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Monhegan Island Lighthouse

Monhegan Island light

Monhegan Island, Maine
Built in 1824


Location:

Atop a rocky hill on Monhegan Island, in Muscongus Bay. Grounds and lighthouse museum are open to the public. Access to the tower can be done through the museum at times during the summer months.

Latitude: 43° 45' 54" N
Longitude: 69° 18' 54" W

 

Historic Stories:

Before Europeans settled on Monhegan Island in 1619, making it the first permanent European settlement, it was long used by local Indians who named it Mohegan, which means "island of the sea”. By the early 1800s, trade in the area was increasing and in 1824 a lighthouse was built at one of Mohegan Island’s highest elevations.

In 1861, Keeper Joseph Humphrey had to fight in the Civil War, along with his two sons. His wife, Betsy, was left with her other eight children to tend the light.

early image Monhegan Island light

Monhegan Island Light
Courtesy US Coast Guard

Joseph Humphrey died in battle in 1861 and Betsy became the official keeper. One of her two sons was killed in the War and the other returned home, disabled from his injuries. Betsy continued to tend the light as Keeper until 1880.

Keeper Paul Baptiste Life on the Island in the 1950s

When keepers were staioned on the island, upon meeting the local islanders, they found the inhabitants were very resistant to any changes and were very particular in maintaining life on the island as it been for many years previously. One week, Keeper Paul Baptiste, who had moved up with hios family in 1951, was given orders to paint the lighthouse lantern room red and the rails green. A few days after he completed preparing and painting the structure, an elderly islander told him he couldn’t paint the lighthouse any color but traditional black. Paul said he was only following orders as he was told by his commander to complete the task. A few days later, Paul’s commander left a communication to paint the lantern and rails black. Apparently the islander had some pull with the commander.

Sometines, the islanders would start to warm up to some chnages. In the early 1950s, the entire island was using kerosene for illumination and there was no electricity. Keeper Paul Baptiste had a generator at the lighthouse, which was only used to pump water to the building. He asked for, and was granted permission to use the generator for electricity for the first floor of the keeper’s house. In 1952, Keeper Baptiste bought and installed the first TV on the island. He then installed an antenna on top of the roof, which annoyed some of his local neighbors. He pointed the antennae out towards the sea and was able to pick up stations from as far away as North Carolina. Some of the locals asked him what was on his roof as they probably felt it was disturbing the scenery. He told them he had a TV and they responded in amazement, “You have a TV?” He became quite popular as many locals stopped in to see what shows were playing on the new black box.

Monhegan Island lighthouse with surrounding buildings

 

 

The light was automated in 1959. The 1874 keeper's house was converted to a museum in 1968, focusing on the island's history and natural wildlife.

 

 

Places to Visit Nearby:

Monhegan Island is located 10 miles offshore from mid-coast Maine.

Monhegan Island harbor

Monhegan Island Harbor

It is a picturesque fishing community and summer haven for artists and vacationers.

The island itself is about 2 miles long by a mile wide with plenty of hiking trails inside the wooded areas and along the shoreline.

There are a number of boat cruises including the daily Monhegan Boat Line from Port Clyde, Hardy Boat Cruises from New Harbor near Boothbay Harbor, and Balmy Days Cruises out of Boothbay Harbor that bring passengers to and from the island.

The cliffs can rise up to 130 feet above sea level in places, and the highest point is the lighthouse location at 160 feet. Monhegan Island cliffs rise 160 above sea level

Monhegan Island Cliffs
Rise 130 Above Sea Level

For naturalists, the Monhegan Island offers over 600 varieties of wildflowers and more than 200 species of birds to observe. You may also observe the harbor seals found on the Duck Rocks near Pebble Beach.

Monhegan Island dock

Monhegan Island Dock

You can look at various artists’ galleries, enjoy fine cuisine in one of the few inns on the island, and enjoy unique walking and hiking along the dirt roads.

Thee only few vehicles on the island are used by the inns and hotels.

The hike around the island will take you to an old tugboat shipwreck then up along cliffs that reach about 130 feet above sea, and of course the lighthouse grounds. shipwrecked tugboat on Monhegan Island

Reaching the lighthouse and the Monhegan Museum from the island is a moderate hilly walk. It's a favorite place for artists to paint or photograph this iconic location.

The museum is open to the public and sometimes provides tours inside the lighthouse tower during the summer months. Monhegan Island lighthouse tower and famous row boat

By the way, the boat set next to the lighthouse was put there by artists some years ago and never used by keepers, as the lighthouse is located on the highest elevation.

You'll find Monhegan Island seemingly trapped in a time capsule, as most of it is undeveloped.

rock tower on Monhegan Island You'll also notice unique little “rock towers” and little “fairy houses” built of all natural materials scattered around the island.

 

 

Contact Info:
Monhegan Museum
1 Lighthouse Hill
Monhegan, ME 04852
Phone: 207-596-7003
Email: museum@monheganmuseum.org

 

artist painting by Monhegan Island Light and Museum

Artist Painting by Monhegan Island
Lighthouse and Museum

 

Local Boat Tours and Ferries

Boat cruises and ferries mentioned below may offer many types of cruises. Some may offer specific lighthouse cruises, and may also pass by Monhegan Island and view the lighthouse from the water's view as part of charters, narrated wildlife and historic tours, ferrying passengers, whale watching, fishing tours and other types of excursions. Weather is also a major factor in New England, especially on sailing excursions. Monhegan Boat line provides daily trips as a ferry to Monhegan I sland during the summer months.

 

Balmy Days Cruises
Offers special lighthouse tours.
Pier 8
42 Commercial St.
Boothbay Harbor, ME 04538
(207) 633-2284 or
(800) 298-2284
info@balmydayscruises.com

 

 

Hardy Boat Cruises
Special lighthouse cruises available.
PO Box 326
New harbor, Maine 04554
1-800-2-PUFFIN
(207) 677-2026

 

 

 

Monhegan Boat Line
Ferry leaves out of Port Clyde to Monhegan Island daily during the summer months. Also has special lighthouse tours.
P.O. Box 238
Port Clyde, Maine 04855
Tel: (207) 372-8848
Fax: (207) 372-8547
www.monheganboat.com
barstow@monheganboat.com

 

 

 

Freindship Sloop Sarah Mead
Sails out to Monhgan Island on a fully authentic wooden sloop sailboat.
Muscongus, ME
(207)-380-5460
email: Captains@SailMuscongus.com (Captain Nate and Chief Randy)

 

 

 

My 300-page book (with over 360 images), Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Northern New England: New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, provides human interest stories from each of the 76 lighthouses, along with plenty of coastal attractions and tours near each beacon. You'll find many boat tours that will take you out to the island.

Look inside!

book northern New England lighthouses and attractions

 

 

 

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