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.
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.
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.
A local group, the West Quoddy Head Light Keepers Association, has formed to enhance the experience of visitors to West Quoddy Head Light with exhibits and displays. A seasonal visitor center is now open in the former keeper's house.
The grounds are open to the public and trails through the park wind along the shore and past the lighthouse.
Several species of whales can sometimes be seen offshore and bald eagles nest in the area. A visit to West Quoddy Head is well worth the trip.
Posted Oct. 28, 2011, at 5:44 a.m.
Last modified Oct. 28, 2011, at 5:48 p.m.
LUBEC, Maine — She walks the trails at West Quoddy Lighthouse State Park, stopping only to gaze out to sea. The wind billows her long Victorian dress and seaweed is draped over her shoulders. She has been seen by numerous local people and several times by a former park manager.
The problem is, the nameless woman drowned more than a hundred years ago and her body, which was found washed up on the Lubec shore, was buried in the late 1800s two miles away at the West Quoddy Lifesaving Station.
Directions: From U.S. Route 1 at Whiting, Maine turn onto ME 189 and continue for about four miles. Turn right onto South Lubec/ Boot Cove Road (marked with a "Quoddy Head State Park" sign) and continue to a fork in the road. Bear left and continue on to the park and light station. At the entrance to the station turn right onto the road leading to the parking area. A shot trail to the left leads to the light; other trails to the right offer views of the light, cliffs, and islands.
The best light for photos is in the afternoon.