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Fort Point Lighthouse

Stockton Springs, Waldo Co., Maine (August 2009)

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Fort Point Lighthouse

Fort Point Lighthouse

Stockton Springs, Maine

Fort Point seems to be an odd name for a lighthouse but it makes perfect since once you understand the history of the area. There was once an older structure along this point on Cape Jellison at the mouth of the Penobscot River. Literally there was a fort here, Fort Pownall, constructed in here in 1759 and falling into disrepair during the American Revolutionary War. Why not call it Fort Pownall Lighthouse, then? Who knows? For whatever reason they decided to name it after the point, the point that happened to have a fort, rather than after the fort itself.

Either way this was an attractive and necessary place to locate a river lighthouse to guide ships on their way to and from Bangor, the "lumber capital of the world" that supplied materials to build major cities such as Boston and New York during the Nineteenth Century. The first lighthouse rose here in 1836 but was replaced by the current brick structure in 1857. The wood-frame keeper's quarters was built and attached to the light that same year. This was a prized location for lighthouse keepers. It was located near a town, situated on a beautiful point, and a far cry from many of the other Maine light stations stuck out on the middle of tiny offshore islands in relative isolation.

The historic structures including the tower, home, fog signal station, barn and oil house are all preserved in remarkably original condition. The station is included in the National Registor of Historic Place


Lighthouse

The Keeper's Quarters

The Fort Point Lighthouse is one of the few that still has its original lens. Most operational lights have modern optics. In Maine, many of them can be found in the Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland. That's not the case at Fort Point where the 1857 fourth-order Fresnel lens continues to shine out to sea. The brick tower rests upon a granite base and climbs to a height of 31 feet, with a focal plane considerably higher at 88 feet because it's perched atop a bluff. The tower has an interesting and noteworthy feature: the external shape has four distinct sides in the form of a square but the interior is cylindrical with a spiral staircase.

The wooden keeper's quarters, a 1.5 story colonial cape, is attached to the lighthouse tavern. The two together present an attractive and reassuring presence along the Point.

Ft. Point Fog

The Fog Signal Station

This oddly-shaped wooden structure of pyramidal shape is a fog signal station. It was added to the grounds of the Fort Point Light Station in 1890. The original fog signal was provided by the clanging of a 1,200 pound bell that now stands on public display at the front of the tower (see photo below). It has since been replaced by a foghorn that projects a recognizable sound to modern ears. The view from this spot is amazing, with sweeping sightlines down the Penobscot River. However it would be much less inviting in a dense fog, and in those instances the clanging of the bell or the sounding of the foghorn would have been a welcome warning.


Fog Bel

View Along the Penobscot River

Fort Point is an active aid to navigation maintained by the United States Coast Guard, but the grounds are open to the public and has been part of a 120-acre park managed by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands since 1998. Sure, the historic lighthouse and pre-revolutionary fort ruins are obvious reasons to visit the park, but there are other activities here as well. There are hiking and biking tails, rocky shores, and picnic sites along the riverside. Fishing is also popular. In the winter there trails and roads serve as trails for cross-country skiers. The lighthouse keeper's residence itself is not open to the public however, as it serves as the residence of the park manager. What a nice job benefit -- great location, historic home, unrivaled view. Let me know when that job becomes available!

Getting to the lighthouse is easy, just three miles away from U.S. Route 1 and the town of Stockton Springs. It's a simple detour for anyone driving along the Maine coast.