Historic Structures

United States Life Saving Station At Surfside, Nantucket Massachusetts

Date added: August 7, 2020 Categories: Massachusetts Military Facility Lighthouse

Surfside is the name given to about four miles of coast on the south shore of Nantucket Island, about three and a half miles from the Town of Nantucket.

The U. S. Life Saving Service was founded in 1871 and although there were eventually four stations, the Surfside Station was the first one operated on Nantucket. They were located at points where wrecks were unusually frequent, It was estimated that over five hundred shipwrecks occurred around the coast of the Island from the time of its first settlement by the white men to 1877.

A vacation guide published in 1889 mentions the following , "The Life Saving Station at Surfside is about twenty rods west of the Nantucket railroad depot. Here, for eight months of the year men nightly patrol the beach for three miles each way."

In 1877, the bark, W. F. Marshall, came ashore on the south side of the Island and through the efforts of the crew of the Surfside Station who made a line fast to the vessel with sling attached, the crew, fourteen in number, as well as the wife and child of the steward, were safely landed and cared for.

One of the saddest wrecks off Surfside was the loss of the three masted schooner, T. B. Witherspoon, in 1886, when seven lives were lost and only two saved.

As late as 1902 another of many rescue feats occurred when the lumber-laden schooner, Flyaway, went onto Handkerchief Shoal about thirty miles from Surfside. Captain Clisby and his crew from the Surfside Station, after five hours of work with their surf-boat, succeeded in saving five of the crew who were so exhausted they could have held out but a few hours longer.

The Life Saving Service and the Revenue Cutter Service were merged in 1915 to form the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Life Saving Stations were eventually abandoned.

In 1963 the building was coverted to living quarters by American Youth Hostels, Inc.

United States Life Saving Station At Surfside, Nantucket Massachusetts July 1966 VIEW FROM SOUTHEAST
July 1966 VIEW FROM SOUTHEAST

United States Life Saving Station At Surfside, Nantucket Massachusetts July 1966 SOUTH ELEVATION
July 1966 SOUTH ELEVATION

United States Life Saving Station At Surfside, Nantucket Massachusetts July 1966 NORTH ELEVATION
July 1966 NORTH ELEVATION