grand place.” Both the keeper’s house and lighthouse have never had electricity or plumbing except for one lone water pump. Even the outhouse from 1880 remains on the grounds, in addition to a boat shed. To visit the light, you must take a mile long trek down Harding’s Beach, but remember that it remains as private property and trespassers are not allowed. In addition the lighthouse can be viewed from the deck of the Monomoy ferry as it passes by.
FUN FACT: It is said that the walkway connecting the lighthouse tower to the keeper’s house was once used as a hiding area for liquor during the times of Prohibition.
While all of our rooms have their own individual charm suitable for relaxation after the most wonderful day of adventures exploring the lighthouses of Cape Cod, we recommend the Harriet Beecher Stowe room, the Theodore Roosevelt room or the Emily Dickinson room. These rooms feature comfortable king beds, fireplaces, Jacuzzi-style tubs and a relaxing stay before and after your day.
Mary Moran is a Falmouth native and is knowledgeable about Cape Cod. In addition to writing for the Palmer House Inn, she’s also frequently at the inn and is available to answer guests’ questions. She enjoys reading, hiking, and spending time exploring Falmouth’s coastal waterways.