About This Location
Boon Island Lighthouse, standing proudly on the 300-by-700-foot Boon Island off the southern coast of Maine, near Cape Neddick, holds the distinction of being the tallest lighthouse in both Maine and New England, soaring to a height of 133 feet. The lighthouse, with its historical significance and rugged beauty, stands as a testament to maritime history and the perils faced by sailors navigating the treacherous coastal waters.
The origins of Boon Island Lighthouse trace back to the early 18th century when the ship Nottingham Galley ran aground on the barren island in 1710. The harrowing tale of the crew's survival, resorting to cannibalism before being rescued, spurred discussions about the need for a lighthouse. In 1799, a wooden tower and day marker were established but succumbed to the sea's relentless force within five years. A stone day beacon replaced it, and in 1811, the station was upgraded to a full light station with the construction of a granite tower. Unfortunately, this tower met its fate in a storm in 1832.
The current cylindrical brown granite tower, standing at 133 feet, was erected in 1855, equipped with a second-order Fresnel lens. At the time, it claimed the title of the tallest lighthouse in New England, base to tip. A new keeper's dwelling accompanied the tower, solidifying the station's presence on the isolated island.
Boon Island Lighthouse faced a significant challenge in 1978 when a blizzard caused extensive damage. Stones from the tower and all keeper's dwellings were washed into the sea, prompting automation in 1980. The United States Coast Guard installed a solar-powered beacon, maintaining the station's vital role in maritime safety. The lighthouse, leased to the American Lighthouse Foundation, retains its active status under the Coast Guard's control.
The historical significance of Boon Island Light is underscored by its listing on the National Register of Historic Places on March 14, 1988 (reference number 88000153). President James Madison's authorization for its construction during the War of 1812 further adds to its historical pedigree.
Isolation and danger are woven into the fabric of Boon Island's history. The keepers' resilience is evident in tales of being marooned for weeks due to storms, surviving on meager supplies until a passing schooner came to their rescue. Legends also tell of a keeper's wife left alone on the island, tending to the station until she went insane, a poignant reminder of the challenges faced by those who kept the light burning.
In 2014, Boon Island Light found a new owner, Art Girard, a resident of Portland, Maine, who purchased it from the General Services Administration for $78,000. Subsequently, it was sold to a Boston entity, marking another chapter in the lighthouse's storied history.
Boon Island Light, though not open to the public, remains a striking symbol of resilience and maritime heritage. The only ways to view the tower are by boat or aircraft, allowing visitors to appreciate both the architectural grandeur of the lighthouse and the rugged beauty of its island setting.
- Originally Constructed: 1811
- Current Tower Constructed: 1855
- First Lit: 1855 (current tower)
- Construction: Granite tower
- Tower Shape: Cylindrical
- Height: 133 feet
- Focal Height: 138 feet
- Markings: Brown granite
- Characteristic: Flashing white every 5 seconds
- Range: 19 nautical miles
- Status: Active
- NRHP Number: 88000153