Time, tides and erosion wait for nothing…. Strong currents and dangerous shoals necessitated a light to guide heavy maritime traffic safely around these waters in the 19th century. So Chatham Light (in Chatham) was built in 1808 and outfitted with two 40-foot towers set 70 feet apart. By 1841 the towers had to be replaced with two 30-foot towers; a light keeper’s house was set between them.
After a powerful storm in 1877 devoured 228 feet of cliff and cut the buffer between the beacon and sea to a mere 48 feet, action had to be taken again. A new light station with two 48-foot cast-iron towers and a light keeper’s house were built farther back.
A mere two years later, one of the old towers succumbed to erosion. Within the next two years the rest of the old structure fell to the forces of nature.
In 1923, one of the new towers was moved to Eastham. The remaining tower was electrified in 1939, and outfitted with aero-beacons, blasting out with a 2.8-million-candlepower beacon — visible 23 miles out to sea.
The old lantern and lens are on display at the Atwood House Museum, not far from Chatham Light on Stage Harbor Road.
Parking on Shore Rd at the lighthouse is limited to 30 minutes during summer.