Owls Head Lighthouse is a beautiful historic lighthouse located atop an 80-foot bluff in West Penobscot Bay at the southern entrance to Rockland Harbor in Maine.
The need for Owls Head Lighthouse was prevalent in the early 1800s as marine traffic was increasing in West Penobscot Bay and Rockland Harbor. In 1824, President John Quincy Adams approved the request to have a lighthouse built. The government secured 17.5 acres of the pine-covered headland and the lighthouse was constructed the next year. Jeremiah Berry and Green & Foster completed Owls Head Lighthouse in 1825 and the cost was $2707.79. The lighthouse was a cylindrical, rubblestone tower.
The original Owls Head Lighthouse tower did not last long. As early as 1831 it was reported that the tower was not well-built when Captain Derby of the Revenue Cutter Morris wrote “(Owls Head Light is) the most miserable one on the whole coast & I am fearful it will not stand till spring.” In 1941, lighthouse inspector I. W. P. Lewis analyzed the lighthouse and found many problems. He noted a leaky roof, broken glass panes, poor lightbulb conditions, and the lack of accessibility from the light keeper’s residence.
The original lighthouse was replaced in 1852 with a round, 24-foot tall tower, built of extremely strong brick. Over the years many other additions were added to the lighthouse property. In 1854, a new lighthouse keeper’s residence was built. In 1856, a fourth-order Fresnel lens replaced the array of lamps and reflectors. In 1874, a set of walkways and stairs were constructed to link the lighthouse and dwelling. In 1894, a boathouse and boat slip were constructed for easier accessibility by sea.
Although Owls Head Lighthouse was automated in 1989, Coast Guard employees continued to live in the keeper’s quarters. The Coast Guard eventually leased the tower to the American Lighthouse Foundation (ALF) in 2007, and the organization has shown to be a worthy steward. The tower was renovated extensively but sensitively during the summer of 2010 by ALF. Rust and flaking paint were removed, and the tower was restored to its original 1852 appearance, thanks to $80,000 from the foundation and $168,000 from the Coast Guard. Before being repainted, the bricks were repointed and mended. The ironwork on the lantern has been restored, the windowpanes have been replaced, and the parapet floor has been fixed. In addition, the lantern room’s iron railing and granite gallery were renovated.
The American Lighthouse Foundation declared in 2012 that it had obtained a Coast Guard license for the keeper’s cottage at Owls Head and would be operating it as an educational interpretative center later that year. The nonprofit, which looks after more than twenty lighthouses across New England, will have its headquarters in the former residence.
Looking to explore more beautiful spots in Maine? Check out the GoXplr Maine Map at goxplr.com/map/maine!
- Constructed: 1825
- First lit: 1825
- Construction: Brick
- Tower shape: Cylindrical
- Height: 30 feet (9 m)
- Focal height: 100 feet (30 m)
- Markings: White with black lantern
- Characteristic: Fixed white
- Range: 16 nautical miles (30 km; 18 mi)
- Status: Active
- NRHP number: 78000183
- Address: Lighthouse Road
- Town: Owls Head
- State: Maine
- GPS: Lat 44.0921 Lng -69.04401
- Parking notes: Owls Head Lighthouse is located within Owls Head State Park. There are many parking spots near the lighthouse and parking is free. Park is open 9 am to sunset.
- Parking directions: HERE
- Location directions: HERE