Portland Head Light could well be the most famous lighthouse in the world. Besides acting as a beacon for tourists every summer, Portland Head Light has been featured in movies, on stamps, and is reportedly the most photographed lighthouse in the United States. But Portland Head Light is just one of the stately lighthouses to which Portland can lay claim. The area’s other lighthouses, constructed in different eras, shed some light on Portland’s history as a shipping center, and are great places to visit and learn about.
Ram Island Light
For visitors to Portland Head Light, Ram Island Light is probably the first non-Portland Head Light lighthouse that most who come to Maine for sightseeing get to see. This is because this lonely light can be seen from Portland Head Light itself. The lighthouse was built in the early 1900s after the ledges surrounding Ram island caused frequent shipwrecks, most notably wrecking the major steamship California, an event that caused the United States Congress to request that a lighthouse be constructed to prevent further accidents. The light was publicly owned until 2010, when it was sold to a local physician. It is accessible by boat, but is best viewed at Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth. The lighthouse’s dirty granite exterior gives it a peculiar beauty in contrast to the deep blue ocean that surrounds it.
Portland Breakwater Light
Also known as “Bug Light,” this small lighthouse sits on a long, very walkable breakwater in Bug Light State Park, South Portland. The Lighthouse was built in 1875 as a replacement for an older wooden lighthouse at the same spot, helping escort ships into Portland Harbor. Designed by the architect of the US Capital Dome, the lighthouse pulls inspiration from Athens, Greece. Its unique look prompts comparison to a chess piece or medieval parapet. Fans of interesting architecture should be sure to check this lighthouse out!
Spring Point Ledge Light
The youngest lighthouse in Portland, Spring Point Ledge Light occupies the end of a breakwater in South Portland, near the remains of Fort Preble, a military site from the War of 1812. The fort predates the lighthouse by almost a century. Spring Point Ledge Light was constructed in the 1890s after steamships repeatedly ran aground on Spring Point ledge. Spring Point Ledge Light is a great attraction during the summer months, when families enjoy walking its scenic breakwater and picnicking in the surrounding park. For information tours of Spring Point Ledge Light, go to http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=545
Cape Elizabeth Lights
Located in Two Lights State Park, these twin lighthouses overlooking Casco Bay were built in 1874, and are almost as well known as Cape Elizabeth’s other lighthouse, Portland Headlight. Painted by Edward Hopper in the 1920s and recognized as a historic landmark in 1974, the lighthouses aren’t open to the public but can be seen from the park. One remains active, owned by the town, and the other has become a private residence. The park itself has picnic tables, a playground, and a great view of the ocean. The beautiful park and lighthouses are a must-see on any Portland sightseeing trip.
If you are interested Portland-area sights and or maritime history, Tall Ships Portland is the event for you! Tall ships will be visiting Portland Harbor from July 18-20th. Tickets are on sale now!