Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse

South Portland, Maine
Spring Point Ledge Light in South Portland, Maine is a historic sparkplug lighthouse that has helped keep the waters safe since 1897.
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About This Location

Spring Point Ledge Light, located in South Portland, Maine, is a historic sparkplug lighthouse that serves as a vital beacon marking a hazardous obstruction on the western side of the primary shipping channel into Portland Harbor. Nestled adjacent to the Southern Maine Community College campus, this lighthouse has a rich history and is now a cherished local landmark and tourist attraction.

The need for a lighthouse at Spring Point Ledge was evident due to the perilous ledge extending into the main shipping channel of Portland Harbor. Shipwrecks and groundings were all too common in this area, despite attempts to mark the ledge with a variety of buoys and beacons. These navigational aids proved insufficient in adverse weather conditions, and the shifting nature of the underwater ledge made them unreliable.

Portland Harbor was bustling by the late 1800s, with schooners and steamships ferrying goods and passengers to and from the city. The growing maritime traffic, passenger voyages, and increasing popularity of nearby islands as vacation destinations necessitated improved navigation. It was essential to address the safety concerns presented by the Spring Point Ledge. Additionally, the area was home to active military installations, including Fort Preble in South Portland, Fort Scammel on House Island, and Fort Gorges on Hog Island Ledge.

A series of high-profile shipwrecks finally led the steamship companies to advocate for a lighthouse to mark the ledge. In April 1891, the Lighthouse Board approved the establishment of a 5th order light at Spring Point Ledge, but it wasn’t until March 1895 that an appropriation of $45,000 was allocated for its construction.

Construction of Spring Point Ledge Light commenced in 1897. The lighthouse featured a fog bell that sounded twice every 12 seconds, and its lantern was equipped with a fifth order Fresnel lens. Keeper William A. Lane proudly lit the lantern on May 24, 1897, inaugurating the lighthouse’s service.

Throughout the 20th century, several improvements were made to the lighthouse. In 1934, it was electrified, and in 1951, a substantial 900-foot granite breakwater was constructed to connect the lighthouse to the mainland. In May 1960, the US Coast Guard automated the light, replacing the 5th order Fresnel lens with a modern apparatus consisting of a 36-watt incandescent lamp and a 300mm Lexan plastic Fresnel lens.

Spring Point Ledge Light earned its rightful place on the National Register of Historic Places on January 21, 1988. This recognition is a significant honor that highlights the lighthouse’s historical and architectural significance. The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of historic sites in the United States worthy of preservation. It is part of a national program aimed at identifying, evaluating, and safeguarding the country’s historic and archaeological resources. The reference number for the lighthouse is 87002279.

On April 28, 1998, the Maine Lights Selection Committee approved the transfer of ownership of the lighthouse to the Spring Point Ledge Light Trust, with the USCG retaining only the light and fog signal. This marked a pivotal moment in the lighthouse’s history, as it allowed for the preservation and public enjoyment of this iconic structure.

Subsequent years saw various restoration efforts, including the replacement of corroded roof plates in 2004, the sealing of cracks in the caisson, exterior repainting in 2012, and interior repainting in 2013. These efforts aimed to maintain the lighthouse’s historical integrity while ensuring its longevity.

In a historic moment on May 22, 1999, Spring Point Ledge Light was opened to the public for the very first time. This marked the beginning of its journey as a popular tourist attraction. Today, it stands as a beloved destination, drawing visitors from near and far to explore its unique history and enjoy its scenic surroundings.

Spring Point Ledge Light is distinctive in that it is one of the few lighthouses in Maine accessible to the public for tours during summer weekends. It offers a rare opportunity for visitors to Step Into History and experience a real working lighthouse. Additionally, it is the only caisson-style lighthouse in the United States accessible by land, making it even more unique. When not open for tours, visitors are welcome to walk out on the breakwater and circumnavigate the lighthouse. Learn more about lighthouse tours at https://www.springpointlight.org/.

The lighthouse is adjacent to the old Fort Preble, and visitors can explore the Southern Maine Community College Campus, which is also nearby. A small gift shop on-site offers souvenirs for those looking to commemorate their visit.

Parking is convenient, with about 20 spots located at the end of Fort Road. The lighthouse is just a few hundred feet from the parking area. Visitors will find seasonal facilities, including a visitors center and bathrooms. While parking can get busy during the summer weekends, outside of the summer season, it is generally less crowded, allowing for a peaceful and informative visit to this historic gem.

Location

Address: 65 Lighthouse Circle, South Portland, Maine
Place GPS Coordinates: 43.652139, -70.223917
Parking GPS Coordinates: 43.652139, -70.223917
Parking Notes: There are about 20 parking spots located at the end of Fort Road. The lighthouse is just a few hundred feet from the parking area. Parking is free. There is a seasonal visitors center along with bathrooms.

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