Islesboro, once known as Long Island, is a 13-mile long, narrow island in upper Penobscot Bay. The largest commercial shipping fleet in the bay was based at Islesboro in the nineteenth century. More recently, the island has been known as a haunt for the rich; early this century it was frequented by the likes of J.P. Morgan. Today, actors John Travolta and Kirstie Alley are among those who live part-time on Islesboro.
After a Congressional appropriation of $3500 in March 1848, a light station was established at Grindle Point on South Islesboro's west coast in 1851 to aid mariners entering Gilkey Harbor. The deep and spacious harbor is named for an early settler, John Gilkey, who came to Islesboro in 1772. Gilkey's house long served as a landmark for passing mariners. The first lighthouse consisted of a one-and-one-half-story brick dwelling with a lantern on its roof. It was built for $3100.16 on land purchased for $105 by the government from Francis Grindle (sometimes spelled Grindel).
The present (1874) lighthouse is a square 39-foot brick tower attached by a covered walkway (part of the original station) to a 1 1/2-story keeper's house. The tower originally had a fifth-order Fresnel lens. A boathouse was built in 1886 and an oil house was added in 1906. The oil house remains standing, a good distance away from the lighthouse.
Keeper James E. Hall, who had spent many years at Matinicus Rock, was killed in a rock blasting accident at Grindle Point in 1916.
In 1934, Grindle Point Light was deactivated and replaced by a nearby light on a skeleton tower. The lighthouse and grounds became the property of the Town of Islesboro for $1,200 and the keeper's house was converted into the Sailor's Memorial Museum, which opened in 1938. In 1939, 1, 046 people from the U.S. and 10 other countries visited the museum.
The people of Islesboro convinced the Coast Guard to relight Grindle Point Light in 1987. A solar-powered optic was installed with a flashing green light, and the skeleton tower was removed. A 1,000-pound fog bell was put on display in front of the lighthouse. Grindle Point Light remains an active aid to navigation maintained by the Coast Guard.
For more information about Grindle Point Light and the Sailor's Memorial Museum, contact:
Islesboro Town Office
Keepers: Rufus Dunning (1850-1853?), Francis Grindle (1853?-1856?), Mansfield Clarke (1856), Charles Nash (1856-1861), Nelson Gilkey (1861-1869), Avery Gilkey (1869-1872), Seth H. Higgins (1872-1876), Isaac Hatch (1876-1894), Ira D. Trundy (1894-1908), James E. Hall (1908-1916); William H. C. Dodge (c. 1921-1934)