Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse

Oct. 7, 2019

Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, near Fort Constitution, New Castle, New Hampshire

Originally built in 1771, with reconstruction in 1804 and 1878.


Location: FORT POINT
Station Established: 1771
Year Current Tower(s) First Lit: 1877
Operational? YES
Automated? YES 1960
Deactivated: n/a
Foundation Materials: STONE BLOCKS
Construction Materials: CAST IRON
Tower Shape: CONICAL
Relationship to Other Structure: SEPARATE
Original Lens: FOURTH ORDER, FRESNEL 1877


In 1771 the first wooden tower at Portsmouth Harbor was built on a point of land running out into the harbor. This early colonial tower was one of the 12 lighthouses turned over to the Federal Government under the act of August 7, 1789. The original tower was replaced by another wooden tower in 1804. In 1877 this second tower was removed and a cast-iron beacon erected 1,000 feet east of the first station. This was on ground known as Newcastle. In reaching the lighthouse by land one has to pass through the "Old Fort" yard before arriving at the lighthouse reservation. For 30 years after its first settlement in 1623, this area was known as "Strawberry Bank" because of a large patch of wild strawberries on the bank of the river.

In 1789 George Washington visited the Portsmouth Lighthouse and remained in Portsmouth 4 days. Earlier in 1782 General Lafayette had been a lighthouse visitor. Daniel Webster practiced law here in 1807, and was a frequent visitor at the lighthouse during his 9 years of residence in Portsmouth.

Today the lighthouse is a white conical tower, with a fog signal house attached, built on Fort Point. It rises 52 feet above the water and its 3,000 candlepower fourth-order electric light flashes a green light visible 13 miles. During fog a bell strikes once every 10 seconds.