About This Location
Fort Point Lighthouse: Guiding Mariners Since 1835
Standing as a timeless sentinel at the easternmost tip of Cape Jellison in Stockton Springs, Maine, the Fort Point Lighthouse, also known as Fort Point Light Station, has been a symbol of maritime safety and history since its establishment in 1835. Located within the scenic Fort Point State Park, this historic lighthouse has played a crucial role in guiding mariners navigating the treacherous waters at the mouth of the Penobscot River.
A Legacy Named After Fort Pownall:
The lighthouse draws its name from the nearby Fort Pownall, constructed under the orders of Massachusetts Governor Pownall in 1759. During this period, Maine was part of Massachusetts, and the establishment of the fort was of paramount significance. It strategically guarded the entrance to the Penobscot River, serving several key purposes. It resolved territorial disputes, secured British interests, and established control over the region, effectively putting an end to any contention. The fort's presence also had the added effect of displacing the native Norridgewock and Penobscot Indians from their traditional hunting and fishing territories. Furthermore, it laid claim to one of the most spectacular bays in North America.
Maritime Growth and the Birth of the Lighthouse:
Decades later, the government turned its attention once again to this historic location, recognizing its vital role in maritime safety. The need for a lighthouse at the entrance to the Penobscot River was becoming increasingly evident. As maritime shipping in the region flourished, bolstered by the bustling ports of Bucksport and Bangor, guiding vessels safely through these waters was paramount. These ports were some of the leading exporters of lumber, potatoes, and more.
On June 30, 1834, Congress allocated $5,000 to construct a lighthouse at a strategic location on Fort Point. The lighthouse, along with its accompanying dwelling, was completed for just over $4,377, with the tower and dwelling realized in 1835. The first keeper of the lighthouse was William Clewly, who played a key role in guiding mariners safely through the Penobscot Bay. He was also the man who sold the land needed to build the lighthouse itself. His watchful eye ensured that the lighthouse's fixed white light, powered by eight lamps and thirteen-inch reflectors, shone brightly at a height of ninety-nine feet above high water.
A Tower of Brick and Iron:
Over the years, the lighthouse experienced various transformations, the most notable being the replacement of the original structure in 1857. The result is the square brick lighthouse, which still stands today, measuring 26 feet in height. Its defining features include a square parapet encircling the octagonal lantern house. At the heart of the lantern house lies a 4th order Fresnel Lens, casting a white light that can be seen over a range of 15 nautical miles. An octagonal roof crowned with a spherical ventilator completes the lantern house's aesthetic. The lighthouse has a total focal height of 88 feet due to its location high on a cliff.
A narrow single-story brick workroom connects the tower to the keeper's house, a 2+1⁄2-story wood-frame dwelling oriented north–south. The house's main facade faces west, boasting three bays, with an enclosed projecting gabled vestibule marking the entrance.
A Home for History:
Fort Point Lighthouse has undergone several changes and additions throughout its history. In 1868, a new lantern was installed, followed by the construction of a bell tower and barn in 1890, and an oil house in 1897. 1935 marked a transition to an incandescent oil vapor lamp, offering more light but also requiring more effort to maintain. The lighthouse was electrified in 1950, increasing its candlepower to 4,500, and it was later automated in 1988.
National Recognition and Preservation:
In recognition of its historical significance, Fort Point Lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 23, 1988. This prestigious distinction underscores the lighthouse's role in preserving American architectural and cultural heritage. The reference number for Fort Point Lighthouse on the National Register of Historic Places is 87002269.
A Treasured Piece of Maritime Heritage:
Today, Fort Point Lighthouse remains an active beacon, playing a vital role in guiding navigation within the region. It stands as one of the nine lighthouses in Maine still equipped with a historic Fresnel Lens, highlighting its historical significance.
The Coast Guard leased the lighthouse to the Maine State Bureau of Parks and Land in 1989, making it the residence of a park supervisor. A testament to its enduring legacy, Fort Point Lighthouse continues to be a cherished piece of maritime heritage.
Visiting Fort Point Lighthouse:
For those eager to visit this iconic lighthouse, there is a small dirt parking lot located at the end of Lighthouse Lane, just a stone's throw from the lighthouse itself. Additional parking can be found at the end of State Park Road, making access convenient and accessible. The lighthouse and its scenic surroundings can be enjoyed daily from 9 a.m. until sunset. Sadly, the tower and adjacent dwelling are not open to the public on a regular basis. The only day it is open is on Maine Lighthouse Day which occurs in early September each year.
Fort Point Lighthouse is also a dog-friendly location, provided that pets are leashed and waste is responsibly managed.