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Maine Lighthouses: Burnt Island, Boothbay Harbor

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Burnt Island is in Boothbay Harbor, which was a center for shipbuilding, gristmills and fishing in the 1700s. The economy was hit hard by the Revolutionary War and then the War of 1812, after which it started to recover. The Burnt Island light, on the west side of Boothbay Harbor, was built in 1821. The tower, unlike several we've noted in the series, was well-built at the start, and is currently the second oldest original lighthouse tower in Maine.

The house was another matter, and it was replaced in 1857. The boathouse and oil house were added in 1880 and 1899, and a fog bell tower with a 1,029-lb. bell and an automatic striking mechanism was added in 1895. It was a popular station - an easy row to shore for supplies, and an active nearby community.

However, it took awhile to get the lights sorted out. Initially, its white light was confused by mariners with the Cuckolds Island light, also on the west side of the harbor but about 2.5 miles farther out, and some wrecks and damage resulted. In 1888 a "dead angle"' was added to the light so it couldn't be seen on the approach to Cuckolds Island light. Two years later it was changed to fixed red with two white sectors. However, from some angles, the fixed red could be confused with the fixed red on Ram Island, so in 1902, coincident with another upgrade of the light mechanism, they changed it once more to a red flash every 5 seconds with two white sectors.

In April 1962, Burnt Island was the last lighthouse in New England to be converted to electricity; in 1988 it became one of the last Maine lights to be automated. In 1998, the light was transferred to the Maine Department of Marine Resources, who have restored the station and offer a number of public and educational programs centered around the island and the lighthouse. It has a government website with lots of history and natural history, at

Additional history is available at


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