Bear Island Light

Nov. 6, 2019

Bear Island Light, Bear Island, near Mt. Desert Island, Northeast Harbor, Maine



Station Established: 1839
First Lit: Oct. 1889
Operational: Yes 
Deactivated: 1981-1989
Foundation Material: Granite Rubble
Construction Material: Brick
Tower Shape: Cylindrical attached to a work room
Markings: White with Black Lantern
Relationship to Other Structures: Separate
Original Lens: Fifth Order Frensel Lens 
Tower Height: 31 feet
Range: –
Original Optic: Fifth Order Fresnel lens 
Present Optic: 
Characteristics: White Flash every 5 seconds.
First Keeper: John G. Bowan
Current Use: Private Aid to Navigation
Fog Signal: Bell
National Register Status

Historical Information:

  • In 1938 President Martin Van Buren authorized the building of a lighthouse at the southeast point of the island to help mariners entering Northeast Harbor and Somes Sound.
  • William Moore sold 2 areas of his land to the government. The lighthouse was finished in 1839 for $3,000.
  • This light was always a family station with a single keeper. The first lighthouse took the form of a stone keepers house with a small lighthouse tower on top. This structure burned down in 1852.
  • In 1853 a new brick tower was built at the end of the dwelling.
  • In 1856 a Fifth Order Frensel Lens was installed.
  • In 1888 a 1000 lb fog bell and striking apparatus were installed.
  • In 1889-1890 the present 31’ brick house was built. The frensel lens was moved to the new tower.
  • In the 1980’s Bear Island Light was discontinued. It was replaced by and off shore lighted bell buoy.
  • The property became part of Arcadia National Park in 1987. Through most of the 1980’s the property fell into disrepair.
  • In 1989 the friends of Arcadia refurbished the keeper’s house for 17,000. 
  • The tower was relight as a private aid to navigation.

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