Ten Pound Island Lighthouse

Gloucester, Massachusetts
The Ten Pound Island Lighthouse in Gloucester, Massachusetts has played an integral role in maritime safety since 1821.
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About This Location

Ten Pound Island Lighthouse: Guiding Mariners to Gloucester Harbor

Standing as a historic sentinel at the eastern entrance to Gloucester Harbor in Massachusetts, the Ten Pound Island Lighthouse has played an integral role in maritime safety and the cultural heritage of this coastal community.

A Vision Takes Shape

The story of the Ten Pound Island Lighthouse began on May 15, 1820, when Congress allocated $9,000 for the construction of lighthouses on Ten Pound Island in Gloucester and Baker’s Island in Salem. By the following year, in 1821, the original Ten Pound Island Light was completed. This inaugural lighthouse stood 20 feet tall and was constructed of stone, accompanied by a stone lightkeeper’s residence adjacent to the tower.

A Struggle with Deterioration

The initial lighthouse, however, quickly succumbed to the elements due to subpar materials and craftsmanship. In 1842, Lighthouse Inspector I.W.P. Lewis conducted a comprehensive assessment, revealing numerous leaks, cracks, rot, malfunctioning lamps, and more. Despite these challenges, the lighthouse continued to serve for several decades, even receiving a six-order Fresnel lens in 1856.

Winslow Homer’s Island Retreat

Ten Pound Island, its lighthouse, and the picturesque town of Gloucester captured the imagination of renowned painter Winslow Homer. In the summer of 1880, Homer expressed his interest in residing on the island for the season, and the lightkeeper graciously permitted him to stay. During this idyllic period, Homer created approximately 50 paintings, many of which featured Ten Pound Island Light. Today, Winslow Homer is celebrated as one of the greatest American painters of the nineteenth century.

A New Beginning in Iron and Brick

In 1881, a new lighthouse tower was erected on Ten Pound Island, and it continues to grace the island today. This cast-iron tower stands 39 feet in height and is surrounded by a wall of white-painted brick. Its lantern is painted black, and its focal height reaches 57 feet.

Changing Roles and Preservation Efforts

Over the years, Ten Pound Island underwent various transformations. In 1889, a fish hatchery was established on the island but was later abandoned in 1954. In 1925, a Coast Guard air station with a small scout plane was added to the facility, along with two amphibious vehicles. In 1956, Ten Pound Island Light was decommissioned, and its fifth-order Fresnel lens was replaced by a modern light, subsequently relocated to a skeleton tower. The historic Fresnel lens found its new home at the Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland, Maine.

Preserving a Legacy

The Ten Pound Island Lighthouse received a prestigious honor when it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 4, 1988. This recognition highlights its historical and architectural significance, ensuring its enduring legacy. The National Park Service assigned the lighthouse reference number 88001179.

Restoration and Rekindling

The Lighthouse Preservation Society embarked on a restoration journey in the late 1980s, with approximately $45,000 in funding from the city and a grant from the Massachusetts Historical Commission. On August 7, 1989, during the Lighthouse Bicentennial Day celebration, Ten Pound Island Light was rekindled as an active aid to navigation in a ceremony illuminated by fireworks. Its current beacon emits a red light, flashing isophase every 6 seconds, with a range of 5 nautical miles. In 1995, the oil house on the island was also restored.

A Glimpse of History

Ten Pound Island Lighthouse is best to see up close, but this requires a private boat. A kayak or paddle board is often used to visit the island because landing a boat near the island is not easy and is not recommended. The City of Gloucester owns the island and maintains walking paths on the island. The lighthouse is owned by the U.S. Coast Guard and it is private because it is a federal navigational aid. If you are looking to see the lighthouse up close and easily, consider booking a Lighthouse Cruise with Harbor Tours of Cape Ann. This tour is a wonderful two-and-a-half-hour narrated excursion that takes visitors up close to six lighthouses including Ten Pound Island Lighthouse!

The island’s beauty and historical significance can also be appreciated from the mainland by visiting nearby locations along the Gloucester waterfront. One of the best viewpoints is Stage Fort Park in Gloucester. During the season, parking is available at $15 per vehicle on weekdays and $20 on weekends and holidays. Parking is free during the off-season.


Address: Ten Pound Island, Gloucester, Massachusetts
Place GPS Coordinates: 42.601865, -70.665550
Parking GPS Coordinates: 42.601865, -70.665550
Parking Notes: The lighthouse can be best viewed by boat. From the mainland, it can be seen from Stage Fort Park in Gloucester. During the season, parking is available at $15 per vehicle on weekdays and $20 on weekends and holidays.

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