Marshall Point Lighthouse
Port Clyde, Knox Co., Maine (August 2009)
|Port Clyde, Maine|
The Marshall Point Lighthouse is the second lighthouse featured in this video I took while traveling around Port Clyde and Muscongus Bay in southeastern Maine. This lighthouse is located on an easily accessible stretch of the mainland and features a museum open to the public during the summer months.
Marshall Point Light from the Sea
A lighthouse first rose here on Marshall Point, named after Samuel Marshall who was the land owner who sold the property to the government, as early as 1831. The present structure is slightly more recent, having been constructed in 1858. It is certainly one of the more picturesque light stations along the Maine coast, and with its proximity to Rockland and other coastal towns that draw lots of summer residents, it attracts many visitors on day trips to Port Clyde. Marshall Point has a decent-sized parking lot to accommodate tourists and yet it was nearly filled on the beautiful day we chose to visit.
It is easy to see from the angle of this photograph that the lighthouse proper is a standalone structure. With 6.5 acres devoted to the site and with fairly flat terrain -- relatively speaking -- there was plenty of room to spread things out. It wasn't necessary to combine the tower with the keeper's quarters or other supporting structures.
Catwalk to the Tower
The tower rests on a rock ledge right at the water's edge. One can notice on the previous photograph that it is composed of multiple layers. The first twelve feet are made of granite blocks and the next twelve feet are brick. The small lantern room atop the tower is constructed of cast iron. This places the lantern at a focal plane of about thirty feet above the waterline. Lighting was provided by a fifth order Fresnel lens, one of the smaller sizes, which was perfect for marking a harbor entrance such as what can be found at Port Clyde. A modern optic encased in plastic is in use today, and the station has long since been automated so that a lighthouse keeper hasn't been necessary since the early 1970's. However the station does continue to serve as an active aid to navigation through the present.
The original lens can now be viewed within the vast collection of the Maine Lighthouse Museum up the road in Rockland.
The entrance to the tower is about halfway up the structure, the portion that is constructed of brick. Easy access from the keeper's quarters was provided by means of a wooden catwalk. This structure gained a brief moment of fame in 1994 when it made a cameo appearance in the movie Forrest Gump, in the scene where Forrest ran back-and-forth across the country (the Marshall Point lighthouse tower was his eastern terminus). The museum has photographs on display of the actor Tom Hanks as he visited Marshall Point to shoot the scene for the movie.
The Old Fog Bell
A bell tower became a fixture of the light station in 1898. It was rung mechanically as a warning when heavy fog rolled in to the harbor. The bell was replaced by a foghorn in 1969. The bell tower was removed at that time since there was no longer any need for it without a bell. The bell, however, continues to live on as a decorative object on the museum lawn. The curators have taped a photograph of the old bell tower to the left side of the crossbeam supporting the bell, which you might be able to see if you look closely above. It shows that the original location was a little closer to the light tower, and it was a tall skinny two story structure designed in a somewhat pyramidal shape.
Inside the Keeper's Quarters
The current keeper's quarters is not the original structure. The initial building was constructed in 1832 along with the original tower and was renovated in 1875. This was hit by lightning in 1895 and was completely destroyed. The present building, a wooden colonial revival house, was subsequently constructed as a replacement. If fell into disrepair after the Coast Guard automated the light since keepers were no longer necessary. The St. George Historical Society began a restoration in 1986 and opened the all-volunteer museum in 1990. In 1998 the Town of St. George obtained ownership of the light station from the Coast Guard. Today the Coast Guard has responsibility for the light itself and for the foghorn, but the Town of St. George controls everything else. The entire facility is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Readers who have an interest in lighthouses might also want to check my Lighthouse Index page.