Race Point Lighthouse
Race Point Light is
located approximately 2.5 miles from the heart of Provincetown, at the
northwestern tip of the Cape. Due to the large number of shipwrecks in the area,
Race Point Light was constructed in 1816 - the first of the three lighthouses in
Provincetown. As in the Long Point area, a small settlement based upon fishing
and saltworks emerged - dubbed "Helltown" by the locals. The settlement lasted
until the later half of the 19th century.
In 1995, Race Point Light was leased to the New England Lighthouse Foundation,
and the keepers house repaired and modernized with heat, hot water, flush
toilets, refrigeration, and a gas stove. Overnight stays were initiated in 1998.
A solar electrical system was installed in October 2003, and a wind turbine back
generator up was added in 2007, making the use of a diesel generator
unnecessary. The restored whistle house was opened to guests for week-long stays
Race Point Lighthouse Tours
Mariner's weekend starts the '11 tour season! Join us at the Race Point Beach
parking lot on Sunday May 15th for free transportation to the Light Station.
Light refreshments will be served along with tours of all the structures. And
wait until you see our "green energy" system! A wind turbine compliments the
solar array providing all the electricity the Light Station needs. Tours begin
at 10am and last until 3pm.
The Race Point Light Station will be open for anyone to tour the lighthouse on
the first and third Saturdays from June until October. The lighthouse will be
open from 10:00am to 2:00pm.
As early as 1808, Provincetown’s residents asked for a lighthouse at Race Point.
Travel was treacherous for vessels negotiating the bars near Race Point at Cape
Cod’s northern tip. Race Point Light was first lighted on November 5, 1816. The
rubblestone tower’s light was 25 feet above sea level, and was one of the
earliest revolving lights - in an attempt to differentiate it from other
lighthouses on Cape Cod.
In 1840, the Keeper’s house was built. In 1852 a fog bell was installed at Race
Point. Three years later, a fourth order Fresnel lens was installed in the
tower. In 1873, the bell was replaced by a steam-driven fog signal housed in a
new building. A second Keeper’s dwelling was built in 1876.
By 1876, the old stone “tower” needed rebuilding, and was replaced by a 45-foot
cast-iron lighthouse, lined with brick. The Fresnel lens was also installed. The
original Keeper’s house was torn down, and a new dwelling built. A water cistern
was added in 1877.
Three Keepers and their families lived at the lighthouse in the two separate
Keeper’s houses. The children walked almost three miles over sand to school
every day. In the 1930’s a Keeper named James Hinckley made the trip much
quicker by customizing a Ford into a dune buggy; the trip now took just thirty
minutes. We now use a newer form of dune buggy - a Suburban!
In 1957, Race Point Light was electrified. Three years later the 1874-Gothic
Revival Keeper’s house was torn down, and the other house modernized. The light
was automated in 1972. The Fresnel lens was replaced by a 190mm optic, and in
1994 the beacon and fog signal became solar-powered. The Keeper’s house remained
boarded up for more than 20 years after the Coast Guard left and in 2003 became
solar powered as well. In 2007 a wind turbine was added.
In 1995, the Keeper’s house and surrounding property was leased to the New
England Lighthouse Foundation. Known for their work on other New England
Lighthouses, International Chimney rebuilt the roof and chimney of the Keeper’s
house. Master craftsman,Richard Davidson of Onset rebuilt much of the interior
and exterior. Dana Green, of Green and Robinson, crafted the windows and doors
for the lighthouse and Whistle house. Volunteers finished renovations, and the
four-bedroom Keeper’s house opened for overnight stays.
Jim Walker, President of the Cape Cod Chapter of the American Lighthouse
Foundation, reported a curious mystery in 1996. An American flag appeared on a
temporary flag pole, put there by an unknown benefactor. After a bad storm, the
flag was shredded; again, a new flag mysteriously took its place. The flag is
now flown throughout the season, greeting guests from around the world as they
arrive at Race Point.
Today, the Race Point Light optic is still an active aid to navigation,
maintained by the Coast Guard. The Cape Cod Chapter of the American Lighthouse
Foundation maintains all of the structures and grounds.
For More Information and Reservations
P.O. Box 491
North Truro, MA 02652