The Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse

The Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse is a 501(c)3 non-profit that was  established in 2004 to restore and maintain the 1871 historic landmark. The Friend’s mission is to ensure the historic restoration and preservation of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse and to improve public awareness, appriciation and access to the lighthouse.


Upcoming Events: 

  • August 14: Looff Arts Festival


Pomham Rocks Lighthouse’s 

4th order Fresnel lens to return home 


We hope the lighthouse community joins in our excitement as we announce that our original 4th order Fresnel lens will be returned back to the Pomham Rocks Lighthouse. This lens was installed at the Pomham Rocks Lighthouse in c.1926 to replace the original 6th installed back in 1871. Our 4th order lens was removed from the tower in 1974 when the lighthouse was decommissioned. It eventually made its way up to the Custom House Maritime Museum in Newburyport, MA. Since the 1970s, our lens has been prominently on display and well cared for in Newburyport. However, the time has come for this historic artifact to find its way back to its original home: The Pomham Rocks Lighthouse in Riverside, RI. When it arrives back at Pomham Rocks, it will be displayed proudly in the Lighthouse’s museum. Stay tuned as our lens begins its journey back home!


Friends Honor Pomham Rocks’ First Lighthouse Keepers at Graveside Ceremony  

About 20 people gathered at South Burial Ground in Warren, RI on Sunday afternoon, June 27. Participants heard about the life of the deceased and placed markers on the graves. But despite appearances, this was not a normal gravesite ceremony.

Members of Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse were on site to pay homage to Captain Charles H. Salisbury, the first Lighthouse Keeper of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse, and his wife, Mary, Pomham’s second Keeper. A Civil War veteran, Mr. Salisbury served as keeper at The Lighthouse, located on an island off the coast of Riverside, from its opening, Dec. 1, 1871 until his death in May 1893 at the age of 89. At that time, his wife took over as Keeper until a replacement was hired in November of that year.

The Friends were joined by Keri M. Cronin, President of the Warren Town Council, who brought greetings from the town. Also attending were Kate Michaud, Warren Town Manager, and Taylor Croft, U.S. Coast Guard Boatswain’s Mate. Judith Fardig represented Warren American Legion Auxilliary Unit 11 and David McCarthy represented Warren American Legion Post 104.

David Kelleher, board member of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse, and one of the original founders of The Friends, addressed the guests at the historic cemetery. He told them how it was Capt. Salisbury’s responsibility to light the oil lamp in the lantern room, check on it every four hours and trim the wicks so that the light would shine brightly from dusk to dawn. At sunrise, he would extinguish the light, clean the glass panels and oil lamp – before 10 a.m. each day – and refill the oil in the lamp.

Life in the northernmost lighthouse in Narragansett Bay was challenging for the Salisburys. In cold winters, one could walk across the ice the 800 feet from the light station to the shore. But in milder winters, a path needed to be cut through the ice to allow a boat to reach the island. There was no electricity, telephone, running water or indoor plumbing for a bathtub or toilet at Pomham Rocks at that time. Oil lamps produced the only light. Rain water was collected from the roof, stored in a brick and concrete cistern below the house, and pumped up to kitchen by means of a cast-iron hand pump. An outhouse was in the backyard.

In addition to keeping the light burning to safeguard vessels in the area, Captain Salisbury, in his wooden rowboat, saved six people from drowning in a three-month period, from May to July 1876 at the age of 72. Mrs. Salisbury had applied for the position of Assistant Light Keeper in 1872, but had been turned down. Upon her husband’s death in May 1893, she was appointed Light Keeper. Mr. Salisbury’s salary remained the same $500 a year for his entire 22 years as keeper. When Mrs. Salisbury was hired to replace him, performing the same duties with 22 years of experience, her salary was reduced to $480.

As part of a year-long celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Riverside light station, Dennis Tardiff, Chair of the Board of Directors of Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse, placed special historical markers on the Salisburys’ graves. Initiated by Tim Harrison, of the international publication “Lighthouse Digest,” the markers honor the sacrifices made by Lighthouse Keepers of the United States Lighthouse Service. The bronze markers which hold a U.S. flag, recognize the service and dedication of Lighthouse Keepers to the safety of those at sea.  To learn more about Pomham Rocks Lighthouse, visit www. pomhamrockslighthouse.org.

Capt. Charles H. Salisbury
Mary Anna Salisbury
Keeper Ceremony 6.27.21


Pomham Rocks Lighthouse: Guiding More than Ships

     Pomham Rocks Lighthouse sits high on an island across the bay from Rhode Island Hospital. But that’s not the only connection they have. As The Lighthouse celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, a bit of its history has come to light. A 1959 graduate of Rhode Island Hospital School of Nursing, Joan O’Sullivan, of Warwick, shared information from hospital and nursing school publications explaining the lighthouse-hospital link.

     It started in 1892 when Charlotte Peters, wife of the Rhode Island Hospital Superintendent, Dr. John M. Peters, designed a pin, which was later presented to each graduate of the Hospital’s nursing school until they closed in 1973. Mrs. Peters was an invalid who spent much time on a couch in their apartment above the entrance to the hospital, facing Pomham Rocks. From her window, she watched the ships as they sailed on Narragansett Bay.

     An article published in the July 1974 Rhode Island Hospital newsletter, entitled Another Era Ends: Pomham Lighthouse is Automated, the editor sadly relates that the “lighthouse mounted on a rocky projection in the middle of the Providence River, was decommissioned this past June 1, in traditional Coast Guard ceremonies…Since 1892, the lighthouse has appeared on the nurses’ school pins and has symbolized a guiding light for the sick in their search for the care provided by this Hospital.”

     In December 1892, Mrs. Peters had a pin made from a $20 gold piece and presented it on Christmas Day to her private duty nurse, Eugenia D. Ayers, a graduate of the class of 1888. In the center of the pin is the State seal in blue with a gold anchor. To the left, atop white waves is a sailboat. To the right, Pomham Rocks Lighthouse, described in the nursing school’s publication, The Story of the Nursing Badge, as “a beacon to guide in darkness, a tower of strength by day, directs the ailing traveler to the sturdy ship from which he can regain his own strength.”

     The first pin, now in the nurses’ alumni’s historical collection, bears the number one on the back. Each pin that followed is numbered sequentially. The photograph featured here shows pin No. 3,053, and belongs to Joan Knox O’Sullivan.

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Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse
P.O. Box 15121 Riverside, RI 02915
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