Heron Neck Light Station
was established in 1854 on rocky Green's Island, at the east entrance
to Hurricane Sound, to help guide mariners heading for Vinalhaven's
Carver's Harbor. The harbor area was settled by the Carver family in
1766 and was a center for fishing and lobster boats.
The 30-foot brick tower was attached to the keeper's
house, also constructed of brick. A fifth-order Fresnel lens displayed
a fixed red light 92 feet above the sea.
An early photo of Heron Neck
Light. U.S. Coast Guard photo.
Late 19th century image of
Heron Neck Light
The station's fog bell was later replaced by a fog
siren. For a time, the station also had two famous "fog dogs." In the
early 1900s, a dog named Nemo was taught by Keeper Levi Farnham to bark
loudly when he heard fog horns from approaching boats. When Nemo
retired, he was replaced by a new fog dog named Rover.
An 1886 book, Mary Bradford Crowninshield's All
Among the Lighthouses, described a visit to the station. Two hawks
had been nesting on the island for 20 years.
The keepers had allowed no one to molest the birds,
but had fed them and made pets of them; so that the grateful creatures
felt safe and at home in the place where they had received nothing but
An 1890 report revealed that five people had died in the
keeper's house, apparently because of unhealthy conditions.
Insufficient mortar had been used in the building's construction,
leaving it damp and leaky. The keeper's house was rebuilt in 1895; the
1854 tower remained and was attached to the new house. An oil house,
which still stands, was built in 1903.
The last civilian keeper was Andrew Bennett of
Vinalhaven, who was replaced by Coast Guard keepers in 1948 after being
at the station for over 20 years.
U.S. Coast Guard photo
Paul Manning of the Coast Guard was an assistant keeper at the
lighthouse in the late 1940s. Bill Parmenter was the officer in charge
at the time. Manning recalls that local fishermen kept the Coast
Guardsmen supplied with lobsters and fish, especially in winter when
the trip to Vinalhaven for supplies was difficult.
Manning also remembers a miniature brass lighthouse at the top
of the flagpole at Heron Neck Light. Click here
to hear Paul Manning recalling his days at Heron Neck Light.
The keepers' water for drinking and bathing came from two
large cisterns in the basement. A well was dug in the late 1940s, but
the water from the well turned out to be salty. The salt water was
later used for the flush toilets in the new bathroom that replaced the
Coast Guardsman Jim Woods was stationed at Heron Neck Light in
1960-61, and he shares the following memories:
It consisted of a main house with the light attached, a
generator building that held two generators, a paint locker and general
storage. There was a boathouse at the water's edge on the cove, down
the hill, in back of the station. We had a 14-foot skiff and outboard
which we hauled up to the boathouse when not in use, due to the rise
and fall of the tide. There was an electric winch to haul the skiff up
on the rails to cover.
At high water we would unhook the boat and jump in for the fast ride to
the water. The light had a crew of three. Officer in Charge (OinC) was
a first class BM, Engineer was a second class engineman and a seaman or
fireman. The house was about like a normal house -- three bedrooms,
bathroom and living room, kitchen, office, and a cellar which was used
for storage. The lighthouse was attached to the main house with a
staircase to the light room with fog signal attached outside. We had
electrical power from generators, and as I remember we got shore power
at some point via underwater cable and also phone service.
Liberty was three weeks on and one week off. There were
two on at all times except when someone had to make a run to town
(Vinalhaven) for food supplies and mail. To get to town you had to go
around a point on the island called 'Boiler Point.' You usually tried
to go around it at high water as it was a rough water area. We tied the
skiff up at the Calderwood fuel dock and walked to town or caught a
ride with an islander. Since I was youngest of the crew I got to know
the younger island crowd and have never met any more friendly people
than the island folks. If we needed some kind of help they would help.
The light was automated in 1982, and the Coast Guard
keepers were removed. A new 300mm lens replaced the old Fresnel lens.
In April 1989, an electrical fire broke out in the empty
keeper's house. The lighthouse tower was saved by a Halon fire
suppression system, but the house was badly damaged.
About three years later, a Boston developer offered to
restore the keeper's house. The Coast Guard claimed that an engineering
survey showed that it would be impossible to restore the house to its
original condition, so they announced plans to raze the building
Preservationists objected, and in November 1993 the
Coast Guard agreed to hand over the lighthouse station to the Island Institute of
Rockland. The institute in turn leased the property to a private party
who successfully restored the house. It was the Heron Neck project that
inspired Island Institute
vice president Peter
Ralston to initiate the Maine Lights Program, under which 28
Maine lighthouses were turned over to communities and organizations.
lighthouse property was eventually sold to the couple responsible for
its resoration. Please keep in mind that the lighthouse and grounds are
on private property and are not open to the public; be sure to respect
the owners' privacy. Unfortunately, no regular cruises pass the light
you'll have to charter a cruise or flight for a good view.
Keepers: James Smith (185?-1870); John Green
(1870-1883); Sarah J. Green (1883); Nathaniel Hartwell (1883-1890);
Edward K. Tapley (1890-1900); Levi L. Farnham (1900-1911); Joseph A.
Farnham (1911); Fred M. Robbins (1911-1930); Clinton Dalzell
(assistant, c. 1928-?); Andrew Bennett (1930-1948); William Parmenter
(Coast Guard, c. 1949-?); Paul Manning (Coast Guard, assistant, c.
1949); Ernest DeRaps (Coast Guard, 1959-1961); Kermit Scarborough
(Coast Guard officer in charge, c. 1959-1961); James Woods (Coast Guard