Bakers Island Lighthouse is a historic lighthouse located on Bakers Island in Salem Sound in Massachusetts. The lighthouse was established in 1798.
Bakers Island is located about three miles east of Salem’s harbor entrance. The town of Salem received ownership of the island in 1660. By the late 1700s, Salem was a major port for foreign trade, but there were no substantial navigational aids. Many mariners struggled to navigate through the island and rocks near the harbor. On May 25, 1791, the Salem Marine Society decided to have a committee of three men to build a daymark on the island. Later that year, the island received a daymark, which was paid for by locals.
The daymark was helpful, but more needed to be done to help assist ships entering Salem Harbor at night or during bad weather. The Salem Marine Society went on to build buoys to aid local navigation, but by 1792, they had persuaded the local lighthouse superintendent and the United States Congress that an illuminated aid was desperately needed. The catastrophes of three vessels in 1796, in which 16 lives were lost, demonstrated the insufficiency of the daymark. President George Washington signed a $6,000 congressional appropriation for a lighthouse on April 8, 1796.
The government and municipal planners chose to construct a two-story structure with two roof lights. This would distinguish the lighthouse from the others in the region. On Bakers Island, 10 acres of land were acquired in 1797, and the first lighthouse was constructed. The north light was 78 feet high and the south light was 95 feet high above mean high water. The lighthouse did not remain long, however, as it was wrecked in a storm in 1815.
To supplement the first lighthouse, a 26-foot octagonal stone tower was built in 1815. This single light was not deemed enough. In 1820, The Salem Marine Society, along with residents of Salem, Marblehead, and Beverly, petitioned the government to have a second light constructed. In the summer and fall of 1820, a second lighthouse was constructed on the island. In October 1820, the new 59-foot conical stone tower and the restored 26-foot octagonal stone tower, both with octagonal iron lights, were lit. The two towers, which are around 40 feet apart, earned the appellation “Ma and Pa” or “Mr. and Mrs.” lighthouses because of their closeness. Both towers were in use until 1926 when the older, shorter tower was decommissioned and removed.
The coast guard made major repairs and upgrades to the lighthouse over the years. These include: converting the lighthouse to electric in 1938, automating it in 1872, completing a $250,000 restoration in 1993, and adding solar in 2000.
The Baker’s Island Association, which oversees the island, received permission to use and preserve the two keeper’s cottages in 1988. The light station was made available to a qualified new owner in 2002, thanks to the rules of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000. The United States Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton, suggested that possession be given to the Essex National Heritage Commission in late April 2005. (ENHC). The ENHC was picked as the best steward by a National Park Service (NPS) committee.
Essex Heritage is a non-profit organization dedicated to public access and preservation. It operates and maintains the 10-acre light station on Bakers Island. The majority of the 60-acre island, including Bakers Island Wharf, is privately owned. The Essex Heritage landing craft, the Naumkeag, is now the sole option for the general public to go on the property. Essex Heritage offers trips, private charters, overnight stays, camping, volunteering, and more opportunities to experience the lighthouse!
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- Originally constructed: 1791
- Current tower constructed: 1820
- First lit: 1820 (current tower)
- Construction: Granite and concrete
- Tower shape: Conical
- Height: 59 feet (18 m)
- Focal height: 111 feet (34 m)
- Markings: White with black lantern
- Characteristic: Alternating White and Red 20s
- Range: White 16 nautical miles (30 km; 18 mi) & Red 14 nautical miles (26 km; 16 mi)
- Status: Active
- NRHP number: 76000289
- Address: Bakers Island
- Town: Salem
- State: Massachusetts
- GPS: Lat 42.5363 Lng -70.78593
- Parking notes: Bakers Island Lighthouse and the 10-acre property is operated and maintained by the non-profit, Essex Heritage. Boat tours to Bakers Island Light are offered on Sunday afternoons. You can learn more about visiting the lighthouse at https://www.bakersislandlight.org/visit.html
- Parking directions: N/A
- Location directions: HERE
External Website: https://www.bakersislandlight.org/
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