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The Story of the Cape Cod Chips Lighthouse

Thelma Raker Coffone is an award-winning writer who enjoys writing on a variety of topics, especially lighthouses.

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Nauset Beach Lighthouse and Cape Cod Potato Chips

What do potato chips and the beautiful Nauset Beach lighthouse have in common? The Cape Cod Potato Chip Company has been making their famous chips for over 25 years and using the image of the lighthouse as their logo. If you are like me, you have seen the bag with the logo on the grocery store shelves and probably enjoyed the crispy potato chips inside. However, more than likely, you never knew anything about the identity of the lighthouse or its history.

potato-chips-and-a-lighthouse

Saved From Decommission

Constructed in 1877 in Eastham, Massachusetts on Cape Cod, the Nauset Beach Lighthouse stands 48 feet tall and is distinguished by its striking color scheme of white on the bottom portion of the tower, red on the top half and a black lantern.

In 1993, the Coast Guard's announcement of the pending decommission of the lighthouse was met with a huge public outcry. The Nauset Light Preservation Society was formed, and through donations and fundraising efforts, the lighthouse was saved and is still in use today.

Why Did the Lighthouse Cross the Road?

Coastline erosion of Cape Cod is a serious problem as the cape is gradually narrowing and loses more land than it gains. At the lighthouse location, the average annual erosion rate is 5.8 feet with some years having no erosion at all and other years having as much as 15 feet.

By the early 1990's, the Nauset Beach light was less than 25 feet from the edge of a 70-foot cliff and in great danger. It was rescued from the ravages of the sea through the efforts of the Preservation Society, who had since leased it from the Coast Guard. The decision was made to move it across the road to a more secure location. With the use of heavy-duty dollies hitched to a truck, it was moved inch by inch 336 feet.

The keeper's house is owned by a private individual who donated it to the National Park Service in 1998 with the stipulation that she could live in the house for the next 25 years. When the tower was moved, the house was only 23 feet from falling into the ocean. With little time to spare, the Society arranged to move it to a spot next to the relocated tower.

Exhibit shows the lighthouse dangerously close to the edge. This helps visitors understand the effects of erosion.

Exhibit shows the lighthouse dangerously close to the edge. This helps visitors understand the effects of erosion.

New Paint Thanks to Cape Cod Potato Chips

In 2013, the lighthouse was looking a little shabby and desperately needed a coat of paint to spruce it up. Unfortunately, the volunteers did not have the funds to pay for such an undertaking. The company that owns Cape Cod Potato Chips stepped up to the plate. They volunteered to pay the $40,000 cost to paint the old lighthouse that graces their potato chip bags. Due to some needed repairs prior to painting, the bill for the work actually amounted to $42,000, which the potato chip folks graciously paid in full. The grand old lady was restored to her original beauty just in time for Christmas.

New Paint Just in Time for Christmas

New Paint Just in Time for Christmas

Now You Know the Rest of the Story!

In my opinion, it was sheer genius to adopt such a beautiful landmark as the company's logo. Now when you eat a Cape Cod potato chip or see one of their delivery trucks with the recognizable logo painted on the side, you can say that you know the rest of the story about what potato chips and lighthouses have in common!

Plan a Visit

Thanks to the Nauset Light Preservation Society, which has over 800 members in 40 different states, the public can experience the lighthouse and learn about the role it played in helping mariners find their way in the waters off Cape Cod. The grounds are open daily, however, the structure is open seasonally.

Map View Showing Proximity to Atlantic Ocean

© 2011 Thelma Raker Coffone