Lighthouses have played a critical role in the daily life of maritime towns as nautical landmarks that provide directional signals to ships. They are traditionally located very close to the water. The Three Sister Lighthouses were originally located on Nauset Beach atop a cliff, just a quarter-mile from the Atlantic Ocean shore in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
All along Cape Cod, there were several lighthouses, however, many shipwrecks were found close to the Eastham shore. As a result, locals from Eastham constructed the Nauset Lighthouses to provide an additional landmark for sailors who were about to reach the mid-point of the outer cape. To further enhance visibility, it was cleverly decided to build three lighthouses.
The Nauset Lighthouses were dubbed The Three Sisters because when viewed from the ocean, the lighthouses resembled three ladies in white dresses and black hats.
The Three Sisters went into operation in 1838, until erosion along the cliff threatened their existence. Unfortunately in 1890, The Three Sisters fell into the sea. Two years later, they were replaced by lighthouses composed of wood on brick foundations. They were located just 30 feet west of the original site.
Erosion along the Nauset Cliff continued and maintenance of the Three Sisters became increasingly expensive. This prompted officials to decommission two of the lighthouses. Thanks to technological advances, the lighthouse along with the oil house were moved eight feet away from the cliff and both remained operational. The lighthouse earned the title of the Beacon. By 1911, the Beacon was the only lighthouse on Nauset Beach fully operational. It would flash every ten seconds to honor the other two sisters.
By 1923, the Beacon fell into disrepair and was eventually replaced by an iron tower known as the Nauset Light.
In 1965, the two previously decommissioned lighthouses were sold to the National Park Service, which placed them on Cable road a few miles away from Nauset Beach. In 1975, the National Park Service brought the Beacon and reunited it with the other two sister lighthouses. The Three Sisters were renovated and positioned according to their original location along the cliff. They are now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Today, The Three Sisters Lighthouses is a key attraction in Eastham, located a few miles away from Nauset Beach and just 0.3 miles away from the Nauset Light.
Know Before You Go
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.