Salem, Massachusetts

At the entrance to Salem Harbor, Fort Pickering Lighthouse, also known as Winter Island Lighthouse, is a sentinel of maritime history thats stood since 1871.

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About This Location

Standing proudly at the entrance to Salem Harbor in Salem, Massachusetts, Fort Pickering Lighthouse, also known as Winter Island Lighthouse, is a venerable sentinel of maritime history. This historic lighthouse, with its distinctive 25-foot stature, is perched just off the shoreline of Winter Island, an idyllic location that has earned it the moniker Winter Island Lighthouse.

The historical significance of Winter Island dates back to 1643 when forts were constructed on its shores, highlighting its strategic position at the entrance to Salem's inner harbor. Originally named Fort William in honor of King William of England, it was later renamed Fort Anne during Queen Anne's reign. Following the American Revolution, the fort earned the name Fort Pickering, paying tribute to Colonel Timothy Pickering, a native of Salem who served as Secretary of State under President Washington. The fort's ruins, remnants of this rich history, can still be explored today.

In response to the burgeoning maritime traffic in Salem Harbor after the Civil War, the need for a lighthouse at Fort Pickering became apparent. In 1869, the government allocated $30,000 for the construction of Fort Pickering Lighthouse, along with Hospital Point Lighthouse in Beverly and Derby Wharf Lighthouse in Salem. Fort Pickering Lighthouse, constructed of cast iron lined with brick, featured a distinctive flashing white light positioned 28 feet above sea level. The lighthouse tower, originally painted in striking red, was ingeniously constructed just offshore and connected to the mainland by a walkway. It was completed in 1871.

The year 1934 brought the construction of a Coast Guard airplane hangar on Winter Island. Until new dwellings could be provided, Coast Guardsmen made their home in the lighthouse keeper's residence. However, the Coast Guard vacated Winter Island in 1969, replacing Fort Pickering Lighthouse with an offshore buoy. In the absence of a guardian, the old tower quickly succumbed to disrepair, exacerbated by the infamous blizzard of 1978, which forcibly removed the tower's door.

In the early 1980s, a group of concerned citizens and local businesses united to form the Fort Pickering Light Association. This dedicated team undertook the task of restoring the lighthouse, making essential repairs, and, in 1983, rekindling its light as a private aid. The city of Salem also extended its support by providing necessary funds.

Fort Pickering Lighthouse received a well-deserved distinction when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 14, 1994 as part of the Winter Island Historic District and Archeological District. This recognition highlights its paramount role in preserving maritime heritage and history. (Reference number: 94000335)

Throughout the years, while the lighthouse has maintained its resilient stature, other structures such as the keeper's house, walkway, barn, and more have either succumbed to abandonment or destruction. Today, Winter Island Park offers a diverse range of recreational activities, including swimming, fishing, camping, boating, and sunbathing, inviting visitors to experience the lighthouse and spend quality time amidst its historical surroundings.

Access to Fort Pickering Lighthouse is conveniently provided within Winter Island Park, which boasts ample parking facilities. Along the dirt road leading to Fort Pickering and the lighthouse, numerous free parking spots are available, ensuring convenient access to this enduring symbol of maritime history.

Location Features

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Winter Island Road, Salem, Massachusetts

GPS Coordinates:
42.526528, -70.866472
Directions to location:
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Directions to parking area:
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Parking Notes:
The lighthouse can found within Winter Island Park where there is ample parking. There are many free parking spots along the dirt road leading to Fort Pickering and the lighthouse.


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