Halfway Rock Lighthouse

Aug. 27, 2019

Halfway Rock Lighthouse, Casco Bay, Maine

Tower style lighthouse built in 1871.


Station Established: 1871
Year Current Tower(s) First Lit: 1871
Operational? YES
Automated? YES 1975
Deactivated: n/a
Foundation Materials: GRANITE
Construction Materials: GRANITE
Tower Shape: CONICAL
Relationship to Other Structure: ATTACHED
Original Lens: THIRD ORDER, FRESNEL 1871

Historical Information:

  • About 10 miles east of Portland Head in the Casco Bay is a rocky island called Halfway Island. It is halfway between Cape Elisabeth and Cape Small. Since the waters are treacherous in this area, a light station was established on this island. 
  • Since the island is subject to harsh storms, building the station took two years to complete. Finally in 1871 the 76-foot granite tower was lit with a third order Fresnel lens.
  • The granite blocks in the tower were dovetailed together so the tower resembles Minot’s Ledge in Massachusetts. Also like Minot’s Ledge, the keeper’s lived inside the tower. The cramped quarters and small, rocky island did not make for easy living conditions.
  • In 1887, a skeletal fog bell was bolted to the rock near the tower. A raised walkway was installed between the two. The island is subject to fierce storms. Shortly after the bell was installed, it survived a storm that buried the island with eight feet of water. Even though the structure survived the storm, the bell wasn’t enough for mariners during bad weather. It was replaced with a Daboll trumpet operated by diesel engines.
  • In 1888 a bathhouse was built with a second story for living quarters. This relieved some of the stress of living in the tower. However, during storms the tower was the only place to be.
  • The light was automated in 1975. The third order lens was removed and replaced by a modern optic. The lens was sent to the U. S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.
  • Today the tower still stands on the island as an active aid to navigation. It stands alone as storms have destroyed all other structures on the island. Most recently in 1991 the “perfect” storm in October washed away the Marine Railway. 
  • In May 2000 the American Lighthouse Foundation was granted the license to care for the tower.

Researched and written by Melissa Buckler, a volunteer through the Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society.