Portland Head Lighthouse

The oldest lighthouse in Maine, Portland Head Light has guided maritime traffic through the entrance to Portland Harbor for over 200 years.

Local merchants began petitioning the Massachusetts legislature for a lighthouse at Portland Head as early as 1784. A maritime tragedy in 1787 prompted the legislature to approve a small appropriation of $750 to begin the construction of a 58-foot tower of rubblestone set in lime. The Lighthouse Act of 1789 transferred responsibility for aids to navigation from the individual states to the Federal Government and in 1790, under authorization from President George Washington, $1500 was appropriated for the completion of the lighthouse. Portland Head Light flickered into operation just before sunset on January 10, 1791. Portland Head Light is on the National Register of Historic Places.

View from Spring Point Ledge light

The Museum at Portland Head Light, located in the former lighthouse keeper’s quarters, chronicles the history of Portland Head Light and Fort Williams, a military outpost for coastal defense which developed adjacent to the light station. The story is told through permanent exhibits displaying original artifacts and documents, navigational aids, lenses, video displays, models and photography. An historical time line serves as the common denominator for the exhibition subjects which include: the origin of the lighthouse and the lives of the keepers, technological developments, commerce, art and literature, local folklore, and military activities at Fort Williams.

Lyle Gun on display at The Museum at Portland Head Light

The Lyle Gun is a line-throwing cannon, used to get a line to a ship in distress.
The gun was carefully aimed over a wreck, so that the shot line, attached
to a projectile, would fall on the deck.  Personnel on the vessel would pull the
messenger line aboard, which would in turn pull a hawser aboard.  Attached to
the hawser was a tally board, which would instruct how to secure the hawser and block.
Personnel could then be removed from the vessel in a "breeches buoy", a life ring to which
a pair of heavy canvas breeches was strongly attached.

This information is from The Museum at Portland Head Light 
Visit their webpage at www.portlandheadlight.com

Return to the State of Maine Lights Page

Return to the: Alphabetical Listing or the Listing by States

banner5.jpg (12941 bytes)