Hyannis Harbor Light
By Mary Moran
Hyannis, a village in the town of Barnstable and the highest populated area on Cape Cod, was once a busy and successful port for both fishing and trade in the 1800’s. It is located in what is called the Mid Cape area. With maritime traffic increasing, the need for a navigational aid in the harbor became apparent. The Point Gammon Light, built at the southern approach to the harbor in 1816, guided vessels to the harbor, but another light was needed for the dangerous areas inside the harbor itself. Daniel Snow Hallett, a Barnstable local, did his best to provide his own light for the waters by hanging a lamp in the window of a beach shack that he built at his own expense. Unfortunately, his efforts weren’t very effective and in 1848, $2,000 was appropriated by Congress to erect a proper lighthouse in the South Hyannis Harbor area.
In May of the following year, the freshly built Hyannis Harbor Light, a 19-foot conical brick tower, was put into service. The structure consisted of five oil lamps and parabolic reflectors that provided a fixed white light 43 feet above the water level. The lighthouse also produced a red sector to warn passing vessels away from the dangerous Southwest Shoal.The Hyannis Harbor Light property expanded in 1851 when another $800 was given in order to build a house for a lighthouse keeper. The wooden structure was built beside the lighthouse, connected by a convenient covered walkway. The position of keeper was given to John H. Lothrop in 1871 but was soon taken over by his son, Alonzo, in 1878 after Lothrop’s death only eight years into his duty. Alonzo Lothrop remained at his inherited post for a little over 20 years. He resigned from the position in 1899. After his resignation, the keeper position was given to a man named Captain John Peak. Peak had come from a long legacy of lighthouse keepers and was known for letting the local children help with his lighthouse chores and even giving private sailing lessons to the children who were able to swim. Almost fifteen years after Peak’s retirement in 1915, the Hyannis Harbor Light was discontinued and its lantern was removed from the structure. The lighthouse, keeper’s house, and property were sold at auction to A.W. Fuller for $7,007. Fuller then sold the property and throughout the years the old lighthouse was passed through the hands of many owners. Current owners, Janice Hyland and Alan Granby, built their own unique top to the lighthouse tower. Although it is anything but traditional, it is reportedly an excellent spot to catch a glorious Cape Cod sunset. In addition to the original lighthouse, the keeper’s house (1849) and oil house (1902) both remain standing to this day, and although the property is privately owned, one can get a great view of the old tower by taking a stroll east on Keyes Beach in Hyannis.
Hyannis is just twenty miles from the Palmer House Inn. While in Hyannis one can visit the JFK Cape Cod Museum that commemorates the president’s life on the Cape. There are also harbor cruises where visitors view the harbor and the Kennedy compound buildings and grounds.
While all of the bedchambers at the Palmer House have their own romantic charm suitable for relaxation after the most wonderful day of sightseeing on 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, jetted tubs for a relaxing stay before and after your day.
Mary Moran is a Falmouth native and knowledgable about Cape Cod. In addition to writing for the Palmer House Inn, she’s also frequently at the inn and available to answer quest’s questions. She enjoys reading, hiking, and spending time exploring Falmouth’s coastal waterways.