Curtis Island Lighthouse

Camden, Maine
Nestled on Curtis Island, at the entrance to Camden Harbor in Camden, Maine, stands the historic Curtis Island Lighthouse.
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About This Location

Curtis Island Lighthouse: Guiding Mariners to Camden’s Coastal Gem

Nestled gracefully on Curtis Island, at the entrance to Camden Harbor in the picturesque town of Camden, Maine, stands the historic Curtis Island Lighthouse. This beautiful beacon has played an integral role in guiding mariners safely to the enchanting coastal haven of Camden.

A Town of Coastal Beauty

Camden, initially known as Megunticook, finds its roots in Native American settlements that praised the area’s “great sea swells.” As European settlers arrived, the village began to flourish, driven by a thriving shipyard and a constant stream of steamships that docked at its wharves. This coastal town, often touted as the most stunning in Maine, boasts a rich maritime heritage that has endured for centuries.

The Birth of Curtis Island Lighthouse

Congress recognized the need for a guiding light to aid vessels navigating Camden Harbor’s challenging waters. In 1834, they allocated $4,500 to build a lighthouse on Curtis Island. The construction, carried out by George Galt, was completed in 1836. Galt crafted a twenty-foot rubblestone tower featuring a lantern deck, complemented by a two-story stone dwelling with three rooms on the ground floor and three smaller rooms upstairs. This dwelling would be used by lightkeepers and their family. To cast its fixed white light, the lighthouse was equipped with eight oil lamps, each boasting fourteen-inch reflectors. Curtis Island also served as a signal station for Boston-Bangor Steamships, where the lighthouse keeper would hoist a ball on a pole to indicate approaching ships from different directions.

Challenges and Repairs

In its early years, Curtis Island Lighthouse faced its share of challenges. Storm damage in 1842 prompted significant repairs, but the structure continued to leak. A temporary fix in 1855 involved encasing the tower in wood and shingles. An oil house was added in 1894, and in 1889, the current keeper’s house was erected on the foundation of the original.

The Arrival of a New Beacon

As the original Curtis Island Lighthouse showed signs of disrepair, it was decided to replace it. The light from the original tower was transferred to a temporary structure in 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, 1896. Its green intermittent light, with a four-second period, offered a guiding beam visible up to 6 nautical miles.

A Beacon Embraced by the Community

In 1970, locals persuaded the Coast Guard to transfer ownership of the light station to the community rather than auction it off. In 1972, Curtis Island became a park under the town’s care, with a designated caretaker. The lighthouse earned its rightful place on the National Register of Historic Places on May 17, 1973, a testament to its cultural and historical significance. It’s reference number is 73000263.

A Cherished Island Retreat

Curtis Island today encompasses a light station complex comprising a round brick tower, a 1-1/2 story wood frame keeper’s house, a petite brick oil house, and a toolshed. A dock on the island’s sheltered northwest end provides access, and a network of walking paths allows visitors to explore this tranquil retreat.

A Hidden Gem of Coastal Maine

Curtis Island Lighthouse, often elusive from the mainland, is best appreciated on excursions and schooners departing from Camden Harbor. To catch a glimpse of this coastal gem from the shore, head to the Curtis Lighthouse Overlook on Bay View Street, which offers one of the finest vantage points. Here, you’ll find about three parking spaces along the roadside, all offering the privilege of capturing the beauty of Curtis Island Lighthouse. Parking is free, ensuring that the charm of this maritime treasure remains accessible to all who seek it.

Location

Address: Curtis Island, Camden, Maine
Place GPS Coordinates: 44.201364, -69.048864
Parking GPS Coordinates: 44.201364, -69.048864
Parking Notes: Curtis Island is a public park but is only accessible by boat. The lighthouse tower itself 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 parking spaces on the side of the road right at the overlook. Parking is free.

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