Photography by Jack McCabe 2008.08.13 ©
Leica V Lux 1
Rose Island, about a mile offshore from Newport, has a commanding position in Narragansett Bay’s East Passage, with a clear view to the south all the way to Block Island. The island — once more than 25 acres in size — today encompasses only about 18 acres. It would appear to any summer visitor that the island’s present name comes from the presence of abundant Rosa rugosa bushes, but that’s not the case. Some think it was named for the shape of the island, with the long point being the stem.
A fort was partially built on Rose Island beginning in 1798. Fort Hamilton was never finished, armed or garrisoned, but some of the structures were used to store explosives in both World War I and II.
The waters around Newport were thick with passenger steamers, fishing boats, and freighters in the mid-nineteenth century. The southwest corner of Rose Island was an ideal place for a light to help guide navigators passing through the East Passage of the bay and those approaching Newport, as well as to warn of dangerous shoals north of Newport Harbor. On July 20, 1868, Congress appropriated $7,500 for a lighthouse.