Built in 1821, Burnt Island Light is Maine’s second oldest surviving lighthouse. Burnt Island is located near the western entrance of Boothbay Harbor. The town of Boothbay Harbor is located in the northeastern corner of the harbor. The tradition of burning the island’s vegetation to maintain the ground clear for sheep grazing gave the island its name.
In the 1700s, the town of Boothbay—then known as Townsend and today covering the towns of Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor, and Southport—was a center for shipbuilding, gristmills, and fishing. Local merchants and mariners petitioned the government in 1764 to have a lighthouse built on Damariscove Island, five miles south of Boothbay Harbor. Talks of a lighthouse then subsided as the American Revolution took center stage.
Later, it was discovered that Burnt Island was a suitable place for a lighthouse. In March 1821, funds were authorized for the construction of the lighthouse. In March, a petition signed by town officials and pilots for the construction of a lighthouse on the island resulted in the island’s purchase within a few days. On the island, a granite rubble tower with brick lining was built. It had a stone keeper’s residence next to it. The lighthouse was first lit in late summer of 1821, utilizing a traditional combination of whale oil lamps and parabolic reflectors. The original keeper’s home was demolished in 1857 and replaced with the current frame building. The house and the tower are connected by a covered walkway. At the same time, a fourth-order Fresnel lens was fitted, marking the start of a series of improvements to the beacon’s lighting and appearance.
In 1895, a fog bell was added to the lighthouse property and was placed in a newly constructed wooden tower. In 1962, the bell was removed from the tower and placed on a metal frame with an automatic electric striker. The station was one of the last to be staffed in Maine. It was automated in 1988.
As part of the Maine Lighthouse Program, the island and light station were given to the State of Maine Department of Marine Resources in 1998. The buildings have been restored to their 1950s condition as much as feasible, and a living history program was launched in 2003. The lighthouse was most recently restored in 2021 to celebrate its 200th anniversary. Over $350,000 was raised for the restoration. Things restored included the tower and dwelling’s foundation, the dwelling and shed’s exterior, mortar, and windows.
Burnt Island Lighthouse cannot be seen easily from the mainland. It is best to see it by boat or personal watercraft. Balmy Days Cruises provides two lighthouse tours every week in the summer months. The tours allow visitors to walk the grounds of the lighthouse and learn about its history. There are also other sightseeing cruises out of Boothbay Harbor that pass the lighthouse, for example, Cap’n Fish’s Cruises. Additionally, recreationally boats are allowed to access the island. On calm days, kayaks and paddleboards can be used to reach Burnt Island.
Burnt Island Light Station was added to the National Register of Historic Places on November 23, 1977.
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- Constructed: 1821
- First lit: 1821
- Construction: Granite with brick lining
- Tower shape: Conical
- Height: 30 feet (9.1 m)
- Focal height: 61 feet (19 m)
- Markings: White with black lantern
- Characteristic: Flashing red 6 sec w/ two white sectors
- Range: Red 12 nautical miles (22 km; 14 mi) & White 15 nautical miles (28 km; 17 mi)
- Status: Active
- NRHP number: 77000139
- Address: Burnt Island
- Town: Southport
- State: Maine
- GPS: Lat 43.82513 Lng -69.64016
- Parking notes: Burnt Island Lighthouse cannot be seen easily from the mainland. It is best to see view boat. Balmy Days Cruises provides two lighthouse tours every week in the summer months. There are also other sightseeing cruises out of Boothbay Harbor that pass the lighthouse.
- Parking directions: N/A
- Location directions: HERE
External Website: https://www.keepersofburntislandlight.com/index.html