Curtis Island Lighthouse is a beautiful, historic lighthouse in Camden, Maine. The lighthouse sits on Curtis Island at the entrance to Camden Harbor.
Native Americans first settled in the Camden area, which they named Megunticook, which means “great sea swells.” The village was then settled by Europeans. The population of Camden began to grow in the early 1800s, as the shipyard thrived and steamships frequently stopped at the wharves on during trips. It was a great location and also extraordinarily beautiful. Many argue Camden is the most stunning town in Maine. Curtis Island is a 5-acre teardrop-shaped island in the mouth of Camden Harbor which acts as a natural breakwater.
Congress allocated $4,500 to construct a lighthouse on Curtis Island in 1834. The lighthouse was built by George Galt and finished in 1836. Galt constructed a twenty-foot rubblestone tower with a lantern deck and a two-story stone home with three rooms on the first floor and three smaller rooms upstairs. To create a fixed white light, the lighthouse was equipped with eight oil lamps with fourteen-inch reflectors. Curtis Island was also utilized as a signal station by the Boston-Bangor Steamships for many years. To signify that a ship was approaching from one direction or the other, the lighthouse keeper would hoist a ball on a pole near the tower.
When Lt. Thomas Manning arrived to visit Curtis Island Lighthouse in 1838, he found it to be “in very good shape.” When engineer I.W.P. Lewis came to inspect the tower in 1842, he discovered it had been damaged from top to bottom by a storm in February of that year. Despite the repair of the octagonal light, the structure continued to leak. In 1855, the tower was encased in wood and shingled as a temporary fix. In 1894, the property received an oil house. On the foundation of the first keeper’s house, the current keeper’s house was erected in 1889.
Eventually, the time came to replace the original Curtis Island Light which had been falling apart. The light from the original rubblestone tower was set on a temporary tower forty feet to the east on May 11, 1896, and the old lighthouse was dismantled to make way for its successor. The new round brick tower, standing twenty-five feet tall, was completed on July 30th, and its lantern was switched on while the paint was still curing.
Camden locals persuaded the Coast Guard in 1970 that the light station should be given to the community instead of being auctioned off to just one person. In 1972, the town took over the island and all of its structures except the tower, declared Curtis Island a park, and appointed a caretaker to look after the station. In November 1997, the municipality of Camden opted to acquire ownership of the tower on Curtis Island under the Maine Lights Program, with 1,358 votes in favor and 137 votes against.
A round brick tower, a 1-1/2 story wood frame keeper’s house, a tiny brick oil house, and a toolshed make up the light station complex today. A dock is located near the island’s sheltered northwest end. There are a number of walking paths around the island. Curtis Island Light, one of Maine’s most beautiful buildings, is difficult to spot from the coast. Excursions and schooners departing from Camden Harbor provide the greatest views. Additionally, it can be seen from the mainland best from the Curtis Lighthouse Overlook on Bay View Street.
Looking for other amazing lighthouses to explore in the mid-coast of Maine? Check out our blog post The 27 Mid-Coast Maine Lighthouses You Must Visit!
- Originally constructed: 1835
- Current tower constructed: 1896
- First lit: 1896 (current structure)
- Construction: Brick
- Tower shape: Cylindrical
- Height: 25 feet (7.6 m)
- Focal height: 52 feet (16 m)
- Markings: White
- Characteristic: Green intermittent light with a four-second period (Oc G 4s)
- Range: 6 nautical miles (11 km; 6.9 mi)
- Status: Active
- NRHP number: 73000263
- Address: Curtis Island
- Town: Camden
- State: Maine
- GPS: Lat 44.20149 Lng -69.04906
- Parking notes: Curtis Island is a public park but is only accessible by boat. The lighthouse is not open to the public. To view the lighthouse from the shore, one of the best viewpoints is Curtis Lighthouse Overlook on Bay View Street. There are about 3 free parking spaces on the side of the road.
- Parking directions: HERE
- Location directions: HERE