|Goose Rocks, ME|
Description: For a fee that helps offset preservation costs, overnight guests now have the possibility to tuck themselves into cozy beds at Goose Rocks Lighthouse, which has been renovated in a period style that provides a glimpse into the life of its keepers.
Goose Rocks Lighthouse — a distinctive, so-called “spark-plug” light completely surrounded by water — is situated in Fox Islands Thoroughfare, which runs between the islands of Vinalhaven and North Haven. These two islands are the largest in a collection of roughly fifty islands named the Fox Islands after the silver foxes observed there by early explorers. The 1888 Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board noted:
This thoroughfare is one of the most important passages on the coast of Maine for large fleets of coasting and fishing vessels. A light-station and fog-signal should be established at or near Goose Rock to guide into the entrance and past Widow's Island, and a day-beacon should be built at or near Channel Rock to mark this danger in thick and foggy weather. It is estimated that it will cost $35,000 to establish the light-station and fog-bell and build the day-beacon.
A cylindrical, iron caisson, twenty-five feet in diameter and with a height of twenty-four feet, was first anchored atop the ledge to serve as a foundation. After the lower portion of the caisson was filled with concrete, the crew started working on the thirty-seven-foot-tall, iron superstructure. The top portion of the caisson served as a storage area, while the lighthouse itself was divided into five levels. The bottom three levels, which served as living quarters for the keepers, have a diameter of eighteen feet, while the watchroom has a diameter of ten feet and the hexagonal lantern room has a diameter of six feet.
Goose Rocks Lighthouse was finished on November 14, 1890, and Keeper Ira D. Trundy made the inaugural lighting a few weeks later on New Year’s Eve. A fifth-order Fresnel lens was initially used in the lantern room to produce a fixed red light, with a white sector. Ships could safely glide past Widow’s Island and into the thoroughfare’s eastern entrance by always keeping the white light visible. The intensity of the light was increased in 1902 through the installation of a fourth-order Fresnel lens. The characteristic of the light was changed at this time to a flash every five seconds – a white flash in the sector and a red flash elsewhere.
A 1,200-pound fog bell, struck by machinery, was established at the station on April 30, 1891. The color of the tower was changed from brown to red on September 1, 1895, and then from red to its current white daymark in 1903.
Lack of interior space resulted in the designation of Goose Rocks as a “stag” station. Some keepers preferred this situation, as their families were provided safe onshore housing by the Lighthouse Service and the keepers got to spend eight uninterrupted days with them each month. During a keeper’s absence or illness, the Lighthouse Service would send an “Additional Keeper” to fill in, such as veteran lighthouse keeper Gleason Colbeth, who joined the service in 1930.
Charles L. Knight spent three years on the lighthouse as an assistant keeper and related the following to Robert Thayer Sterling, author of Lighthouses of the Maine Coast and the Men Who Keep Them:
My stay at Goose Rocks was pleasant even though it was an isolated station where no one could get out and walk around on dry land. You have to get some kind of exercise and inasmuch as you have no place to run about you have to plan to go through some kind of calisthenics.
Goose Rocks was automated in 1963, and a solar-powered, 250-mm optic is now used in the lantern room.
During the 1990s when numerous lighthouses were transferred to towns and non-profit organizations under the Maine Lights Program, no group came forward to claim Goose Rocks Lighthouse. The lighthouse was again offered to qualified entities in 2004 as part of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, and this time an application was submitted by Historically Significant Structures of Philadelphia. For some reason, however, this application was rejected by the Department of the Interior through the National Park Service, though Historically Significant Structures succeeded in gaining ownership of Execution Rocks Lighthouse, when it was offered under the same program in 2007.
After the sole application was rejected, Goose Rocks Lighthouse was sold by the General Services Administration. Casey Jordan and Ted Northrop submitted the winning bid of $27,000 and formed the non-profit Beacon Preservation, Inc., which assumed ownership of the property in November 2006. Ted quit his job at a Connecticut hospital and, for a time, served as North Haven’s on-island doctor while overseeing restoration of the lighthouse. “When your neighbor asks you to move your car in Connecticut,” Ted remarked, “it’s usually because you’re parking on his property. Here, it's because he wants to mow my lawn!”
In 2008, Beacon Preservation was awarded Penfield Reef Lighthouse under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, but this decision was reversed in 2011 after the group failed to reach a deal with the State of Connecticut for the bottomlands on which the lighthouse stands.
Goose Rocks Lighthouse has been carefully restored and is now open for overnight visitors. Fox Islands Thoroughfare is a popular passage for sailboats, and the covered deck of the lighthouse is a prime spot for viewing the majestic windjammers out of Camden and Rockland. An availability calendar for the lighthouse can be viewed on Beacon Preservation’s website.
Located near the eastern entrance to the Fox Islands Thorofare, which passes
between Vinalhaven and North Haven Islands. The lighthouse is owned by Beacon Preservation, Inc., which offers tours and overnight stays.
The lighthouse is owned by Beacon Preservation, Inc., which offers tours and overnight stays.
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.