Photo of West Quoddy lighthouse in Maine

Weekly Gem #170 Make a stand here, and every American will be behind you!

Published 9/22/2018

Location: This ‘hidden gem’ is located at the east end of South Lubec Road, on West Quoddy Head, in Maine (see the Clue Me! Map).  

You can stand there on the rocks between the sea and the forest of spruce and fir and feel, backing you up, the whole expanse and power of this country, reaching away behind you to the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico. It's quite a sensation.

~~ Louise Dickinson Rich,”The Coast of Maine.”

Being the farthest point east on the U.S. mainland, West Quoddy Head is a geographically extreme location - yet very easy to visit. The red and white lighthouse and the attached keeper's house we see today is the third tower on this site.

The first was built in 1808 by order of Thomas Jefferson. It was made of wood and the "light" was a flame from a wick that used sperm whale oil, lard oil or kerosene for fuel. Try keeping that candle lit during a nor'easter! It certainly makes a person appreciate "the keeper of the light" and admire the job he did to keep sailors alive.

The second was built in 1830. It was made of stone. Electricity was introduced for light in the tower in 1834.

In 1857 the lighthouse we see today was built. It included a Fresnel lens from France, which was far superior to those made in the U.S.

You might think that light is the most important function of a lighthouse, and generally that’s true. But in the case of West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, the fog signal is often most important. The light simply can’t penetrate the pea soup! (Some sailors suspect that fog is manufactured in Canada’s Fundy Bay and shipped south to the Maine coast!) The lighthouse received one of the nation's first fog bells in 1820. By 1827, Congress gave the keeper of Quoddy Head Lighthouse an extra $60 per year because he spent so much time ringing the fog bell. In 1885, the steam whistle at West Quoddy logged more hours of operation than any other fog signal in the United States – 1,945 hours (that's about 81 days!)


Here's the hidden gem entry from our Clue Me! map.


Does anybody else smell peppermint infused fog?


West Quoddy lighthouse

Why It's Interesting

This lighthouse is built on the easternmost point in the United States mainland. It is one of only two U.S. lighthouses to be painted red and white. The striped color helps it stand out against the snow.

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