Timeline: Watts Island Lighthouse

1828: Congress appropriates $6,500 to construct a lighthouse on Little Watts Island on May 23.

1831: Congress appropriates $6,400 for a lighthouse on Little Watts Island.

1833: John Donahoo builds a 48-foot tower equipped with a fifth-order Fresnel lens and keepers house at a price of $4,775.

1838: The keeper’s house is noted as being very damp and recommends planking the basement walls to prevent humidity from rising.

1855: The tower and keepers dwelling receive major repairs.

1864: It is reported that the current Fountain lamps are old and defective and an estimate to furnish new lamps is submitted.

1867: Franklin lamps are installed to replace the current Fountain lamps.

1868: The revolving machinery of the illuminating apparatus is repaired.

1869: A new stove, boat, and fittings are supplied. A new boathouse is requested.

1884: In October, a new coal shed is constructed, a well is driven, and minor repairs are made.

1888: The old storehouse is removed a new one is built, and a new cistern house is constructed to replace the old one. A new porch is added to the front of the keepers dwelling, a brick walkway is constructed, and 500-linear feet of new fencing is built.

1891: In September, 288-linear feet of picket fencing is installed with two gates. It is recommended to build an additional story to the keepers dwelling as have been done at other stations in the district.

1899: New model fifth-order lamps are installed in May, as well as a zinc hood for protecting the lens from dripping rain.

1901: In March and April, the iron oil house was taken down and a brick one was constructed to replace it. A new brick walk was installed on the side of the tower as well as near the porch. Approximately 330 feet of wooden walkway was installed.

1907: A new 50-foot by 3-foot wide landing wharf is constructed.

1915: Keeper Edward A. Sibley is awarded the efficiency gold star.

1915: On or about December 1, the characteristic of the light was changed to flashing white every five seconds. The kerosene oil illuminant is changed to acetylene. Keeper Edward A. Sibley is transferred to New Point Comfort and Charles Hardenberg is appointed laborer in charge of the light.

1923: The lighthouse is automated.

1944: Severe erosion leads to the tower collapsing.

1. Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board, various years.
2. Forgotten Beacons, Patrick Hornberger & Linda Turbyville, 1997.
3. Annual Report of the Secretary of the Treasury on the State of Finances, various years.

Updated 5/27/2020

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