Lighthouses of Cape Ann
SIX ICONIC LIGHTHOUSES STAND GUARD ALONG THE CAPE ANN COASTLINE protecting seafarers from rocky shores and shoals. They offer historians and romantics alike a glimpse into Cape Ann’s maritime lore and legacy. Lighthouses are a comfort to mariners to this day, and despite the use of GPS and electronic aids for navigation, they still symbolize home and safety.
GLOUCESTER: Annisquam Harbor Lighthouse (An-nisquam Light) was erected in 1801 to mark the entrance to the Annisquam River at Wigwam Point, a popular Native American summer encamp-ment. The river connected Ipswich Bay to Gloucester Harbor following the construction of the Blynman Canal. Annisquam Light’s wooden frame was replaced with the existing 41-foot brick tower, with a focal plane of 45 feet, in 1897. The lighthouse is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard and is no longer accessible from the nearby village of Annisquam in Gloucester. Best view-ing opportunities are by water or from Wingaersheek Beach.
Although there has been limited access to the light station in the past, there is no longer public access. The road to the lighthouse is private and there is no parking. Annisquam Light may be viewed from Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester across the Annisquam River.
GLOUCESTER: Eastern Point Lighthouse was erected on Gloucester’s Eastern Point to mark the harbor entrance in 1832. The current brick tower was built in 1890 and is 36 feet tall, with a focal plane of 56 feet. In addition to the light, there is a large lighthouse station, which continues to serve as housing for the U.S. Coast Guard. One of the station’s more famous occupants was noted artist Winslow Homer, who spent a year living at the light in 1880. Although not open to visitors, the lighthouse presents a wonderful view, especially from the vantage point of the adjacent Dog Bar Breakwater. Visitors are welcome to walk along or fish from the flat granite blocks atop this massive quarter-mile long structure, which has protected Gloucester Harbor from storms since 1904. The Massachusetts Audubon Society maintains a small parking area near the lighthouse and breakwater as part of its Eastern Point Wildlife Sanctuary. Parking is free for members and $10 per car for non-members between Memorial Day and Columbus Day. For more information, visit massaudubon.org.
Eastern Point Light is easily reached by following Eastern Point Boulevard to its end.
ROCKPORT: Straitsmouth Island Lighthouse (Straits-mouth Light) was built in 1835 to mark the entrance to nearby Rockport Har-bor. The present brick lighthouse was built in 1896 with a height of 37 feet and a focal plane of 46 feet above sea level. The relatively small lighthouse is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard, yet is owned by the Town of Rockport, including the 1.8 acres upon which it sits. The rest of the 31-acre island is owned by the Massachusetts Audubon Society as a bird sanctuary. For more information, visit thacherisland.org.
The light is easily viewed from the tip of Bearskin Neck in downtown Rockport.
GLOUCESTER: This lighthouse is located on Ten Pound Island in Gloucester Harbor. The light was constructed in 1821 to mark the island and act as a guide for navigating Gloucester’s inner harbor. Rebuilt in 1881 from cast iron with brick lining, the tower is 30 feet tall with a focal plane of 56 feet. Visible from many locations along Gloucester’s waterfront, tiny Ten Pound Island proudly housed America’s first Coast Guard station. The light was restored and relighted through the efforts of the Lighthouse Preserva-tion Society. For more information, visit lighthousepreservation.org.
The only way to visit Ten Pound Island is via boat. The island and lighthouse can be viewed from Pavilion Beach, Stacey Boulevard and Stage Fort Park in Gloucester.
ROCKPORT: A National Historic Landmark. Thacher Island, also known as Cape Ann Light Station, was named after Anthony Thacher, who lost his family in a shipwreck on the rocks surrounding the island in 1635. The Twin Lights are the only fully operational multiple lights on the coasts of the United States. The South tower has a red light flashing five times at 20-second intervals. The original Fresnel Lens of the South Tower, installed in 1861, is on display at the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester. The North tower has an amber steady light which is maintained by Thacher Island Association as a “courtesy” memori-al light to mariners who have passed away. The original 45-foot towers were constructed and lit in 1771 making them among the oldest of America’s lighthouses. The stout 123-foot granite towers seen today (with a focal point of 166 feet above sea level) replaced the original lights in 1861. The two towers, North and South, were constructed and placed so that when a ship puts sights on both towers, they point to true north, allowing sailors to check and adjust their compasses. The Thacher Island Association provides launch service from T-Wharf in Rockport Harbor to the island during the summer months, with advance reservations. For more information, visit thacherisland.org.
Thacher Island is located about a mile offshore of Rockport. The island may be viewed from several locations in Rockport and Gloucester, including Loblolly Cove and Pebble Beach.
The Thacher Island Association provides a free boat service from Rockport Harbor to the island during the Summer, with advance reservations. For more information go to www.thacherisland.org