Monthly Archives: August 2015

Shine Bright: The Lighthouses of the North of Boston Part III

This month, we’ve introduced you to a few of the North of Boston region’s 12 lighthouses – Salem’s three structures and the lighthouses of Rockport.  This week we bring you three more lighthouses from the southern part of the region – “the ugly duckling” lighthouse, “the heartbreaker,” and the “Lost Light of the North of Boston.”

Marblehead Light (1896)
Chandler Hovey Park (Follett Street) | Marblehead, MA
http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=482http://www.newenglandlighthouses.net/marblehead.html

Marblehead LightIn 1834, four acres of Marblehead Neck were purchased for $375 and were to serve as the location for a new lighthouse to signal the town’s increasingly busy harbor.  This 23-foot brick (or stone, depending on your source) tower was first lit up in October 1835 and was a great asset.  In 1889 alone, the lighthouse keeper was credited with saving 17 lives.

This success, however, was diminished by Marblehead’s affluent residents who started building large houses on the land around the lighthouse.  These tall mansions blocked the flashes of light from the station and a lantern hoisted up a tall mast planted into the ground was a poor substitute.  In 1895, a 100-foot structure was in order and the town could choose between a $8,700 skeletal structure and a $45,000 brick tower.  At nearly $40,000 cheaper, the town went with the skeletal structure (which was completed in 1896).  This current structure was equipped with electricity in 1922 and then fully automated in 1960. Today, the town of Marblehead receives sporadic requests to paint the structure a more becoming white.

Marblehead Light is one of the lighthouses in the region that visitors are welcome to walk right up to.  Chandler Hovey donated the land around the lighthouse in 1947 to Marblehead with the understanding that it would be turned into a public park.  Today, Chandler Hovey Park bears its donor’s name and is a wonderful spot to visit the lighthouse and look over the water.

Hospital Point Light Station (1872)
Bayview Avenue | Beverly, MA
http://www.essexheritage.org/attractions/beverlys-hospital-point-light-station-1872 | http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=480

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Beverly’s Hospital Point Light Station was the third lighthouse built in a series of three structures erected to light Salem Harbor.  The Derby Wharf and Fort Pickering Light Stations were completed in 1871 and Beverly’s lighthouse came the following year.  Hospital Point’s light itself was pulled from a temporary station erected during construction (which includes one of five original Fresnel Lenses still active in Massachusetts).

Hospital Point Light Station probably rivals the Thacher Island Twin Lights for the most unfortunate naming circumstances – it was originally named for a smallpox hospital located on the site that the lighthouse was built.  According to LighthouseFriends.com, it is often speculated that:

“Many a Beverly maid’s heart was lost and found on the rocks beneath the faithful light.” But whether this was because Hospital Point was a local lovers’ lane or because women waved goodbye and waited there for their men to return home from sea is unclear.

As the light station is an active Coast Guard navigation aid, it is not readily accessible to the public.  However, during certain events such as Beverly Homecoming (August) and Trails and Sails (September), the station is open for tours.  The light station can be seen in from Bayview Avenue or in the distance from the Salem Willows pier.  The best way to see it, though, is by boat (Mahi Mahi Cruises offers a great Lighthouse and Foliage tour which features Hopital Point Light).

Egg Rock Light (1856/1897)
Egg Rock | Nahant, MA
http://www.lynn-nahantbeach.org/history.html | http://myweb.northshore.edu/users/ccarlsen/poetry/lynn/egghistory.html

There aren't a whole lot of photos available of a lost lighthouse...

There aren’t a whole lot of photos available of a lost lighthouse…

The “Lost Lighthouse” of the North of Boston region, Egg Rock Lighthouse was constructed at the request of Swampscott fishermen to guide them in and out of the Swampscott/Lynn harbor.  This first lighthouse, built in 1856, was burned down in 1897.  A  new one (pictured) was a keeper’s house/light station hybrid built in its place.  For unknown reasons, the light was discontinued and this lighthouse was abandoned in 1922.  It had served as a training site during World War I and was even outfitted with a telephone at the turn of the century, making it seem even stranger that the lighthouse would simply be abandoned.

The lighthouse and cottage were sold for a whopping $5, under the condition that they had to be removed from the island.  Unfortunately, during the move, one of the ropes that was to lower the building onto a barge gave way and the structure crashed into the water.  Apparently, the second Egg Rock Light was just as unlucky as the first.

Bad luck aside, Egg Rock Light did have some lighter, more adventurous moments.  Milo, a dog owned by the first lighthouse keeper, would bark warnings to passing fishermen and even rescued several children during his time at Egg Rock.  The second lighthouse keeper, whose wife was in labor, managed to navigate from Egg Rock to the mainland Nahant during a storm to pick up a midwife.  On the way back, their boat capsized but even then, the expectant father and midwife of them made it back in time to deliver the baby.  A third, most likely apocryphal tale, is of a keeper whose wife died during bad weather.  Unable to leave the island, he put her in cold storage until he was later able to bring her to Nahant for burial.  While in Nahant, he managed to pick up a second wife and bring her back with him.

Shine Bright – The Lighthouses of the North of Boston Part II

straitsmouth2_2008

The lighthouses of Rockport. Photo via http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=605.

Dotted along the coast of the North of Boston region are 12 wonderful lighthouses.  We recently introduced you to Salem’s three structures.  This week, we’re bringing you the lighthouses of Rockport.

Straitsmouth Island Light (1896)
Straitsmouth Island | Rockport, MA
http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/maritime/str.htm | http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=605

Straitsmouth Island Light. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Straitsmouth Island Light. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Overseeing Rockport’s Straitsmouth Island is the Straitsmouth Island Lighthouse.  A 37-foot stone structure, the lighthouse is the third in a series of unlucky light stations to be built on the island to mark the entrance into Rockport Harbor.  The first lighthouse, built in 1834, was a 19-foot structure erected in the wrong spot.  The location picked was more convenient for the contractor, but was misleading for sailors and other navigators.  The second lighthouse, built in 1851, was an octagonal structure built 87-yards from the first location, was further away from the light keeper’s house, but better-placed for accuracy.  Unfortunately, this one fell into disrepair and was torn down.  The current, third installment, was built upon its foundation. (*Fun Fact: In 1932, the color of the light was converted from white to green.  The current green light flashes approximately every six seconds).

While the lighthouse itself is owned by the town of Rockport, Straitsmouth Island is a bird sanctuary owned by the Mass Audubon Society.  Both the island and the lighthouse are closed to the public, but the lighthouse can easily be seen from Bearskin Neck.

Thacher Island Twin Lights (1861)
Thacher Island | Rockport, MA
http://www.thacherisland.org/index.html

398px-Thacher_Island_twin_lighthouses

Thacher Island Twin Lights. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The only operating twin lighthouses in the United States, the Thacher Island twin lights are a unique feature in Rockport.  Originally sighted by the likes of Champlain and Capt. John Smith, Thacher Island itself got its name from a shipwreck on the island in 1635.  The only survivors were Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Thacher who were “awarded” the island by the General Court as consolation for having lost their children and friends in the wreck (…we don’t know why that was considered a good idea either…).

In 1771, the Island was sold back to the government and two 45-foot lighthouses were erected (the last lighthouses to be built under British rule in the US).  These lighthouses were replaced by the current 123-foot structures in 1861.   An aid to sailors, the structures point to “true north,” allowing navigators to check/adjust their compasses.

Today, Thacher Island is owned by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and is protected wildlife refuge.  However, the island is open to the public June through mid-September and you are welcome to visit via the Thacher Island Association’s launch or your own kayak or boat (there are three guest moorings available).  Depending on the weather, the North tower itself is open to explore.  Camping is also available during “operating” months (amenities are basic as there are no showers, fireplaces, or electricity available).  Be sure to take a tour of the Thacher Island Museum during your visit!