Last Visited: November, 2001
WIth heavy maritime traffic in the area, including whaling ships and vessels engaged in the salt industry, Bird Island—about 1.5 acres in size—was an ideal place to establish a lighthouse that would serve to guide mariners into Sippican Harbor and points north.
Congress appropriated $11,500 on March 3, 1819, for three separate aids to navigation, including a lighthouse on Bird Island. The island was purchased by the government from George Blankinship for $200.
Henry A. S. Dearborn, customs collector for the port of Boston and local lighthouse superintendent, contracted Bela Pratt of Weymouth, Massachusetts, to build the tower and other buildings at a cost of $4,040.
A 25-foot-tall conical rubblestone tower was constructed, surmounted by a 12-foot tall iron lantern. The accompanying stone dwelling was 20 by 34 feet, and a covered walkway connected the house and tower.
An authorization of $1,000 in 1843 paid for a new 600-foot stone seawall, a 25-foot extension to the wharf, the construction of a cistern for the water supply, the reshingling of the dwelling roof, and the painting of the buildings. A fourth-order Fresnel lens was installed in 1856. The 1863 annual report of the Lighthouse Board reported that a new lantern had been installed on the tower.
The lantern and deck were again replaced in 1899, and a fifth-order lens replaced the earlier fourth-order lens. In 1902, a wooden bell tower was added to the station, with a 1,000-pound bell and striking machinery.
In March 1940, the government island sold the island at auction to George Harmon of Bar Harbor, Maine, for $654. Just a month later, the island was purchased by Augustus Fiske of Providence, Rhode Island.
Apparently, not much was done with the property over the ensuing 25 years.
In early 1965, the Marion Conservation Commission announced that donations were being accepted toward the purchase of the island. A lighthouse-shaped thermometer was erected in front of the Sippican Shop in Marion to indicate the fundraising progress.
The town bought the island from Fiske’s heirs in May 1966 for $2,500.
It was announced in 1973 that $12,500 had been raised for the restoration of the lighthouse and to erect a fence, designed to protect the island’s nesting tern colony.
The lighthouse was relighted on July 9, 1976, as part of Marion’s celebration of the nation’s bicentennial, but the tower subsequently fell into further disrepair and the light was again extinguished.
In June 1997, the Marion Board of Selectmen asked Charles Bradley if his group had the funds for a new optic to be installed in the tower. Bradley replied that they didn't, so the selectmen decided to provide $3,000 for a new solar-powered flashing light and its installation.
At 9:00 p.m. on July 4, 1997, with 3,000 people gathered onshore, Bird Island Light was relighted as a private aid to navigation.
New England Lighthouses: A Virtual Guide
Nearest Address: 18 Point Rd, Marion, MA
- From New Bedford/Mattapoisett take Interstate 195 north to exit 20.
- At the end of the ramp turn right onto Route 105/Front St.
- Stay on Route 105/Front St. for 0.7 miles and turn left onto Route 6 (Wareham St).
- Take Route 6 for 0.7 miles then bear right onto Creek Rd.
- Go 0.5 miles on Creek Rd. to the end and take a right onto Point Rd.
- Take Point Rd. 4.1 miles to the end at the golf course. The lighthouse can be seen in the distance from along the seawall.
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