It’s the off season and it’s quiet time for Watch Hill RI. The only sounds you’re likely to hear are the cry of gulls and surf breaking on the shore. The village shops are closed and little piles of wind driven sand collect in the doorways. In the windows last year’s sale signs promote the latest summer fashions.
Five mile long East Beach is now devoid of people. Only months ago thousands of beach goers packed this strand, now only a few early piping clovers race the waves in and out.
To the west, along little Narragansett Bay out past the harbor, Napatree Point stretches out to Fort Mansfield. Here, on most days, the only footprints you’ll see will be your own.
In 1938 Napatree Point’s fragile shoreline was devastated by the Hurricane of 38. Tragically, fifteen people lost their lives during the storm. Photographs taken before the hurricane show forty-four large summer cottages that ran out toward the end of the point. In photographs taken after the storm there are no cars, no houses and no road, only a few twisted telephone poles sticking out of the sand.
As the blowing sands shift you can sometimes see parts of the concrete foundations of the destroyed houses. There are reports of ghostly sightings on the point and there is an eerie feeling that lingers in the air, is it the wind or the soft whispering of Napatree’s ghosts?
Watching the Water, Watch Hill RI
Another historic highlight of the village is the Watch Hill Lighthouse. The first Watch Hill Lighthouse was commissioned in 1806 by President Thomas Jefferson to replace an earlier wooden tower. In 1856, what is now the present day lighthouse was built from gray Westerly Granite. A brick keeper’s cottage was also constructed. Jonathan Nash, Watch Hill’s first lighthouse keeper, recorded 45 wrecks during his 27 years of service.
Next to the lighthouse, the infamous Holiday House once owned by Rebecca Harkness, now owned by Taylor Swift and called High Watch sits empty like most of the other summer cottages.
With the first breaths of spring, Watch Hill’s quiet time is soon coming to an end. It’s a great time to visit the village, walk its historic shoreline, and watch the sunset over Little Narragansett Bay. So there you go; no crowds, sweeping views, the sound of crashing waves, the crisp ocean air and a little history. What could be better?
For more local Westerly info check out the new Westerly+