Stage Harbor Chatham

The waters of Monomoy are dangerous, particularly the Polluck Rip which forced the Pilgrims back out to the ocean to Plymouth. The first European to set foot in Chatham was Samuel de Champlain in 1606. Having lost his rudder in the dangerous shoals around Monomoy and needing to repair his boat, he found his way via what is now Hardings Beach to the quieter harbor that is now Stage Harbor.


But he and his Monomoyick Indian hosts quickly came to blows and he left never to return.

When Chatham was finally settled in 1656, Stage Harbor (named for racks used for drying fish) developed into a busy fishing port. Stage Harbor Light (also known as Harding Beach Light), built was in 1880 at Hardings Beach. It is the newest of the Cape Cod Light Stations, and was used to guide seafarer to the entrance to Stage Harbor. The light was installed to complement the Chatham Light, which is one of the foggiest points on the East Coast.


The tower was built of curved iron plates lined with brick and a Fresnel lens was installed. Together with a wooden keeper's house it cost $9,862.74. The first keeper was paid $560 a year. It produced a fixed white light visible for 12 miles out to sea. During Prohibition, illegal liquor was stored under the floorboards in the passage between the light and the keeper's house. It was discovered during a surprise inspection. However, the inspector must have been a sport because he merely noted the loose floorboards, and told the keeper to repair them!

An automated light on a single tower was built in 1933, and the lighthouse was decommissioned. The lantern room was removed, and the site sold to private ownership. The same family that first bought the property, the Hoyts, descendants of the original Nickersons, still own it. There has never been electricity at the station, and no plumbing except for a single pump. The Light continues as an active aid to navigation exhibiting a white flash.

It is not open to the public but can be viewed from the town landing at the end of Sears Road or by a one mile hike on Hardings Beach.

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