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What You Need to Know About Historic Whaleback Lighthouse

Whaleback Lighthouse

New England is famous for iconic lighthouses making picturesque backdrops and beautiful photo opportunities. One of those iconic lighthouses is Maine’s Whaleback Lighthouse. The historic lighthouse is one of the most important lighthouses in the history of New England commerce and trade and played an imperative role in bringing ships into Boston and Portsmouth. Here’s what you need to know about the Whaleback Lighthouse.

The History of Whaleback Lighthouse

The famous Whaleback Lighthouse marks the way into the harbor of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and has been confused often to be a New Hampshire lighthouse. But, the granite lighthouse is clearly set in Maine waters by almost a quarter of a mile. The importance of this lighthouse lies in the purpose it serves, which is to guide ships around the jagged ledge known as “Whaleback” on the northeast side of the Piscataqua River. Steering ships around the point of Kittery was an important task for the commerce and trade of colonial New England. The harbor of Portsmouth played an important role prior to the American Revolution and after as it was the first federal shipyard in the United States.

Shipwrecks and Improvements

Due to the frequency of shipwrecks on the rocks of “Whaleback,” congress appropriated the funds for a lighthouse to be built, thanks to the efforts of New Hampshire representative, Ichabod Bartlett. As a result, the Whaleback Lighthouse was constructed in 1829 on a conical granite pier and stood 42 feet in diameter at the bottom and 32 feet in diameter at the top. The lighthouse stood 38 feet atop the pier but was poorly constructed with keepers reporting stones falling out of the side of the tower during storms and waves vibrating and rocking the tower so much that they displaced furniture. As a result, in the 1840s, the lighthouse was refurbished to be stronger but was ultimately replaced in the 1871. Due to the replacement, the original Whaleback Lighthouse was torn down in 1880. In 1941, the lighthouse came under the operation of the Coast Guard and saw its last keeper in the early 1960s. You can view Whaleback Lighthouse from Fort Foster in Kittery, ME or on a tour boat leaving from the Portsmouth Harbor.

Plan to See the Famous Lighthouse on Your Visit to York

While York, ME, has its own famous lighthouse, there are plenty of others you’ll want to see in the area! Some of New England’s most iconic lighthouses are less than an hour away! So, plan your trip with Dockside Guest Quarters and be centrally located to all the best things to do in the area. Check out our cozy quarters and see for yourself the quality you’ll enjoy. Then, contact us to book your stay!