Pemaquid Point, with its dramatic streaks of granite reaching to the sea, shaped by massive movements thousands of years ago, would be a fascinating place to visit even without its pretty white lighthouse. The spot is one of the most frequently visited attractions of the Maine coast, receiving about 100,000 visitors each year.
The name “Pemaquid” is said to have had its origins in an Abenaki Indian word for “situated far out.”
Immigrants from Bristol, England, established a settlement at Pemaquid in 1631. The village had as many as 200 people by the 1670s, but Abenaki Indians burned it during King Philip’s War. The settlement was rebuilt but suffered further attacks from the Indians and the French, and it was abandoned before 1700. It was resettled in 1729. Today, the area is part of the town of Bristol, incorporated in 1765.
The point, at the entrance to Muscongus Bay to the east and Johns Bay to the west, was the scene of many shipwrecks through the centuries, including the 1635 wreck of the British ship Angel Gabriel.
In May 1826, as maritime trade, fishing, and the shipping of lumber were increasing in midcoast Maine, Congress appropriated $4,000 for the building of a lighthouse at Pemaquid Point.
The original stone tower didn’t last long, possibly because Berry may have used salt water to mix his lime mortar. The contract for a new tower in 1835 stipulated that the mortar was “never to have been wet with salt water.” A conical stone tower was built that year by Joseph Berry of Georgetown, who was the nephew of the builder of the first tower.
A fog bell was added to the station in 1897, and steam engines were installed to operate the bell. Apparently this system didn’t work very well, because in 1899 a striking machine was installed, powered by a hand-cranked clockwork mechanism. The bell house built in 1897 was adapted with the addition of a tall tower to enclose the weights for the new mechanism.
The museum opened in 1972 and has been operated since then by volunteers from the local area. The museum houses exhibits on the history of the local fishing and lobstering industries, as well as pictures of all the lighthouses on the Maine coast and a fourth-order Fresnel lens from Baker Island Light.
In 1960 a Pemaquid Group of Artists added an art gallery to Lighthouse Park.
Pemaquid Point Light became the first lighthouse ever to ever appear on American currency in 2003, when its image appeared on the official Maine quarter.
Among the speakers at a dedication held at Lighthouse Park were Maine’s Governor John Baldacci, Henrietta Holsman Fore, director of the U.S. Mint, and American Lighthouse Foundation President Tim Harrison.
Volunteers of the Friends of Pemaquid Point Lighthouse (a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation) manage the tower only. Volunteers open the tower in season (Memorial Day to Columbus Day) to the public every day from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. There is no charge to climb the tower but donations are welcomed.
Directions: From U.S. Route 1 in Damariscotta, turn onto ME 129/130 and follow ME 130 south to it's end at Pemaquid Point. Aflternatively, from U.S. 1 in Waldoboro, turn south onto ME 32 and follow this route through New Harbor to the junction of ME 130. Turn south (left) onto ME 130 and follow the road to it's end ayt Pemaquid Point. To view the lighthouse by boat, cruises are available out of Boothbay Harbor or from the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath. Different photographs can be taken using the light during varying times of the day. A must visit!