Portland Head Light

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Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T!

George Washington directed the construction of the Portland Head Light, also known as the Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse in 1791. It is the oldest lighthouse in present-day Maine, though Maine was still a part of Massachusetts at the time it was built. It was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1973.

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Today the Coast Guard operates the automated signal, while the keeper’s house and surrounding Fort Williams Park are maintained and preserved by the town of Cape Elizabeth, just south of Portland.

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We parked by the Ship Cove beach area and walked the Cliff Trail towards the lighthouse.

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Along the trail, you can clamber down rough paths and walk out onto rocks for a better view of the light.

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We noticed another lighthouse out in Casco Bay. This is the Ram Island Ledge Light. It looks like a ruin, but it is solar-powered and apparently still works.

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We arrived at the light and toured the museum inside the Keeper’s House. You cannot go up in the tower.

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On the other side of the lighthouse, some rocks are painted as a memorial to the shipwreck of the Annie McGuire in 1886. The light keeper rescued the crew, providing them with the means to climb to shore. No one knows why the ship crashed into the rocks as the signal was quite visible.

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We then walked a path through the park, past some ruins of the fort batteries and back to the beach where we dipped our feet in the icy water and took a few photos of Battery Keyes, built as part of Fort Williams in 1906. The fort remained in use until 1962.

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Location: 12 Captain Strout Cir, Cape Elizabeth, ME 
Designation: National Register of Historic Places
Date designated/established: April 24, 1973
Date of my visit: August 17, 2015

4 thoughts on “Portland Head Light

  1. We visited this lighthouse and several others in and near Portland several years ago while on a New England trip – well worth it and Portland is a great city with some very good breweries as well. Thanks for the post. It brought back good memories, T.

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