Lighthouses in Greater Portland

Today is an interesting anniversary: 222 years ago, on January 10, 1791, the light at Portland Head Light was lit for the first time. It is the oldest lighthouse in Maine and was commissioned by President George Washington. He never slept there, though–I read that on a travel blog once and had a good chuckle! Portland Head Light is a rubble stone lighthouse.

Everyone attending INANE 2014 will have a visit to Portland Head Light as part of the Discover Portland Trolley Tour on Monday August 4th. I was determined that everyone have a chance to see the lighthouse. I consider it an essential sight for any trip to Maine.

Here’s an interesting video–it shows a visit to the inside of the lighthouse. I’ve never been inside and to the top–it certainly is a nice view. However I hope August 4th is a little sunnier than the day this guy visited.


2nd Order Fresnel Lens

In the video, he misspeaks–he says the rotating light is a Fresnel (pronounced “fray-nel”) lens but it is not. The light is anĀ aero beacon which replaced the 2nd order Fresnel lens in 1958. (The present aero beacon was installed in 1991.) The old Fresnel lens is on display in the lighthouse museum.


Portland Breakwater Light in 1855–this is the wooden structure

In the video he looks north towards Spring Point Ledge Light, although I can’t see it. This caisson lighthouse was built 106 years later–it went into operation in 1897. You can read the history of Spring Point Ledge Light here. At little further south, at the entrance to Portland Harbor is the Portland Breakwater Light, more commonly known by its nickname, Bug Light. Portland Breakwater Light was first built as a wooden lighthouse in 1855; the present structure (also a caisson lighthouse, sometimes called a sparkplug light) was built in 1875. Bug Light is visible from Portland; those going to the lobster bake will get a nice view of it en route to Peaks Island.

Cape Elizabeth Light

Cape Elizabeth Light

After looking north, the videographer looks in the other direction (south) towards Two Lights in Cape Elizabeth but again, I can’t see the lighthouse in the video. The official name is Cape Elizabeth Light but everyone calls it Two Lights which is a misnomer as there is only one active light at present. Two cast iron towers were built in 1874, replacing two rubble stone towers that were built in 1828. The west tower was de-activated in 1924 and is now part of a private residence. The east tower is still active. Cape Elizabeth Light marks the entrance to Casco Bay. Cape Elizabeth Light also had a 2nd order Fresnel lens which was replaced in 1994. The original lens is on display in the Cape Elizabeth Town Hall.

Ram Island Ledge Light

Ram Island Ledge Light

At the very end of the video you get a quick glimpse of the Ram Island Ledge Light. It is made of granite that was quarried on Vinalhaven. As lighthouses go, I don’t think it’s all that attractive–my preference is for white, or striped. Ram Island Ledge Light is privately owned by a neurosurgeon from Windham, who paid $190,000 for it at auction in 2010. Ram Island Ledge Light is a “twin” of the Graves Light at the entrance to Boston Harbor. Graves Light is also privately owned and came with a higher price tag: $933,888, the most ever paid for a US lighthouse. It was bought by a Massachusetts couple in 2013. Here’s a bit of trivia: in the 1948 movie, Portrait of Jennie, the climactic storm and tidal wave scene was filmed at Graves Light. As far as I can tell, no movies were ever filmed at any of the other lighthouses I have discussed in this post.