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Lighthouse Preservation Society - Dining room at the Rear Range Lighthouse/ VisitingNewEngland small business partnership - Local Small Business Stories

Discovering the Ultimate Hidden, Scenic Dining Spot at the Newburyport Lighthouse in Newburyport, Mass.

Why this special occasions destination is beacons above a typical dining experience

Proposing at the Rear Range Lighthouse in Newburyport, Mass.A marriage proposal at the Newburyport Lighthouse. Photo, courtesy of The Lighthouse Preservation Society.

Article by Eric Hurwitz, @newenglandinfo. Story created on 11/12/2019.

Imagine climbing 55 winding stairs and a six-foot ladder through a narrow hatch, en route to an eight-foot in diameter room at the top of a lighthouse to experience an unforgettable romantic meal with a view.

Rear Range Lighthouse -- also known as Newburyport Lighthouse  -- in Newburyport, Mass. offers exactly that with its dining room affording spectacular 360 degree panoramic views of the ocean, quaint downtown Newburyport and the Merrimack River Valley. Initially started in 1999 as a fundraiser to support The Lighthouse Preservation Society, the dining room at the Newburyport Lighthouse is so popular that it is often booked for months in advance. It's also the only lighthouse in the United States and possibly the world that offers a dining out experience at the top, according to Jay Hyland, president of The Lighthouse Preservation Society.

Dining at the Newburyport Lighthouse in Newburyport, Mass.
Dining at the Lighthouse. Photo, courtesy of The Lighthouse Preservation Society.

As lighthouses historically stand out as beacons of strength, security and solitude, so does the dining experience at the Rear Range Lighthouse. It's just you and your significant other snugly situated in this tiny private glass-enclosed room most popular for proposals, anniversaries and birthday celebrations (there have also been some very small weddings here). Unless claustrophobic or acrophobic, the sweat equity built by arriving at the top of the lighthouse surely reveals one of the best milestone event destination investments in all of New England.

"It's like a walk-in closet but with million dollar views," said Hyland. "It is very relaxing up here. People are satisfied and have that Cheshire Cat grin."

Restaurant at the Newburyport Lighthouse, Newburyport, MA.
Comfortable dining, clear water views. Photo, courtesy of The Lighthouse Preservation Society.

One of those romantics with a Cheshire Cat grin: Hyland's son, Daniel, who proposed to his girlfriend at the Rear Range Lighthouse dining room.

Diners make a $350 donation to support The Lighthouse Preservation Society and access the dining room for up to five-and-a-half hours. Customers get to choose a romantic meal at the top of the lighthouse from one of several local restaurants. This can be done by making a reservation ahead of time.
Angie's Food provides breakfast and brunch. Loretta (regional American fare), Brown Sugar by the Sea (traditional Thai Cuisine) and the Starboard Galley (fresh local seafood) offer lunch and dinner. The (high-end steakhouse, seafood specialties), and Glenn's Food & Libations (eclectic cuisine, tapas) focus primarily on serving dinner. The cost of the meals are extra from the donation but at standard restaurant menu prices.
Dinner at the Newburyport Lighthouse in Newburyport, Mass.
Dinner at the Newburyport Rear Range Lighthouse.
Photo, courtesy of The Lighthouse Preservation Society.

The five stories to the top have revealed countless chapters of memories amongst those experiencing dining at the lighthouse. So many stories, in fact, that customers have written about their unforgettable experiences in several logs (next to the stereo and music selections) perched above the dining room table...

Books of memories at the dining room at the Newburyport Lighthouse in Newburyport, Mass.Music and memories.
"One guy hired an airplane with a sign 'Will you marry me?'" said Hyland. "He also hired a limo and brought two dozen roses. She wasn't going to say no."

There's even a balcony for more unobstructed views and once in a while some magical colors in the skies...

Balcony view from the dining room at the dining room at the Rear Range Lighthouse in Newburyport, Mass.Finding a rainbow. Photo credit: Kikilarouge Photography.

"Another guy in his mid-20s was concerned about the weather," said Hyland. "I said to him that in the summer you get to see short (weather) systems go through and not to be concerned. Plus, the weather patterns can look very interesting from the top of the lighthouse. I convinced him to go through with it. Wouldn't you know, there was a full rainbow from end to end!"

Newburyport Rear Range Lighthouse in Newburyport, Mass.
Entrance to the Rear Range Lighthouse.

The experience starts out with a greeting by wait staff at the base of the narrow lighthouse and then a brief pre-meal workout up the stairs.

Staircase leading to the dining room at the top of the Newburyport Lighthouse in Newburyport, Mass.
Starting the climb to the top of the lighthouse.

The narrow staircase and ascent can be daunting...

Deep, narrow staircase to and from the dining room at the Newburyport Lighthouse in Newburyport, Mass.
Steep, narrow staircase.

but ultimately certainly worth the effort...

Nighttime at the Newburyport Lighthouse dining room in Newburyport, Mass.
Incredible view from the dining room. Photo, courtesy of The Lighthouse Preservation Society.

A few significant others have the common nervous anxiety before proposing but also with no build-up to popping the big question. The dining room and views are so nice, why wait?

"Lots of guys are nervous, getting ready to propose," said Hyland. "One such person proposed the very moment he got up here.  He couldn't wait!"

The beauty of the area in one of New England's most impressive seaport cities can be seen at the top of the lighthouse whether water views...

View of water from the dining room at the Newburyport Lighthouse in Newburyport, Mass.
Water views and the Front Range Lighthouse.

or a scene of downtown Newburyport that looks like a toy village...

View of Newburyport, Mass. from the top of the Newburyport Lighthouse.Charming Newburyport.

Yankee Magazine
calls dining at the Newburyport Lighthouse as “One of the top 35 destinations to make the ‘ultimate to-do list for New England Travelers.'” The Phantom Gourmet billed it “Most Romantic and Exclusive Dining.” Fox 25 Boston said of the dining there, “The most private and exclusive dining space in New England.” And Northshore Magazine stated in its review, " Most romantic dining." Chronicle on WCVB-TV  Channel 5 featured a wonderful segment on the lighthouse dining experience in Newburyport.

"We have a lot of locals come here but also from around the world -- Japan, South Africa, India, England," said Hyland. "People find us through word-of-mouth, through the Internet or media."

How the Dining Room at Rear Range Lighthouse Started

Newburyport Lighthouse, Newburyport, Mass.
The Newburyport Rear Range Lighthouse.
Photo, courtesy of The Lighthouse Preservation Society.

Built in 1873, the Newburyport Harbor Rear Range Lighthouse worked in tandem with the Front Range Lighthouse 50 yards away to helps ships and boats navigate correctly into the area. 
Moving forward to 1961, both lighthouses were decommissioned and the Rear Range Light was sold to a private party. Hyland remembers that many years later local developer David Hall, whose father owned the lighthouse, enthused about "having lunch at the top." The lighthouse bulb went on over Hyland's head and he asked Hall if he could run the lighthouse as a dining out spot. Hall agreed, and a new light in the form of a dining out spot suddenly shone well above sea level in Newburyport. The lighthouse has also been repaired and repainted through the years to keep things in excellent condition.

View from the Newburyport Lighthouse dining room in Newburyport, MA.
Elegant dining with a view.
Photo, courtesy of The Lighthouse Preservation Society.

Hyland's family supported his decision to open the dining spot.

"When telling my wife, she said that anything that brought in money was a good idea as we didn't have much," said Hyland, with a laugh. "Everything worked out well. Dining here got more popular, I'd say about 15 years ago. The rise of the Internet and social media definitely helped."

The Newburyport Lighthouse dining out concept reflects well upon Hyland's overall passion for lighthouses. Hyland's mission with The Lighthouse Preservation Society is to make lighthouse preservation and its heritage a national issue. in the process, the Toledo, Ohio, native has played an important role in lighthouse history.

He has spearheaded a national effort to save America's lighthouses, aiding in the creation of the 
National Lighthouse Preservatioon Act. Hyland successfully lobbied for a congressional hearing in the 1980s, leading to a Coast Guard policy review. A recipient of the Presidential Achievement Award from the Federal Government to preserve lighthouse heritage,  The Lighthouse Preservation Society has been involved in more Congressional hearings as well as conferences, the sponsorship of National Lighthouse Day and its celebrations, the nomination of 30 U.S. lighthouse stamps, and the raising of nearly $6 million for more than 160 lighthouse projects.

Hyland holds a Bachelors Degree in communications from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., and a Masters of Divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary College in Hamilton, Mass. He is currently enrolled in a doctorate program at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in church history. Now living in Dover, N.H, Hyland looks at his involvement with lighthouses -- including the dining room destination at Rear Range Lighthouse -- as a blessing.

James Hyland president of the Lighthouse Preservation Society.
James Hyland, president of The Lighthouse Preservation Society.

"God gave us a passion for things," said Hyland. "The scriptures say to commit your way to the Lord and trust in him... This is what I love doing."


Dining room at Rear Range Lighthouse, Newburyport, MA.
The perfect place for a special occasion.
Photo, courtesy of The Lighthouse Preservation Society.

Big-time enjoyment surely comes from what could be the smallest restaurant in New England. While the padded benches, dining table, music and a climate control system lend comfort, it's ultimately the incredible views, outstanding food and one-of-a-kind destination presence that make dining at the Rear Range Lighthouse a must-try when visiting, or living in New England. Plus, the Rear Range Lighthouse is located just a few minute's walk from the heart of downtown Newburyport with its beautiful Federalist-style architecture, shops and restaurants. Newburyport, the smallest city in Massachusetts, is definitely one of New England travel gems. Just make sure that the restaurant part of that visit to Newburyport leads to the Newburyport Lighthouse! Downtown Newburyport, Mass.
Downtown Newburyport.

At 68-years-old, Hyland has no plans to retire -- great news for those coming back to dine at the Rear Range Lighthouse or first-timers.

"You can't retire when running a nonprofit," said Hyland with a smile. "And I continue to enjoy doing this!"

Rear Range Light is located at 61-1/2 Water St., Newburyport, MA. Tel. 1-800-727-2326.
The Lighthouse Preservation Society Web site:
The Lighthouse Preservation Society Dinner at the Lighthouse page:
Facebook fan page:


More local small business reading:

Thwaites Market, Methuen, Mass.
The Topsfield Bakeshop/The Whoo(pie) Wagon, Topsfield, Mass.

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You have to climb 60 steps to arrive at the dining room at the Newburyport Lighthouse in Newburyport, Mass. but it is totally worth the overall experience......

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