CREDITS: I would like to thank Jeremy D'Entremont for providing much of the history one can find on this site. He is a speaker, author, historian, and tour guide who is widely recognized as the foremost authority on the lighthouses of New England. For a story on Jeremy or to visit his site (New England Lighthouses: A Virtual Guide), use the corresponding link in the right hand information bar under "Related Links".

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I have set up this site as a means to share my photographs of lighthouses. Since retiring and finding more time to study photography, my interests have expanded a little. For some of my work other than lighthouses please enjoy my Facebook page at, John Shaw Photography. Come visit, enjoy, and 'LIKE' if you wish.

Also, for your enjoyment, I have provided a slideshow of our journey. To view it please use the link on the right under 'Site Navigation Tools'.

I sincerely hope you enjoy my efforts and use my site not only for information and education but also to provide directions for many enjoyable, inspirational visits to the beacons along our beautiful coas.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Isle au Haut (Robinson Point) Lighthouse

      Isle au Haut (High Island) was so named by Samuel de Champlain in 1604.  Its highest point (540 ft.), Mt. Champlain, was named for this French explorer.  It is clearly the highest island in Penobscot bay.  It is about six miles long by three miles wide.  

      The majority of permanent residents on Isle au Haut turned out in 1997 for the referendum on whether to pursue ownership of Point Robinson Lighthouse. Despite the financial burden of maintaining a light tower, locals voted 27 to 11 in support of owning the light. Soon, the community was hard at work raising money to restore their beloved tower. They managed to gather $62,000 for replacing the tower railing, windows, and doors with replicas of the originals. The restoration, new paint, and structural work were completed by June 1999.

    Isle au Haut is one of the few places where the pace of life remains somewhat close to that
experienced by lighthouse keepers. Furthermore, most of its residents prefer it that way. There is a sense of community, with bake-offs, and strong school support—despite the fact that students number in the single digits. The number of visitors to the island is limited by how many the mail boat can carry. There are no ferries that carry cars to Isle au Haut, but bicycles can be rented on the island. Isle au Haut was the last U.S. community to give up crank telephones. Many houses are without electricity.  No hotels or tourist facilities are planned. One of the few places to stay has been The Keeper’s House, comprised of the old keeper’s dwelling and outbuildings, which were purchased by Jeff and Judi Burke in 1986 and renovated into a popular inn for tourists. As of May 2012, the two-acre property was for sale with an asking price of $1.9 million, including the “seven room main house with four bedrooms and two baths, a four room house with one bedroom and one bath, two small heated cabins, two storage buildings, a large boathouse, pier, ramp, floating dock, boat mooring and 700 feet of deep water frontage on Isle Au Haut Bay.” The station is powered by a generator, solar panels, and a windmill; and water is drawn from the sea and desalinized.

     Half of the Isle au Haut lies within Acadia National Park. Visitors can see porpoises, seals, deer, eagles, mink, and osprey as they hike, and it was the bounty of nature that generated the need for a lighthouse. The area was considered to be “exceedingly good fishing grounds,” rich in haddock, cod and hake. From 1902-1905, the Lighthouse Board repeatedly recommended the building of a lighthouse on the island.

     The most profitable fishing is during November and December, when northeast snowstorms are apt to prevail, and are often of great severity. The trawls set by fishermen, which often contain several thousand hooks, can not be suddenly left without material loss or disadvantage, and when storms or night approach the vessels often need to remain on the grounds till the last moment, when it is of the utmost importance that they be able, quickly and with certainty and safety, to make a secure harbor. Isle au Haut Harbor is the best harbor convenient to these fishing grounds….A light-station with a fog bell, struck by machinery, would guide fishermen Into this harbor when they could not find it without such aid. 

     Land for the station on Robinson Point was purchased from Charles E. Robinson and work moved ahead on Robinson Point Lighthouse, as Isle au Haut Lighthouse is also known. The Board insisted that the light station could not be built for the $14,000 appropriated on June 23, 1906, and asked that another $400 be passed, which did not come to be. Records for 1907 show that: “The station consists of a [40-foot] granite and brick tower, dwelling, oil-house, fuel house, and boathouse. The entire amount of the appropriation was exhausted in the construction of the station,” which was completed on December 30, 1907. Perhaps the shortage in funds was circumvented, because the following year, a “Bell struck by machinery [was] established.”

     Locals say that eight-year-old Esther Holbrook, daughter of Francis Elmer Holbrook, the first keeper, was given the honor of first lighting the tower’s fifth-order Fresnel lens. This supposedly occurred on Christmas Eve, 1907, but construction wasn’t completed until December 30, and another source says the light was first lit on New Year’s Day, 1908. The tower was built a bit offshore and reached via a wooden walkway. In June 1922, Keeper Holbrook took a one-year leave of absence and resigned a year later.

      The next keeper, Harry Smith, stayed until his transfer to Two Bush Island Light in 1933. The following year, the light was automated, and the tower’s fifth-order Fresnel lens was later moved to the Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland. Charles E. Robinson, who had originally sold the land for the light, was able, with the assistance of Maine’s Senator Margaret Chase Smith, to buy back the keeper’s house and land—excluding the tower, which remained federal government property.

      For the next three generations, over fifty years, the keeper’s house welcomed members of the Robinson family. Linda Greenlaw wrote about her summers there in her book, The Lobster Chronicles:  “The times we spent in the house, my siblings all agree, were magical….The house seemed to have a life of its own, protecting us and the memory of those who had lived there before. I’ve never felt so at home in any other dwelling, and perhaps never will. There are those who believe the Keeper’s House is haunted. I think spirited is more accurate.”

     Judi Burke, daughter of a former Coast Guard keeper at Highland Light, Massachusetts, and her husband Jeff purchased the home in 1986 for $190,000 and quickly spent another $100,000 turning the dwelling into the Keeper's House Inn. “The type of experience that people have here usually takes them by surprise,” said Jeff. “Strange things happen to people while they’re here. …They make career altering decisions, they propose to their sweethearts, they decide they're going to leave the city, or they’re going to embark on some new adventure that they never thought they would do.” In his book, Lighthouse Inn: A Chronicle, Jeff Burke describes the pleasures and challenges of running the inn, of which there were plenty. After roughly twenty years of hosting guests, the couple retired from inn-keeping in 2007. While the inn was on the market, Jeff focused on his portrait painting, offering Portraits at the Lighthouse, where for $3,600 a person could spend the night at the lighthouse and have a portrait painted.

     The Isle au Haut Lighthouse can only be seen from the water on cruises out of several coastal Maine towns, by taking the mail boat , or perhaps by kayaking to the island from Stonington.  From the island town landing:  Turn right onto the main road and walk about 3/4 mile, bear right onto a narrow path (marked with a “keeper’s House” sign).  The lighthouse is about 1/2 mile ahead.  

     Enjoy  romantic and scenic accommodations on this beautiful Maine island in the Isle au Haut lighthouse. Rooms are available in the main house or in separate cottages with cozy amenities. 2-night minimum July and August.  One can book a stay by going to,

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