Fort Pickering Lighthouse is a historic lighthouse located at the entrance to Salem Harbor in Massachusetts. The lighthouse stands 25 feet tall and is located just off the shoreline just off Winter Island. This location has led to the lighthouse being often referred to as Winter Island Lighthouse.
The construction of forts on Winter Island in 1643 underscored the island’s prime position at the entrance to Salem’s inner harbor. The fort was originally named Fort William after King William of England, but when Queen Anne came to power, the title was changed to Fort Anne. Following the American Revolution in 1799, the fort was renamed Fort Pickering in honor of Colonel Timothy Pickering, a Salem native who served as Secretary of State under President Washington. After the Civil War, the fort was abandoned, and its ruins can still be seen today.
After the war, a lighthouse was necessary at Fort Pickering because Salem Harbor was experiencing increased traffic. The government set aside $30,000 in 1869 to build Fort Pickering Lighthouse, as well as Hospital Point Lighthouse in Beverly and Derby Wharf Lighthouse in Salem. The Fort Pickering Lighthouse was constructed of cast iron lined with brick and featured a flashing white light 28 feet above sea level. The lighthouse tower, which was originally painted red, was constructed slightly offshore. It was connected to the shore by a walkway.
In 1934, a Coast Guard airplane hangar was built on Winter Island. Until new dwellings could be constructed, the Coast Guardsmen resided in the lighthouse keeper’s residence. The Coast Guard left Winter Island in 1969, and the lighthouse was replaced by an offshore buoy. With no one keeping an eye on it, the old tower quickly fell into disrepair. The infamous blizzard of 1978 knocked the door right off the tower.
In the early 1980s, a group of concerned citizens and businesses formed the Fort Pickering Light Association. They repaired the lighthouse and made necessary additions, ultimately relighting the lighthouse in 1983 as a private aid. The town of Salem also helped maintained the lighthouse by providing funds.
The lighthouse has remained in good condition over the years, whereas the keeper’s house, walkway, barn, and other structures have been destroyed or abandoned. Winter Island Park offers a variety of recreational opportunities to the public, including swimming, fishing, camping, boating, and sunbathing. A fantastic place to visit the lighthouse and spend some time!
Looking for more great lighthouses nearby? Check out these 10 North Shore Massachusetts Lighthouses To Visit/Photograph. Also, explore the GoXplr Massachusetts Map at goxplr.com/map/massachusetts
- Constructed: 1871
- First lit: 1871
- Construction: Cast iron and brick
- Tower shape: Conical
- Height: 28 feet (8.5 m)
- Focal height: 28 feet (8.5 m)
- Markings: White
- Characteristic: White light flashing once every 4 seconds (Fl W 4s)
- Range: N/A
- Status: Active
- NRHP number: 94000335
- Address: Winter Island Rd
- Town: Salem
- State: Massachusetts
- GPS: Lat 42.52674 Lng -70.86677
- 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.
- Parking directions: HERE
- Location directions: HERE