A November 2003 trip
to Massachusetts by Mary Dickinson
Quote: The New England lighthouses are always associated with quaint little villages and touristy summer places. This is especially true of Cape Ann lights.
The keeper’s house, presently occupied by a coast guard and his family, was built in 1801, the same time as the first lighthouse. It has undergone many changes in its 200-year existence, but the lighthouse has been completely replaced twice. Violent storms had battered the towers and disturbed the structures, requiring them be replaced. The present 41 foot Federal-style brick tower was built in 1897. In 1922 a fifth order Fresnel lens with a light fueled by kerosene that gave a 1300 candlepower light was replaced by an electrified forth order lens that gave a 250,000 candlepower light. In 1974 the light was automated.
A controversy concerning the fog horn has created problems over the years. Residents don’t want to hear it, especially at night. Fishermen count on it for safe passage out of the river if they have problems with their radar. At the present time a sensor triggered foghorn is in use.
To drive to the lighthouse we took Rt. 128E from Rt 95. We went three quarters of the way around the first rotary in Gloucester and took a right. We stayed on that road for about three miles and then turned left after the Annisquam Village Church on the left. Not too far down that road is a Civil War Monument. Turn right and follow the one way road. As you near the ocean you will catch glimpses of the lighthouse. You can park inside the anchor fence gate for 15 minutes. You cannot go inside the lighthouse or keeper’s house. If you go straight at the Civil War Monument you will see the old village of Annisquam.
Note: The "private road" sign on Narwood Heights Rd. is a misnomer. It is a publicly maintained road and can be used to go to and from a national instillation, the lighthouse.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on November 15, 2003
Narwood Hieghts Rd.
Looking east, out to sea, we could see the Straightsmouth Lighthouse. The land under it looks long and flat and juts way out into the ocean. The lighthouse, built in 1896 as an aid to safely navigate boats into Rockport Harbor, is at the farthest point of the island. The keeper’s house looks lonely and abandoned in the center of the island.
Its best not to try to go out to the island. In 1941 the island was bought by a private owner, Frederic Gibbs. He donated it to the National Audubon Society to be maintained as a wildlife sanctuary. The present light is solar powered, flashing a green signal every six seconds, and there is an automated foghorn. They are still active aids to navigation, but the keeper’s house has long been abandoned.
Now and again someone has the urge to restore the keeper’s house, but their efforts are vandalized and the "wildlife" is overwhelming. Poison ivy abounds.
After viewing the lighthouse from Old Granite Point, we drove around to the fishermen’s wharf area in town. My husband took a magnificent photograph of a fisherman’s warehouse painted red with floats hanging from the side of the building. Rockport’s first industry was producing cut granite. The beauty that building material gave to a structure can be seen beneath the red warehouse, all around the wharf and all over town as well.
All the stores on the main road are old but newly painted and offer exciting expensive merchandize. Quaint little restaurants beckon and offer the opportunity to be a part of this quiet but exciting remnant of New England history.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 15, 2003
They are the only twin lights still in operation on the American coasts. The first twin lights were built here in 1771 because of a reef, called the Londoner, one half mile off shore. It got its name from ships going to or from London crashing into it.
We were able to view the twin light from Penzance Road off Rt 127 in Rockport. The present 123’ north tower is on a hill giving it a height of 166’ above sea level The light from its 15 watt fluorescent lamp can be seen for eight miles. After being decommissioned in 1932, it was relit in 1988 complimentary to sailors from the town of Rockport.
In 1998 the Coast Guard installed a solar panel in the south tower that powers the light and a fog horn. Both towers are identical otherwise. They have a granite exterior with a brick inner wall two feet thick. They are 22’ in diameter at the base and 13’ in diameter at the lantern room.
We were able to see the twin towers and island from the casino ship, when we were three miles out, but we couldn’t see any of the other buildings on the island from that distance. One way to enjoy the island is to stay in the six room keeper’s house, for rent during the summer months ($50. per person per night, 2 nights minimum), or you can camp on the island for $5 a night.
Granite storage buildings and an oil house and barn with slate roofs are also on the island as well as a boat landing ramp, boat house and a network of railroad tracks once used to bring coal for the steam powered fog horn. The island is considered a wildlife refuge and is a National Historic Landmark.
Twin Lights on Thatcher's Island
At the land’s end of the breakwater we could see the 36’ Eastern Point Lighthouse. Built in 1890 on the same foundation as its predecessor, it is connected to a keeper’s duplex house (1879), oil house (1894), garage (1947), and fog signal building (1951). I could easily identify that historic landmark from the casino boat when we were three miles out. Its light has a bright flash every six seconds. Fishing boats can see the flash from 13 nautical miles away. A variety of foghorns have been used and then were protested by local residents. The desperate needs of the fishermen, who are engaged in Gloucester’s main industry, successfully countered the protests. In 1897 a 4,000 pound steam driven fog bell was installed.
Like most of Cape Ann’s lighthouses, Eastern Point is owned and occupied by the Coast Guard. Visitors are allowed to park their car in the parking lot and walk to the breakwater but are not allowed in the lighthouse or on the grounds.
To get to the lighthouse from the junction of 127-128 in downtown Gloucester, go east on East Main St for one mile, .3 miles on Eastern Point Rd. then 1.6 miles on Eastern Point Boulevard. Some of the roads have signs stating "No Trespassing, Private Road". I checked with the Chamber of Commerce and was informed visitors are permitted to use the publicly maintained roads to visit a federal instillation, the lighthouse.
Eastern Point Lighthouse
Eastern Point Boulevard
The 30’ cast iron brick-lined tower was built in 1881. The previous tower was made of stone and is in some of Winslow Homer’s scenes of Gloucester Harbor. He was boarding at the lighthouse in 1880 and painted 50 seascapes during that time.
We were able to view it up close, as we passed on the Horizon’s Edge Casino Boat. We were also able to see it from Rocky Neck, an artists’ colony off East Main Street in Gloucester. The lighthouse is located on a rocky island and got its name from ten sheep pens (pounds) that were there when the original lighthouse was built. You can get to the island (mostly in the summer months) by water taxi. There are hiking paths, but you can’t go inside the lighthouse or the oil house.
In 1956, the lighthouse was decommissioned and the fifth order Fresnel lens was moved to Shore Village Museum in Rockland, Maine. The keeper’s house and outbuilding were reduced to rubble. The lighthouse was restored in the 1980s and relit on Aug 7, 1989. The fog signal, two blasts every 20 seconds, keeps the constant flow of fishing boats and pleasure boats aware of their location in the busy harbor when fog occurs.
Ten Pound Lighthoue
Ten Pound Island