New Bedford’s Butler Flats Light Has Amazing Ties to U.S. History
The 53-foot-high Butler Flats Light in the outer harbor of New Bedford has lit the way for countless homeward-bound seafaring vessels, and sparked the imaginations of many on the SouthCoast who dreamed of a life at sea for more than a hundred years.
Butler Flats is a spark plug, or caisson, lighthouse with a superstructure that rests on a concrete or metal caisson, allowing it to withstand rough seas and weather.
The Butler Flats Light has withstood many a mighty gale since its construction in 1898, including the historic "Great New England Hurricane of 1938" which wrought destruction on the region, and the "Great Blizzard of 1978," which some have categorized as a rare winter hurricane.
NewEnglandLighthouses.net says the Butler Flats Light was designed by F. Hopkinson Smith, who built the foundation for the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island in New York Harbor.
The Butler Flats Light has four stories, including a basement used for storage, office space, living quarters and a watch room.
The website says Captain Amos Baker was the first keeper at Butler Flats, followed by his son Charles. The men called the lighthouse home for a combined 80 years.
The U.S. Coast Guard took over the operation of Butler Flats when Charles Baker retired in 1941.
An automatic light and fog signal was installed at the hurricane barrier in 1975, rendering the Butler Flats Light unnecessary. The Butler Flats Light was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
Today, the Butler Flats Light, accessible only by boat, is city-owned. While still active, it is closed to the public.
According to DestinationNewBedford.org, "On April 30, 1998, the City celebrated the Centennial of Butler Flats Light with a relighting ceremony which was held 100 years to the hour of its original lighting."
NewEnglandLighthouse.net suggests President Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th President of the United States, visited the Butler Flats Light. The site says, "Visitor's signatures in the register, while Amos Baker was keeper, included that of President Grover Cleveland."
The Cleveland East Edge Light near Falmouth is said to have been named after President Cleveland, as he owned property, Gray Gables in Bourne, and enjoyed fishing in the area.
The Butler Flats Light, with ties to the first Democratic president to be elected after the U.S. Civil War, the Statute of Liberty, and one of the most noted hurricanes in U.S. history, sits just outside New Bedford Harbor – and here we thought it was just another lighthouse.