Cape Poge is located at the northeastern tip of Chappaquiddick Island, just east of
Martha's Vineyard. The cape is extremely isolated and exposed.
However, it was also an important location to aid mariners approaching
Edgartown. In 1801, the US government purchased four acres for $50,
and appropriated $2000 for a lighthouse and dwelling. The 35-foot
tower and tiny keeper's residence was completed the same year.
The first lantern room was only 4.5 feet in diameter -
so small that the keeper needed to work
outside the tower to maintain the lights inside. This problem
was rectified when the lantern room was expanded in 1817.
The first keeper was Matthew Mayhew. The tiny residence was
too small for Mayhew, his wife, and their
eight children - the residence was expanded in 1816.
Mayhew served until his death in 1834. The new keeper, Lott Norton,
was delayed two weeks due to ice, during which time the schooner
Hudson was lost near Cape Poge.
Due to its exposed location, Cape Poge is constantly being worn
away by the sea. A rudimentary breakwall was constructed in 1836,
but lasted only one winter. In 1844, a new tower replaced the rapidly
deteriorating 1801 tower. In 1857 the lantern room was expanded
and a fourth-order Fresnel lens installed. A new residence was built
in 1880, due to an 1878 report that the old keeper's dwelling was
also threatened by erosion.
By 1893, the lighthouse was again threatened by the sea.
A new 35-foot "temporary" tower was built 40 feet inland from
the previous tower. The light characteristic was changed to flashing red
and white in 1898 to reduce confusion with the Cross Rip Lightship.
This tower was moved four times - 1907, 1922, 1960,
and 1987 - all to preserve the tower from the eroding
coastline. In 1907, the tower settled
out of plumb, which lead to the ball bearings that rotated
the lens seizing up in 1911 and 1917.
The light was automated in 1943, and the residence torn down for lumber in 1954.
The light was serviced from West Chop.
In 1997, the lantern room was refurbished in New Bedford.
The "temporary" light of 1893 still stands today -
a modern white optic illuminates the site.
Lighthouses of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket - Their History and Lore, Clark pp. 170-177
The Lighthouses of New England, Snow pp. 295-296
The Lighthouses of Massachusetts, D'Entremont pp. 97-103
Massachusetts Lighthouses - A Pictorial Guide, Thompson pp. 98-99
Lighthouses and Life Saving Stations Along the Massachusetts Coast, Claflin p. 117
New England Lighthouses, Roberts and Jones pp. 76-77
Lighthouses of Massachusetts, Roberts and Jones pp. 73
The Lighthouse Companion - Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire, Rezendes pp. 28-29