Saving Nobska Light

By Chris Kazarian | Photography by Betty Wiley

“Every lighthouse needs a keeper.”

These words are etched into a brick on a recently installed granite and concrete walkway that leads up to a lighthouse that has been a fixture in town since 1829—Nobska Light.  While the U.S. Lighthouse Service and the U.S. Coast Guard have been the keepers for much of the structure’s 194-year history, that changed in 2014. 

“For a few decades, the Coast Guard has been turning its lighthouses over to nonprofits and municipalities, and, if neither of those is available, to private individuals because they no longer need the structures as navigational aids,” explains Kathy Walrath, a nurse from Chicago who launched a second career in the nonprofit sector not long after she retired in 2015 and moved to Falmouth full-time with her husband Thomas. “I went from saving people to saving lighthouses,” she says.

Among the impressive upgrades that the Friends of Nobska Light have made is a compass rose that points true north. It is situated in the middle of granite pavers between Nobska Light and the keeper’s house.
Nobska Light beautiful location at the convergence of Vineyard Sound, Nantucket Sound and Woods Hole Passage is second to none.
President of Friends of Nobska Light, Kathy Walrath, with Billy Jurczyk, spearheaded the impressive renovation of the property. Which now allows visitors into the lighthouse and keeper’s house. A two-story building that houses a museum complete with a gift shop, on the first floor.
Tours of Nobska Light include access to the very top of the tower via a three-story spiral staircase, then a ladder up to the fourth story’s light and incredible views.
Visitors to Nobska Light learn about the history of the structure the science behind the light emitted by the fourth order Fresnel lens, opposite, and the importance of lighthouses to maritime operations.
They can take home a keepsake from the brand-new gift shop.
Stunning views of Vineyard Sound and Woods Hole Passage.
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