Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse Website » Also known as Fort Point Light or New Castle Light, Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse is located off Route 1B, adjacent to the Fort Constitution Historic Site and Coast Guard Station. More wrecks followed in the ensuing years, including that of the Maine schooner Fame in October 1827. The characteristic of the light has been fixed (steady) green since 1941. He recommended a substantial masonry tower similar to the early waveswept lighthouses in the British Isles. One option considered for a while in the late 1840s was the building of an iron-pile lighthouse similar to the ill-fated one at Minot’s Ledge in Massachusetts. In March 1871, Keeper Ferdinand Barr, a Civil War veteran, drowned in heavy seas while away from the lighthouse tending his lobster traps. . $25,000 was appropriated for the building of a new tower, but the old one was refurbished instead. They recommended that a breakwater be added on the eastern side of the tower, at a cost of $20,000. As early as 1721 some concerned citizens of Portsmouth petitioned for a lighthouse, but repeated efforts failed. To differentiate it from other aids to navigation in the vicinity, the lighthouse exhibited two fixed white lights, one 10 feet above the other. Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse In the 1600s, the British established Fort William and Mary on New Castle Island to defend the entrance to the Piscataqua River and Portsmouth Harbor. “This rock is favorable for erecting a breakwater in it,” they concluded, “in the most permanent manner, and, if so built, would entirely protect the foundation of the light-house from any exposure from the effects of the sea, and remain for ages to come.”. Engineman Third Class Francis D. Hickey left to go ashore on New Year’s Eve in 1956, only to lose his power. Sunset Lighthouse Cruises from Rye, NH, on June 21 and 28, Five Lighthouse Cruise – September 24, 2016, Old Word Accordions: Gary Sredzienski in the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, Spring Fling at the Kittery Lions Club on Saturday, April 4, 2020 – POSTPONED. The lighthouse was painted a reddish-brownish color until 1902, when it was painted white. Henry Cuskley became keeper in 1915 and remained until 1941. The 38-foot tower was 22 feet in diameter at its base, and 11 feet at the top. All contributions are tax deductible to the full extent allowable by law. He found the package 90 miles from where it had been dropped. A barometer hung on the wall; the keepers were required to fill out weather reports every four hours. Testifying to the men’s exemplary work, the government awarded an efficiency pennant to the crew in 1938. Her father usually had some kind of baked treat, such as bread pudding, cooling on a windowsill. In 1998 the lighthouse was made “environmentally friendly” at a cost of over $73,000. Part of the Fort Constitution Historic Site, the Portsmouth Harbor Light continues service as navigation aid. (Note: at times the entire site may be closed for security reasons), Visitors are not allowed into the area near the lighthouse, except during open houses held by the Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses. New Castle, NH The only lighthouse on the mainland of New Hampshire, Portsmouth Harbor Light (also known as Fort Point Light, New Castle Light, and Fort Constitution Light) was constructed in 1877 on the grounds of Fort Constitution, a Revolutionary War fortification. . In 1784, the tower was renovated and relighted. The upper light, in an octagonal wrought- iron lantern, was 58 feet above mean high water. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. The 1903 oil house was abandoned for some years, but it was renovated in May 2004. John Brooks of Kittery was the second assistant keeper from 1899 to 1915. The great military architect Colonel Sylvanus Thayer concurred, saying, “It is expedient to take down the present structure, and erect in its place a good and substantial building.” The breakwater was never built, and nothing would be done for more than 30 years other than repairs to the existing structures. Construction began in April and the tower was first lighted by early July of 1771. A new revolving fourth-order lens was installed in 1898. John Wetzel died suddenly at his home in Portsmouth in December 1924. Maynard Farnsworth, an assistant under White since the 1920s, became the next Coast Guard officer in charge in 1941. Royal Governor John Wentworth told the Provincial Assembly in April 1771: A wooden lighthouse was soon established at Fort William and Mary on Great Island, in what is now the town of New Castle in Portsmouth Harbor, about a mile from the mouth of the Piscataqua River. The tower was shortened to 55 feet in 1851, and the lighthouse was fitted with a fourth order Fresnel lens three years later. In 1946 Elson Small became keeper. The keeper who served the longest at the station was New Castle native Joshua K. Card, who retired at age 87 in 1909 after 35 years at the station. Arnold White was in charge when Justine Flint of the Portsmouth Herald described a visit to Whaleback Ledge in 1939: On arriving at the landing-stage of the light, Captain Arnold B. White explained his general philosophy: “The government tolerates no excuses. National Archives photo. The colonists raided the fort and successfully made off with supplies. Two of the five men on board drowned; the Boston Newsletter reported that the other three, “tho’ much chilled with the Cold,” were likely to survive. When it was time to get supplies, he rowed to shore in the station’s 16-foot skiff and borrowed the car of a Kittery resident to make a run to the nearby A&P grocery store. This fog signal tower was painted red for some years. During the past, Lighthouse tours were only available during an open house sessions conducted by Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse. A new 80-foot octagonal wooden Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse was constructed in 1804, 100 yards east of the 1771 tower on a spot called Pollock Rock. 35 talking about this. By the 1872 annual report, the new tower had gone into operation. . Wrecks occurred around the mouth of the river with sickening regularity. Sunset Lighthouse Cruises from Rye, NH, on June 21 and 28, Five Lighthouse Cruise – September 24, 2016, Old Word Accordions: Gary Sredzienski in the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, Spring Fling at the Kittery Lions Club on Saturday, April 4, 2020 – POSTPONED. Amee performed a brave rescue during a storm in August 1899, when a small boat with two men aboard capsized near the lighthouse. Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. The keeper immediately complied but the seas were too rough for the men to be saved. His boat drifted for six hours before he was found by a Coast Guard cutter. Rand generally had one of his children with him. The 1912 lens is now in storage at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. Congress had appropriated a sum of $1,500 in March 1827 for a lighthouse on the ledge, but that was plainly not enough money to build a lighthouse in such an exposed position. William H. Caswell was the principal keeper when the new tower was completed, and his son, Frank, was one of his assistants. On September 25, Rand launched the station’s small boat to take his daughter to New Castle, but it was swiftly overturned by a large wave. It was reported that the lighthouse keeper looked out the window of the tower at 5:00 a.m. and saw a piece of the wreck, along with three men. Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse: Tickets & Tours ... parking lot the coast guard station new hampshire nice view great improvement great place to visit falling apart american history lighthouse visitors gate battery tower remains. This pre-1902 photo shows the present tower when it was still painted brown. A storm in January 1839 dislodged a giant rock that tore away the iron ladder on the foundation. At the time it was built, the focal plane height was reported as 68 feet, but the In November 1871, Caswell proclaimed the new tower “perfectly safe” and noted that it didn’t even tremble in a storm. A boat was dispatched to rescue the Rands, and they were taken to New Castle. Another wave righted the boat and threw the pair into the ocean; again, Rand pulled his daughter to safety. Strawberry Banke Museum photo. Most of the would-be rescuers opted not to get too close to the ledges in the heavy seas. Jedediah Rand of nearby Rye, New Hampshire, was principal keeper from 1849 to 1853. The station was established in 1771 and was the 10th of 11 light stations established prior to the American Revolution. The vessel broke apart and the crew was lost. It is also seen from tour boats leaving Portsmouth Harbor. This fourth-order Fresnel lens once used at Whaleback is now at the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, MA. In November 2008, it was announced that the Secretary of the Interior accepted the National Park Service’s recommendation that the American Lighthouse Foundation (ALF) be awarded ownership of the lighthouse. The horn once ran for 18 straight days during a In 1878, a new cast-iron tower was built just to the north of the 1872 lighthouse to serve as a fog signal house. Pete will be dearly missed by our lighthouse family.” Bob Trapani, Jr., added, “Pete’s loving wife Faith can know this – we will work hard to honor a ‘keeper’ like Pete by carrying forward his dedication and zeal for Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse. Construction began in April and the tower was first lighted on June 8, 1771. By this time, Elizabeth had lost all her strength. The li ghthouse was erected on a conical granite pier, 42 feet in diameter at the bottom and 32 feet at the top. It was the first light station established at a military installation of the British colonies of the present United States, the 10th of 11 light stations established in the colonies before the American Revolution, and the first lighthouse in the American colonies north of Boston. Parris wrote that the lighthouse had been “constructed without science or workmanship.” In one great storm on July 7, 1837, according to Parris, the shaking vibrations was were so violent that “some of the small stones of the tower were shaken out and fell upon the floors of the rooms, and articles of furniture were displaced by the motion of the tower.”. It was well worth the short drive out to New Castle Island. That same year, the Coast Guard established a base at Fort Constitution and housed personnel in the former keeper's house. A fourth-order Fresnel lens, displaying a fixed white light varied by more intense flashes every 90 seconds, replaced the earlier lighting apparatus in 1855. The keeper’s house was relocated in the 1850s to a location near the remains of the Walbach Tower, a structure built in 1814 (near the present public parking area outside the gate to the Coast Guard staton). Ammunition taken from Fort William and Mary was used against the British at the Battle of Bunker Hill. The neighbor said that Mrs. Cuskley ‘flew around wildly throwing things out the portholes, and I’d run out and catch what I wanted as it flew by. He would be the station’s last civilian keeper. A storm in 1886 sent waves smashing through a window of the tower, flooding the living quarters. It was a great treat to listen to him as he talked of the men and women of New Castle of the earlier days. In the early hours of February 15, 1863, the British schooner Rouser, on its way to Boston from St. John, New Brunswick, was wrecked close to Whaleback Ledge. Joshua Card is buried at the Riverside Cemetery in New Castle. Restaurants near Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse: (0.11 mi) Henry's Market & Cafe (0.96 mi) Salt Kitchen & Bar (1.04 mi) Latitudes Restaurant (2.22 mi) Beach Pea Baking Co (2.44 mi) Green Elephant; View all restaurants near Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse on Tripadvisor $ Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse: historic learning experience - See 98 traveler reviews, 81 candid photos, and great deals for New Castle, NH, at Tripadvisor. Captain White has lived in this solitary wind-swept setting for 18 years and once during that time when ice filled the Piscataqua in 1924 he was unable to go ashore for 14 days. It was said that up to that time, Amee had spent only 11 days out of sight of the lighthouse in 18 years. The detail and chronology give the reader a sense of the tenor of the times at this site and within its surroundings, with a history that goes back to the 1700s. Authored by the ops manager for the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, this is a thorough, accurate, and expertly-written effort. It was painfully clear that the tower had been poorly built; it leaked badly in storms and heavy seas. . The lighthouse went into service on September 16, 1830. The U.S. Treasury Department paid $20 to the company for replacement of their fire-damaged clothing. Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt not-for-profit organization, managed by a volunteer board of directors and a professional staff. In February 1828, the sloop Aurora from Newburyport ran into Whaleback Ledge, and the Portsmouth Journal asked, “How many more wrecks must be made before Congress will make an appropriation for this object [a lighthouse]?”. The crew of a passing schooner heard Rand’s cries for help. Because the government rules that only members of the crew may live there permanently, his wife must remain in town. While walking the shore, William C. Williams of Kittery, later a keeper at Boon Island, found letters and books that had belonged to the crewmen. An account of a 1733 wreck Whaleback marks the approach to the harbor of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and has often been referred to as a New Hampshire lighthouse, but this rugged granite tower is clearly is in Maine waters by about 1500 feet. The new 50-foot tower, 27 feet in diameter at its base, was constructed of granite blocks dovetailed together in similar fashion to Minot’s Ledge Light in Massachusetts and England’s Eddystone Light. In April 1821, the schooner President, heading to Thomaston, Maine, from Boston, struck the ledge. Amee went on to captain fishing schooners out of Salem, Massachusetts, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, before brief stints as an assistant keeper at Boon Island, Maine, and White Island, New Hampshire. Amee had gone to sea as a young man aboard the Kittery-based schooner Eldorado. When the Coast Guard took over operation of the nation’s lighthouses in 1939, keepers were given the option of joining the Coast Guard or serving out the remainder of their careers as civilians. The 1831 tower remained standing while the new one was built. Today’s 48-foot tower was built in 1878. Since then it has been white. At the end of the film, Apse is heard taking about Whaleback Lighthouse in Kittery, one of his favorites, and the work Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses is doing to maintain and preserve it. The lighthouse remains an active aid to navigation and is part of the Fort Constitution Historic Site, adjacent to an active Coast Guard Station. One of the men called to the keeper, pleading that for him to throw them a line. The next level contained a small kitchen, “comfortable and cheerful, with good sized windows to admit air and sunshine.” The writer was amazed that the men were excellent housekeepers; the numerous brass articles were “kept as bright and glowing as a mirror.”. The lens installed in 1912 had been manufactured in France by the firm of Barbier, Bernard, and Turenne in 1911. We … Portsmouth Harbor Light as it is known today, lies in one of the more historical New England sites, once occupied by the British inside Fort William and Mary. height is given as 59 feet on recent light lists. The laying of the last stone in August 1871 was followed by the installation of the lantern and other ironwork, and the lighting apparatus. . Somehow the 1831 tower survived for more than 40 years. The ledge, which is completely underwater at high tide, is, in fact, a continuation of the southern point of Gerrish Island. It was refloated a few hours later. The first tower was a shingled wooden structure with an iron lantern and copper roof. The tower is lined with brick, with and has hard pine floors, cast-iron staircases, and iron ceilings. Two Kittery resident, Walter S. Amee and Samuel Blake, reached Whaleback as the storm abated. Copyright © 2013 Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses. Walter S. Amee became keeper at Whaleback in 1893. Since 1906 it has been within the granite Civil War-era walls of Fort Constitution. Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. Islands and Harbor - Visit the "Must See" Sites of Portsmouth & New Castle NH 5 reviews Over the course of approximately 2 hours, we’ll take you through the must-see most beautiful and interesting aspects of this city to learn about its rich and strange history as well as the weird foibles that make up Portsmouth and New Castles' culture. Haselton and Palmer also built the custom house in Newburyport, Massachuestts. The article described the difficulties the Coast Guardsmen sometimes had getting on and off the station. The contractor was Benjamin Clark Gilman, a native of nearby Exeter, New Hampshire, who was said to have “remarkable mechanical ability.” The keeper had a difficult time with soldiers stealing his supplies and the sound of cannon fire from the fort breaking the dwelling’s windows. Mrs. Cuskley was famous for her Sunday dinners and raspberry custard tarts. Portsmouth customs collector and local lighthouse suprintendent Daniel Drown, in 1839, called the tower “exceedingly dangerous,” and recommended that the light be discontinued until a new tower could be erected. In October 2009, the VRB-25 was replaced by a solar powered VLB-44 LED optic. The keeper’s house had not yet been moved to its present location. Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse is located on U.S. Coast Guard Station Portsmouth Harbor in New Castle, NH, adjacent to Fort Constitution. Welcome to the Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses website! Whaleback Light can be seen from Fort Foster in Kittery, Fort Constitution, Fort Stark, and Great Island Common in New Castle, NH, Odiorne Point in Rye, NH, and other spots on both the New Hampshire and Maine sides. Snow’s first drop was too far away for the keepers to recover. Portsmouth Harbor Light was our first lighthouse to visit in Maine. The shingled tower was about 50 feet tall and was topped by an iron lantern with a copper roof, with the light produced by three oil lamps made of copper. A lantern on a mast had been proposed at first but was deemed “impracticable.”. The light was automated in 1963 and the Fresnel lens was replaced by rotating aerobeacons. The 1872 tower (left) next to the old 1830 lighthouse. After his time in the Coast Guard, Pope went on to a long career as a local tugboat captain. Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. In fact, the new lighthouse was actually assembled inside the old one, which was eventually removed. The award was given for an inspection rating of 95 percent or better. At the time of the 1911at article, the men each spent four days on duty followed by two days on shore. He stayed ashore when the vessel left for a fishing expedition on the Grand Banks in 1873. A wooden lighthouse was soon established at Fort William and Mary on Great Island, in what is now the town of New Castle in Portsmouth Harbor, about a mile from the mouth of the Piscataqua River. According to a newspaper report, a “signal of distress was made from the light-house by his children, who were alone at the time, the mother being in this city, and though the watchman at the U.S. Hospital on Wood Island, Mr. James Andrews, and a fisherman named Wallace, went to the rescue, it was too late, as the unfortunate man had disappeared.” Keeper Barr was said to be a Prussian by birth. White, the keeper, was waiting with a smiling welcome. Today’s 48-foot tower was built in 1878. Inside the tower were four rooms of living space on two levels, with a cellar. Fifth Auditor of the Treasury Stephen Pleasanton, in charge of the nation’s lighthouses, said in 1842 that he was “in daily expectation that the present building has been demolished by the sea.” Iron clamps were put around the foundation as reinforcement, but they soon broke away in winter storms. The lower light remained in operation until 1855. Amee remained in charge until 1921, a remarkably long stay at a difficult offshore station. His wife, Connie, described the view from the top of the tower in her book, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife: I looked down forty feet to the little white scallops of incoming tide washing over the rocks, caressing each one lovingly. Known as “the Castle,” the fort was manned by soldiers of the Province of New Hampshire that reported to … Whaleback marks the approach to the harbor of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and has often been referred to as a New Hampshire lighthouse, but this rugged granite tower is clearly is in Maine waters by about 1500 feet. Another storm in 1892 left huge rocks blocking the entrance to the lighthouse. If you’re interested in being part of the effort to restore and preserve this lighthouse, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Keeper Leander White displayed a blanket from the tower as a distress signal. 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