In 1888, the Humane Society of Massachusetts built the Horseneck Point Life-Saving Station as one of 69 coastal rescue stations to help aid mariners in distress offshore. During that age of inaccurate charts, few navigational markers, and sail-powered ships at the mercy of bad weather, shipwrecks were a serious problem.
The Horseneck station—first situated at the mouth of Westport Harbor, and relocated to its current position near the causeway to Gooseberry Island in 1894—originally housed the 30-foot lifeboat Westport, which was equipped and ready to rescue sailors from any ships that might founder in nearby waters.
After the Life-Saving Station was decommissioned in 1913, it lived several lives as a restaurant, bar, clam shack, ice cream parlor, residence, and an environmental visitor center called The Edge. With each new use, the original structure was buried under additions and renovations.
In 2007, the Westport Fishermen’s Association began the process of restoring the Life-Saving Station to its original appearance and removing all of the additions. The restoration was completed in 2009, and the current Life-Saving Station opened as a museum and visitor center in 2014.
When the Westport Fishermen’s Association merged with the Buzzards Bay Coalition in 2018, the station’s lease passed to the Coalition for operation and management. It’s one of only four remaining life-saving stations in Massachusetts that’s intact and open to the public.
To learn more about the Life-Saving Station’s history, download The Story of the Horseneck Point Life-Saving Station by the Westport Fishermen’s Association.
The Life-Saving Station tells the story of Buzzards Bay’s treacherous entrance, and the history of oil spills and accidents in the Bay – as well as the recent successes in environmental protection that these accidents have driven. This piece of Westport’s history is part of the Coalition’s network of learning centers and conservation reserves around the region.
Just offshore from the Life-Saving Station and Gooseberry Island lie navigational hazards like Hen and Chickens Reef and Old Cock, a rock with a 36-foot iron spindle jutting up to the Bay’s surface. To this day, this passage remains notorious with mariners for rough seas and a history of wrecks.
One of the most recent accidents in this location was the Bouchard 120 oil spill. In April 2003, a tank barge moving through the Bay struck underwater rocks and spilled roughly 98,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil. In the wake of this spill, the Coalition led a successful campaign to secure one of the strictest oil spill prevention laws in the country.
The Life-Saving Station is open to the public seasonally from June through September, and hosts select programs throughout the fall and winter. In the summer, the station hosts a coastal touch tank, where you can get up close and personal with sea stars, hermit crabs, whelks, and bay scallops. Check our events page for upcoming events at the Life-Saving Station.
Beaches, wooded parks, parkways, and reservoirs — all of these places make up the Massachusetts state parks, operated by the Department of Conservation and Recreation.