Last Visited: September, 2000
Red and white candy-striped West Quoddy Head Light is one of the most frequently depicted American lighthouses on calendars and posters. The picturesque lighthouse stands on the easternmost point of the United States mainland.
In 1806, a group of concerned citizens chose West Quoddy Head as a suitable place for a lighthouse to help mariners coming into the south entrance to Quoddy Roads, between the mainland and Campobello Island. According to some sources, Hopley Yeaton, an officer in the United States Revenue Cutter Service who is regarded as the father of the Coast Guard, played a role in the establishment of the station. Yeaton had retired to a farm in the area and was active in local affairs.
Congress appropriated $5000 for the light station on April 21, 1806. The contractors Beal and Thaxter built the first wooden lighthouse on the site, along with a small dwelling, in 1808. It was the first American lighthouse east of Penobscot Bay.
At one time, West Quoddy Head, like Boston Light, had a fog cannon to warn mariners away from dangerous Sail Rocks nearby. The station received one of the nation's first fog bells in 1820.
It has been said that the Bay of Fundy is where fog is manufactured, and the keeper at West Quoddy Head had plenty of extra work operating the bell. Congress decided in 1827 that "the keeper of Quoddy Head Lighthouse, in the State of Maine, shall be allowed, in addition to his present salary, the sum of sixty dollars annually, for ringing the bell connected with said lighthouse, from the time he commenced ringing said bell."
Over the next 17 years, four different fog bells were tried at West Quoddy, but all of them were difficult to hear offshore. Even an unusual 14-foot steel bar was tried in place of a bell.
The first lighthouse was so poorly constructed that it required rebuilding by 1830. Congress appropriated $8000, and the contractor Joseph Berry rebuilt the tower in 1831 for $2350. The new rubblestone lighthouse, 49 feet tall, went into service on August 1, 1831.
The present 49-foot brick tower was erected in 1857, after a Congressional appropriation of $15,000. The new lighthouse received a third-order Fresnel lens. A one-and-one-half-story Victorian keeper's house was built at the same time.
West Quoddy Head Light's famous red and white stripes appear to have been added soon after the present tower was built. Red stripes on lighthouses were common in Canada, where it helped them stand out against snow. Only one other lighthouse in the United States -- Assateague Light in Virginia -- has horizontal red and white stripes.
In 1869, a Daboll trumpet fog whistle was installed in place of the earlier bells. The signal was described as similar to the blast from a steam locomotive.
In 2004, the Campbell Construction Company was contracted by the Coast Guard to restore the lantern, at a cost of $176,000. The work included the replacement of some corroded parts of the lantern, the replacement of the lantern glass, and the removal of all lead paint. Drain spouts in the form of gargoyles (right) that had been removed many years earlier were replicated and installed, nearly returning the lighthouse close to its original appearance.
Michael Cyr of Saco Bay Castings recreated the gargoyles using an original piece at the Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland.
The lighthouse grounds are now part of Quoddy Head State Park. In 1998, under the Maine Lights Program, the station became the property of the State of Maine. The light itself is still maintained by the Coast Guard as an active aid to navigation.
New England Lighthouses: A Virtual Guide
The Visitors Center is open daily from 10:10 AM - 4:00 PM through mid-October.
Nearest Address: Quoddy Head Rd, Lubec, ME
- Take Route 189 into Lubec.
- Take a right onto South Lubec Road.
- Stay on South Lubec Road for 2.7 miles. At that point Quoddy Head Road forks off to the left.
- Take the left onto Quoddy Head Road and follow it to the end.
- There is free parking at the lighthouse.
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