The shipping traffic in the East Passage of Narragansett Bay was increasing in the mid-1800s and Rose Island was the perfect spot for a lighthouse to help vessels navigate the area.
Congress approved $7,500 for the Rose Island Lighthouse to be built in 1868. It was just about finished in 1869. The tower is 35 feet tall on the west end of the structure. Over the years, the station was eventually upgraded from the light fixture and the addition of a fog bell that would double blow every 15 seconds when needed was included. In 1901, a brick oil house was built and in 1912, the fog bell was replaced with a more modern fog signal. When the Newport Bridge was completed in 1969, it turned out to be a better aid to navigation than the lighthouse was and the tower was deactivated in 1971. It was leased for a while as a marine research facility for the University of Rhode Island. After it was returned to the federal government, it sat empty and was in bad shape until the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation restored it, and by 1990 it was back in its 1912 condition. The wiring, plumbing, plaster walls, and in-floor radiant heat were new and ready for visitors.
The Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation provides access to the lighthouse today and visitors can stay overnight on the first floor, or if you would like to act as lighthouse keeper you can stay for the week and have a few duties like raising the flag each morning and lowering the flag in the evening, as well as some other things that are not too taxing. The lighthouse is a museum from 10 am - 4 pm. There are 2 rooms on the first floor that share a kitchen and a bathroom if both are booked. The 2nd floor is for the "keeper" and has its own kitchen and bathroom. While staying at the lighthouse, it is fun to climb to the top and watch the boats, the sunrise, and the sunset. The birds are nesting from March 1st to August 14th, so some of the areas are restricted during that time. The boat ride to and from the island is also an adventure with the captain's many experiences and stories, he sure makes it eventful!