|Blue Hill Bay, ME|
Description: Blue Hill Bay Lighthouse is located on Green Island, on the west side of the bay for which the light station is named. The station has also been known as Eggemogin Lighthouse, as it is also situated at the eastern entrance to Eggemogin Reach, the coastal waterway that connects Penobscot Bay with Blue Hill Bay. Traveling eastward across Blue Hill Bay from the lighthouse, one reaches Mount Desert Island, home to Acadia National Park, and Frenchmanís Bay beyond that.
During the mid-19th century the town of Ellsworth on Blue Hill Bay was said to be the second-busiest lumber port in the world, and the Blue Hill Bay lighthouse was built to help guide the related ship traffic.
The cylindrical white tower with attached one-and-a-half story dwelling was built in 1856, after the government purchased the island the previous year from Abraham Flye for $150. The lighthouse looks today much like it did when it was built, except for the addition in 1905 of a boathouse and brick oil house.
The tides in the area have an average range of ten feet, and at high tide, the island shrinks down to around an acre in size. At low tide, Green Island is much larger, with exposed rock ledges that allow walking to nearby Flye Island. The rock ledges continue just under the water from Flye Island to the mainland, and in the other direction out into the bay beyond the lighthouse to a deeper channel near Pond Island, making them a dangerous hazard to ship traffic.
Lighthouse keepers often supplemented their meager income with fishing and farming, but because the light towers were often built on rocky islands with little vegetation, keepers sometimes had to use neighboring islands to graze their sheep and cows during the summer. In a typical lighthouse, the whole family pitched in to help, with the children rowing to nearby islands to pick berries and other available edible plants. Most lighthouse families had at least one cow for milk and several hens for eggs. Some also had sheep for wool and possibly a few turkeys for holiday dinners.
During the 1920s, a family living at a lighthouse like Blue Hill Bay was given a yearly ration of 500 gallons of kerosene and nine tons of coal. The kerosene was used to keep both the lighthouse and the keeperís house lit, while the coal was used for heat. The coal was often not enough to last the winter, and had to be supplemented by driftwood gathered nearby. Fresh water came from rainwater collected on the roof and stored in a 4,500-gallon underground brick cistern.
A 1920s keeper named Roscoe Chandler kept two cows on nearby Flye Island. Each spring, the cows were walked across the exposed rock during a low tide to graze all summer. The tides often didnít coincide with the twice-daily milking times, so the familyís children often took the dory to the island, where they wandered the fifteen-acre island following the sounds of the cowbells. During thunderstorms, the cows often went into the sea and swam towards the lighthouse, and someone usually had to go out in a boat and herd them safely to dry land.
Passenger steamers were an important and essential means of transportation between the Maine coast and the rest of the Eastern seaboard. The ships carried supplies and delivered the mail, taking circuitous routes among the small islands of the region. The sidewheeler J. T. Morse was a familiar sight at the Blue Hill Bay Lighthouse, as it provided daily passenger and freight service between Rockland and Bar Harbor.
Most of the time, these ships did not slow down in foggy weather, as they had a schedule to keep, and because they took the same route every day and were intimate with the geography and the amount of time each leg of the journey took. A stopwatch was used to keep track of the time between stops, and each ship frequently sounded its whistle as a warning. One foggy day, keeper Chandler heard four blows on a whistle nearby, which indicated a vessel in trouble. Finding the ship in the fog, it turned out to be a skipper who had made a turn too soon and was not in imminent danger, but simply lost. Chandler shouted directions to the ship and turned around and went back to his station, using the sound of the fog bell to direct him.
The original beacon at Blue Hill Bay was a fourth-order Fresnel lens showing a fixed white light with a visible range of nine miles during clear weather, augmented by a fog bell. The lighthouse was deactivated in 1933 and replaced in 1935 by an automated skeleton tower, which is now solar powered and still in use. The lighthouse was purchased in 1976 for use as a private residence by a Mr. Wilbur Trapp, a retired accountant from New Jersey who retired to nearby Brooklin, Maine. Trapp installed a long floating walkway to his deepwater mooring, giving easy access to the island during all tides. The lighthouse changed hands again in 1995. The station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Located on Green Island in Blue Hill Bay, 3.7 miles southeast of Brooklin. The lighthouse and island are privately owned. Grounds/dwelling/tower closed.
The lighthouse and island are privately owned. Grounds/dwelling/tower closed.
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.