Whitehead Island Quick Facts
Year Station Established: 1807
Is the Light operational? Yes
Year Light First Lit: 1852
Year Automated: 1982
Tower Height: 41 ft.
Original Optic: 3rd Order, Fresnel
Present Optic: 300mm
Existing Keepers Quarters? Yes
Whitehead Island Lighthouse
(10 photos, 309KB total download)
Whitehead Light was first established on Whitehead Island in the Penobscot Bay by order of President Thomas Jefferson in 1807. It marks the western entrance to Muscle Ridge Channel, while Owls Head Light marks the eastern entrance.
In 1852 a new 41-foot lighthouse was built along with a new wooden keeper's house. A third order Fresnel lens was installed in 1857. Whitehead Island and the surrounding islands were home to over 30 children around this time. A one-room schoolhouse was built on Whitehead and a teacher boarded with the keeper's family.
In 1933 the old steam boilers that ran the fog signal were replaced by two internal combustion engines operating an air compressor. Two new fog horns were installed, one pointing out to sea to the south and another facing northeast toward the Muscle Ridge Channel. At the same time an electric light replaced the old incandescent oil vapor lamp inside the lens, and the keeper's dwellings were supplied with electricity.
Under the Coast Guard Whitehead Light became a "stag" light instead of a three-family station. The 1899 Dutch Colonial head keeper's house was razed, but the assistant keeper's duplex house near the tower still stands.
In the early 1980s the lighthouse was automated, the keepers were removed and the Fresnel lens was replaced by a modern optic.
Whitehead Light was one of the lighthouses included in the Maine Lights Program authorized by Congress and coordinated by the Island Institute of Rockland. In December 1997 the Maine Lighthouse Selection Committee announced that Whitehead Light would be transferred from the Coast Guard to Pine Island Camp, a historic boys'camp situated on Pine Island in Great Pond of the Belgrade Lakes.
Whitehead Light remains an active aid to navigation. It is difficult to see from shore, but some of the tour boats and schooners in the area pass the island. Incidentally, the name of the island was traditionally spelled "White Head" before the Coast Guard combined the words to "Whitehead."
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