Owls Head Lighthouse

Owls Head, Maine
Owls Head Lighthouse stands as a testament to maritime history. It’s perched atop an 80-foot bluff at the entrance to Rockland Harbor in Maine.
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Owls Head Lighthouse: Guiding Ships and Preserving History in Maine

Perched majestically atop an 80-foot bluff overlooking West Penobscot Bay at the southern entrance to Rockland Harbor in Maine, Owls Head Lighthouse stands as a testament to maritime history and a guiding beacon for sailors navigating treacherous waters.

Answering the Call for Safety

In the early 1800s, as marine traffic steadily increased in West Penobscot Bay and Rockland Harbor, the necessity for a reliable navigational aid became evident. In 1824, President John Quincy Adams approved the construction of Owls Head Lighthouse. The government secured 17.5 acres of the pine-covered headland, and in 1825, Jeremiah Berry and Green & Foster completed the lighthouse for $2707.79. This initial lighthouse was a cylindrical, rubblestone tower.

However, the first Owls Head Lighthouse tower faced significant challenges from the start. As early as 1831, Captain Derby of the Revenue Cutter Morris expressed doubts, famously referring to it as “the most miserable one on the whole coast.” By 1941, lighthouse inspector I. W. P. Lewis documented numerous issues, including a leaky roof, broken glass panes, poor lightbulb conditions, and a lack of accessibility from the keeper’s residence.

A Tower Reborn

The original lighthouse was replaced in 1852 by a formidable round tower, standing 30 feet tall, constructed from robust brick upon a granite foundation. This transformation elevated the focal height of Owls Head Lighthouse to 110 feet, significantly enhancing its visibility to mariners. Over time, several additions were made to the lighthouse property, including the construction of a new lighthouse keeper’s residence in 1854 and the installation of a fourth-order Fresnel lens in 1856. This modernization resulted in a fixed white light, which could guide mariners over a range of 16 nautical miles.

In 1874, a network of walkways and stairs was established to link the lighthouse and dwelling, simplifying access. Further enhancements came in 1894, with the addition of a boathouse and boat slip, facilitating maritime accessibility.

A Proud Heritage Recognized

Owls Head Lighthouse received well-deserved recognition when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on January 18, 1978. This honor signifies the lighthouse’s importance in preserving the cultural and historical fabric of the United States. Its reference number is 78000183.

A Transition to Preservation

Despite its automated status in 1989, Coast Guard personnel continued to inhabit the keeper’s quarters. In 2007, the Coast Guard leased the tower to the American Lighthouse Foundation (ALF), a steward dedicated to preserving these iconic landmarks. In the summer of 2010, ALF embarked on a comprehensive yet sensitive restoration of the tower, investing $80,000 alongside $168,000 from the Coast Guard. This meticulous restoration included rust and flaking paint removal, repointing and mending of bricks, restoration of the lantern room’s ironwork and windowpanes, and the repair of the parapet floor. The lantern room’s iron railing and granite gallery were also meticulously renovated.

In 2012, the American Lighthouse Foundation proudly announced its acquisition of a Coast Guard license for Owls Head’s keeper’s cottage, paving the way for its transformation into an educational interpretative center. This nonprofit organization, overseeing the care of more than twenty lighthouses across New England, chose Owls Head as its headquarters.

A Beacon for Visitors

Today, Owls Head Lighthouse is nestled within Owls Head State Park, inviting visitors to explore its historical significance. Ample parking, free of charge, is available, and the park operates from 9 am to sunset. A short walk, facilitated by stairs and a handicap ramp, leads visitors to the tower. As a symbol of maritime history and a guiding light for mariners, Owls Head Lighthouse continues to illuminate the past and inspire future generations.

Location

Address: 186 Lighthouse Road, Owls Head, Maine
Place GPS Coordinates: 44.092167, -69.044111
Parking GPS Coordinates: 44.092167, -69.044111
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.

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