A nondescript gravel road leads to a quaint old stubby lighthouse on the furthest point east in Maine and, indeed, the whole of the United States.
West Quoddy Head is now a state park and small museum, but it has also served as a lookout on the coast of Maine since 1808. It is an easterly-pointing peninsula in southeastern Lubec, overlooking Quoddy Narrows, a strait between Lubec and Campobello Island, Canada, that provides access to Passamaquoddy Bay and harbors located on the St. Croix River and other rivers which the empty into the bay. And, interestingly, during the spring and fall equinoxes, this site is the first place in the U.S. to see the morning sun.
The Passamaquoddy are a Native American people who for centuries have lived along St. Croix River and Passamaquoddy Bay. Their name literally means “pollock-spearer,” due their reliance on fishing. Not by chance, similarly attracted by the area’s plentiful fish, Europeans established settlements in the area starting in 1604.
As commerce increased, locals petitioned the government in 1806 for a lighthouse to mark the entrance to Passamaquoddy Bay, which is guarded by dangerous basaltic outcroppings.
As a result, in 1808 a lighthouse was constructed at the site to guide ships through the Quoddy Narrows.
The current lighthouse with distinctive red-and-white stripes, was constructed in 1858 and is an active aid to navigation. It features an original and unique third-order Fresnel lens that can reach up to 18 miles offshore, the tower is only 15 meters tall and made of brick. The present light station includes a tower, former keeper’s quarters, service building, and oil house.
It is noteworthy in several ways. Despite its name, it is the easternmost beacon in the United States, one of only two still-standing U.S. lighthouses with red-and-white bands, and one of the first stations to be equipped with a fog bell and, later, a steam whistle.
The station was automated in 1988 and is currently monitored by the US Coast Guard, so there is no longer a need for a lighthouse keeper, as the Coast Guard keeps the light lit 24/7.
Today the lower part of the lighthouse has been turned into a museum and welcomes visitors.
It is usually staffed by a member of the West Quoddy Head Light Keepers Association who is eager for visitors and can tell you as much history as the casual person would care to know.
Moreover, the 532-acre state park that surrounds the lighthouse offers hiking and several miles of trails, and activities like whale watching and nature walks.
The light station was added to the National Register of Historic Places as West Quoddy Head Light Station on July 4, 1980.
Images from web – Google Research