Many clubs have unique stories that explain how they got their names, but none of them is more unique than the story of Ida Lewis Yacht Club.
In 1853, Congress authorized the construction of a lighthouse on Lime Rock in Newport Harbor, Rhode Island. Ida’s father, Hosea Lewis, was appointed keeper, but he suffered a stroke four months into his assignment. To support the family, Hosea’s wife and daughter Ida took over the job. Later, after her mother died, Ida Lewis was officially appointed keeper in her own right, and she held that job from 1879 to 1911.
Ida was a strong swimmer and knew how to handle a rowboat. She became a legend during her 39 years on Lime Rock by rowing out into the face of Newport’s fiercest storms to save victims of shipwrecks and capsizings. In 1924 the Rhode Island legislature officially changed the name of Lime Rock to Ida Lewis Rock, and the lighthouse service changed the name of the lighthouse to the Ida Lewis Rock Lighthouse.
Although an automated light on a skeleton tower remained active until 1963, the lighthouse itself closed in 1927 and the land and buildings were sold. The lighthouse is now the home of the Ida Lewis Yacht Club which maintains a private light in the original tower. The club’s burgee depicts a lighthouse and 18 stars—one for each life saved by the indomitable heroine, Ida Lewis.