Under the terms of a 1687 treaty, the territory went to the French. Castine is named for a French officer, Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie de Saint-Castin, who obtained a large land grant from the king of France. The British occupied the area during the American Revolution. In 1779, Castine was the scene of one of the worst naval defeats in U.S. history, when American ships were forced to retreat into the Penobscot River while under attack from British vessels.
After another brief British occupation during the War of 1812, Castine came under American control for good. In the mid-nineteenth century, clipper ships left Castine to trade around the world. A number of beautiful sea captains’ homes remain from that period.
As shipbuilding and lumber traffic on the Penobscot River flourished, Congress appropriated $5,000 for a light station in May 1828. The site chosen was Dyce Head, the southernmost point of the Castine peninsula, almost two miles east of the northern end of Islesboro. The spot is on land once owned by a family named Dyce.
A conical rubblestone tower—42 feet tall from its base to the focal plane—and an adjacent one-and-one-half-story rubblestone dwelling were soon built, and a newspaper notice on November 5, 1828, announced that the light would go into service that evening.
The Lighthouse Board considered discontinuing the light around 1857, but instead major repairs were carried out in 1858. The entire tower was surrounded with a six-sided wooden sheath, and a fourth-order Fresnel lens replaced the lamps and reflectors. The wooden sheath was removed in the late 1800s.
Maritime traffic in the area had fallen off, and in 1935 the light was discontinued. It was replaced by a skeleton tower closer to the shore. The keeper’s house and surrounding land became the property of the Town of Castine a short time later. In 1956, the lighthouse tower was turned over to the town.
In 1997, the voters of Castine approved spending $98,000 to repair the lighthouse. Another $25,000 was approved in March 1998. The town also received $52,000 from the Maine Historic Preservation Committee, and Marty Nally, a contractor from the Campbell Construction Group, carried out the renovation.
Directions: From U.S. Route 1 at Orland, take routes 175 and 166 to Castine. Continue one mile past Fort George and Maine Maritime Academy on Battle Avenue to the road’s end. there are trails that offer good views for photography. The light is good during most of the day.