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Monhegan Island Lighthouse

Monhegan Island light

Monhegan Island, Maine
Built in 1824

Location:

Atop a rocky hill on Monhegan Island, the grounds and lighthouse museum are open to the public. Access to the tower is through museum tours 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 his family in 1951 from Massachusetts, was given orders to paint the lighthouse lantern room red and the rails green. A few days after he completed painting the structure. An elderly islander came by and told him he couldn’t paint the lighthouse any color but traditional black. Paul said he was only following orders, but a few days later, Paul’s commander left a communication to paint the lantern and rails black.

Sometimes, the islanders would start to warm up to some changes. 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 television on the island. He then installed an antenna on top of the roof, which annoyed some of his local neighbors who were used to the scenery without any obstacles. Some of the locals asked him what was on his roof and he told them he had a television to see special shows. He became quite popular as many locals stopped in to see what shows were playing on the new "black box".

Note: For more amusing stories from Keeper Paul Baptiste about his life on the island, select the link "Island Lighthouse Keeper in 1950s" Blog at the top of the page to be directed to my Lighthouse Stories section.

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 in 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 by the Pemaquid Peninsula, 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

Monhegan Island cliffs
rise 130 feet 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.

There are various artists’ galleries and crafts, places to eat at various houses and snack shacks, and many trails along the shore and in the woods.

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

The hike around the shoreline of the island will take you to an old tugboat shipwreck. 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. rowboat by Monhegan Island light

By the way, the boat set next to the lighthouse was put there by artists many 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 scultures 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

 

Directions to Boat Landing in Port Clyde

From the Maine Turnpike Heading North:

From the Maine Turnpike Heading South:

 

Local Boat Tours and Ferries

Boat cruises and ferries mentioned below offer many types of cruises. All boats below offer specific lighthouse cruises. The Monhegan Boat line provides multiple daily trips as a ferry to Monhegan Island 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

 

 

New Book Just Published Summer 2023!

The Rise and Demise of the Largest Sailing Ships:
Stories of the Six and Seven-Masted
Coal Schooners of New England

book of the rise and demise of the largest sailing ships

To order a signed paperback copy:

Available from bookstores in paperback, hard cover, and as an eBook for all devices.

my ebook on apple books

In the early 1900s, New England shipbuilders constructed the world’s largest sailing ships amid social and political reforms. These giants of sail measured longer than a football field!

This book, balanced with plenty of color and vintage images, showcases the historical accounts that followed these mighty ships. These true stories include competitions, accidents, battling destructive storms, acts of heroism, and their final voyages.

Click for larger video here.

 

 

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 local coastal attractions

 

 

 

 

New England Lighthouses: Famous Shipwrecks, Rescues & Other Tales

This image-rich book contains over 50 stories of famous shipwrecks and rescues around New England lighthouses, and also tales of hauntings.

There is also my one interview with one of the last lighthouse keepers of the 1950's, Paul Baptiste, who was keeper at Baker's Island Light in Massachusetts originally, and then came to Monhegan Island Light to raise his family. This series of stories makes me appreciate what life was like for him and his family. He was a remarkable man with his gracious wife Helen.

You'll find this book and my lighthouse tourism books from the publisher Schiffer Books, or in many fine bookstores like Barnes and Noble.

 

 

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