Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park:
Rising above crashing surf and spectacular rock formations, the Pemaquid Lighthouse is a cultural and historical treasure. Each year, about 100,000 visitors come to explore the park grounds, take in the panoramic view of the Atlantic and marvel at one of the state's best known icons. It is so honored that, in 2003, Maine citizens voted to use its likeness to represent them on the state quarter.
The tower and Keeper's House were constructed iin 1827. But neither lasted long, perhaps because the builder used salt water to mix his lime mortar. The second contract stipulated that only fresh water be used. The new tower, built by stone mason Joseph Berry from Georgetown, was completed in 1835. A new wood frame Keeper's House was added in 1857.
At about the same time, the tower was upgraded with new technology: the Fresnel lamp. The beacon that shines today is that same, fourth-order lamp which can be seen 14 nautical miles out to sea.
From Whale Oil to Automation
The beacon was lit, at first, by whale oil, and later, by kerosene. A small brick building bordering the rocks was used to store fuel. The other brick building nearby was the bell house. The keepers, at the first sight of fog, would operate the bell by hand. Later, a mechanical system using weights was added.
With the coming of electricity and a desire by the Federal Government to cut costs, the tower was automated in 1934. No longer would keepers and their families live day in, day out, at the lighthouse. Now, a visiting keeper would keep an eye on the beacon.
In 1940, the Coast Guard transferred the 7 acre site (everything except the tower) to the Town of Bristol. That marked the beginning of Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park.
On a typical summer day, you'll find a lot to do at the park. Tour the tower (operated independently of the park by the American Lighthouse Foundation), and then take in the Fishermen's Museum next door. Here you'll find displays and artifacts, donated by Bristol residents, chronicling the area's maritime heritage. (Click to learn more about the Fishermen's Museum). Enjoy a picnic in the spruce grove, explore the outbuildings, walk (carefully!) on the rocks, enjoy local paintings at the Pemaquid Gallery of Artists, or see what's happening at the Learning Center.