An early beacon at the end of
Shore Village Historical
limestone industry thrived in midcoast Maine for about two centuries.
After it was quarried, the stone was heated in kilns and converted to
lime, an important ingredient in building construction. The industry
reached such heights that the community of East Thomaston, with 80
limekilns on its waterfront, was renamed Rockland in the mid-1800s.
combined with shipbuilding, fishing and fish processing, granite
quarrying, ice harvesting, and steamship transportation to make
Rockland’s spacious harbor one of the busiest on the Maine coast. The
harbor was also an important place of refuge for vessels in times of
storms and rough seas.
To aid local navigation, a small lantern was placed at Jameson Point on
the north side of the entrance to Rockland Harbor in 1827. An early
attempt to build a structure to protect the harbor was carried out in
1832, when mason Jeremiah Berry, a mason, constructed a small wall
across a portion of the harbor. Construction of a more substantial
breakwater was deferred for several decades because of the high costs.
In the meantime, lime manufacturers suffered occasional losses when
high, storm-driven seas roared into their kiln sheds, sometimes causing
Between 1881 and 1899, a granite breakwater, almost a mile
long, was built to help protect the harbor. The Bodwell Granite Company
used around 700,000 tons of granite for the project, which cost more
than three quarters of a million dollars.
As the work progressed, a small moveable beacon was moved
farther out each time the breakwater was extended. The light was
relocated four times between 1888 and 1895. Charles Ames served as the
light's attendant for some years at $25 per month. He also struck a
metal triangle when a fog signal was called for. Ames usually walked to
the light, but if the breakwater was covered with ice, he rowed out
from Jameson Point.
in June 1900, Congress appropriated $30,000 for a lighthouse and fog
signal at the outer end of the breakwater. In June 1901, the beacon was
moved to the extreme end of the breakwater to make room for the new
station. At the lighthouse site, the breakwater is 65 feet deep, 43
feet wide at the top, and 175 feet wide at the bottom.
construction by the W. H. Glover Company of Rockland got under way on
July 1, 1901, and continued through December 19. The work resumed in
the following April and was completed by the fall, and the light,
flashing white every five seconds, went into service on October 30, 1902
U.S. Coast Guard Academy Library
The stairs inside the tower
station consisted of a one-and-one-half-story, gambrel-roofed,
wood-frame keeper’s dwelling and attached brick fog signal building,
surmounted by a 25-foot-tall, square, red brick tower. The interiors of
the fog signal building and lighthouse tower were lined with
ceramic-faced brick. The lantern held a rotating fourth-order Fresnel
lens with a focal plane 39 feet above mean high water, and the fog
signal was a first-class Daboll trumpet. A boathouse was attached to
the north end of the pier.
In the early years of the station, the fog signal was sounded as many
as 900 hours during the year, or more than 10 percent of the time. A
fog bell was later added as a backup.
The first keeper was Howard P. Robbins, a veteran of 25
years at Mount Desert Rock Light, Blue Hill Bay Light, and Baker Island
Light. Shortly after the station went into service, Robbins’s yearly
pay was raised from $500 to $540. His son, Clifford M. Robbins, was
appointed assistant keeper in November 1902.
Howard and Clifford Robbins resigned in 1909. Years later, Clifford
Robbins remembered the thick ice that sometimes surrounded the
lighthouse in the winter. “Three or four winters like that in a row,”
he said, “and I got fed up with lighthouse keeping!”
U.S. Coast Guard photo
Albert D. Mills and his father, Albert R. Mills, rowing a Lighthouse
Service peapod boat. Albert R. Mills was a keeper at Goose Rocks Light.
Courtesy of the American Lighthouse Foundation.
This was a "stag" station, meaning the keeper's families
did not live at the lighthouse. The keepers usually traveled by boat to
Rockland Harbor, two miles away, rather than making the long trek over
The keepers augmented their menu by trapping lobsters
near the lighthouse. One former Coast Guardsman who was stationed at
the lighthouse in 1951, Warren "Tommy" Ayres, told the Bangor Daily
News that the officer in charge once caught a 27-pound lobster.
"The claw was as big as my shoe," remembered Ayres.
Rockland Breakwater Light was automated in 1965 and the
keepers were removed. The fourth-order Fresnel lens was also removed;
its current whereabouts are unknown. The Coast Guard announced that
they were going to destroy the structure. A public outcry led to the
nearby Samoset Resort taking some responsibility for the upkeep of the
building, after the City of Rockland turned down the property.
In 1989, the resort relinquished its responsibilities
for the lighthouse. The Rockland City Council applied for the property
in 1998 under the Maine Lights Program.
The goal, said the Rockland City Council, is "to protect and
preserve our own history to increase the access to this historic
structure for our own citizens and visitors to the history of our
region and that of the Breakwater Light." Rockland Breakwater Light is
on Rockland's emblem and letterhead.
The Maine Lighthouse Selection Committee approved the transfer
of Rockland Breakwater Light to the City of Rockland in 1998. The Friends of the Rockland
Breakwater Lighthouse, a chapter of the American Lighthouse
Foundation, was established, and a lease was signed with the
city in 2001. The Friends have been gradually restoring the building,
inside and out.
In the summer of 1999, the exterior was scraped and repainted
by volunteers, including sailors from a visiting U.S. Navy Destroyer,
the U.S.S. Stump. A local Sherwin-Williams paint store donated
paint for the refurbishing, and local restaurants provided food for the
A float and ramp were installed in August 2003. The Rockland
Festival Committee donated the float, allowing easier access for both
people working on the restoration as well as visitors who can't walk
In the fall of 2003, the Friends of the Rockland
Breakwater Lighthouse contracted with EPI (Environmental
Projects Inc.) of Gray, Maine to prepare the interior of the lighthouse
for restoration. EPI removed crumbling lathe and plaster as well as
unnecessary conduit and piping.
Also in the fall of 2003, a large, white painted
mahogany bench was added to the boat deck of the lighthouse, providing
a comfortable place for visitors to sit and soak in the view.
Much additional restoration has been completed in recent
Open houses are held at the lighthouse from 9:00 a.m. to
5:00 p.m., every Saturday and Sunday from the end of May to the middle
of October. The walk to the lighthouse is a pleasant one on a nice day,
but in rough weather waves sometimes lap over the granite blocks.
The best views for photographing the lighthouse are from
the water. The ferries from Rockland to Vinalhaven and North Haven pass
close by, as do many excursion boats and schooners from Rockland,
Camden and Rockport.
If you'd like to help with the restoration of this
unique lighthouse, contact:
of Rockland Harbor Lights
- P.O. Box 741
- Rockland, Maine 04841
list is a work in progress. If you have any information on the keepers
of this lighthouse, I'd love to hear from you. You can email me at email@example.com.
Anyone copying this list onto another web site does so at their own
risk, as the list is always subject to updates and corrections.)
- Keepers (Special thanks to Ted Panayotoff for
his help with this list):
- Eba Ring (caretaker of earlier beacon, 1888?-?); Llewelyn
Charles Ames (caretaker of earlier beacon, c. 1895-1902); Howard P.
Robbins (1902-1909); Clifford M. Robbins (assistant,1902-1909); Charles
W. Thurston (1909, died 12/24/09); Leroy S. Elwell (assistant, 1909,
keeper, 1909-1916); Harold I. Hutchins (1916-1917); Edward J. Collins
(assistant, 1909); Harry Smith (assistant, 1910); Albert D. Mills
(assistant, 1912); Wallace M. Pierce (assistant 1913-1915); Fairfield
H. Moore (1917-1921); Albert P. Tribou (assistant c.1916-1923); Myrick
Morrison (c. 1921-?); Winfield P. Kent (1921-1925); Ernest V. Talbot
(assistant 1924); Leroy S. Elwell (1925-1928); Fairfield H. Moore
(1928-1934, died 4/13/34); Bernard A. Small (assistant 1928); William
L. Lockhart (assistant 1930-1931); Earle Emery Benson (assistant,
1931-1934); George E. Woodward (assistant 1934, then keeper 1934-1945);
Weston E. Thompson (assistant, 1935); Ernest F. Witty (assistant
1935-1942); Carol A. Hollowell (Coast Guard, c. 1942 and 1951); Rengo
Peccioli (Coast Guard, c. 1942); Anthony Kuckta (Coast Guard, c. 1942);
Frank Pasicka (Coast Guard, 1942-?); Harry W. Metz (Coast Guard,
1942-1943); John E. Dalton (Coast Guard, c. 1943); Walter Campbell
(Coast Guard, c. 1943); Stephan Walach (Coast Guard, ?-1943); Ronald E.
Herbet (Coast Guard, 1943-?); Joseph Morressey (Coast Guard, 1943-?);
Francis W. Sheehan (Coast Guard, 1943); Howard Ball (Coast Guard,
1943-?); Nathan Penn (Coast Guard, 1943); Cedric Forbes (Coast Guard,
1943-?); Steve S. Roper (Coast Guard, c. 1943); Larry Springer (Coast
Guard, c. 1943); Steve Kopera (Coast Guard, c. 1944); David Goldenberg
(Coast Guard, 1944); Arthur F. Silva (Coast Guard, ?-1945); Donald
Miller (Coast Guard, 1945); James H. McKenna (Coast Guard, 1945);
William Stillman (Coast Guard, 1945-1946); Frank Edwards (Coast Guard,
1945-1946); William Broderick (Coast Guard, 1946); Joseph F. Lundquist
(Coast Guard, 1946); Edward Sterling (Coast Guard, 1946); Willard
Benson (Coast Guard, 1946); Lloyd Lewis (Coast Guard, 1946); James M.
Harris (Coast Guard, 1946-1947); John Alexander (Coast Guard,
1946-1947); Joseph M. Mansfield (Coast Guard, 1947-1948); David L.
Atkinson (Coast Guard, 1947); Joseph J. Lambert (Coast Guard, 1947);
William H. Parsley (Coast Guard, 1947-1948); Henry Blandeau (Coast
Guard, 1948-1949); Armond E. Nelms (Coast Guard, 1948); Thomas Leroy
Winters (Coast Guard, 1948); Boyce R. McKee (Coast Guard, 1949);
Richard C. Ames (Coast Guard, 1949-1950); F. W. Miller (Coast Guard,
1949-1950); Thomas B. Jeffries (Coast Guard, 1950); Frank W. Alley
(Coast Guard, 1950); Joseph Medeiros (Coast Guard, 1950); James R.
Wilson (Coast Guard, 1950); Christopher Tucker (Coast Guard, 1950);
Richard M. Kosick (Coast Guard, 1950); Robert D. Coppens (Coast Guard,
1950); Edward J. Ryan (Coast Guard, 1950-1951); George J. Foley (Coast
Guard, 1951); John A. Johnson (Coast Guard, 1951-1952); Robert P.
Ouellette (Coast Guard, 1951); William F. Liekerbniect (Coast Guard, c.
1951); Roy V. Lauder (Louder?) (Coast Guard, 1951 and 1964-1965); ?
Parker (Coast Guard, c. 1952); James E. Murry (Murray?) (Coast Guard,
1952); ? Quattromone (Coast Guard, ?-1952); Dannie Davis (Coast Guard,
c. 1952); Leo S. Enchard (Coast Guard, 1953-?); George A. Roderigue
(Coast Guard, 1953); Daniel A. Elliott (Coast Guard, 1955); Robert T.
Boody (Coast Guard, 1955); Otis Jackson (Coast Guard, 1956-1957);
Robert James Yered (Coast Guard, c. 1957?); Luther M. Smith (Coast
Guard, 1960); Lee H. Cushing (Coast Guard, 1962-1963); W. O. Wallford
(Coast Guard, 1964); Vinal A. Foss (Coast Guard Officer in Charge,
1945); BM1 Weston E. Gamage, Jr. (Coast Guard Officer in Charge,
1945-1950); Leland (Leyland?) B. Beal (Coast Guard Officer in
Charge1950-1955); Harry Watters (Coast Guard Officer in Charge, 1951);
Edward A. Whitmore (Coast Guard Officer in Charge, 1951); Warren
"Tommy" Ayres (Coast Guard, c. 1951-1953); John Kusmierazak (Coast
Guard Officer in Charge, 1955-1960); Charles H. Verrill (Coast Guard
assistant 1959, Officer in Charge, 1960); Stephan D. Hansen (Coast
Guard Officer in Charge, 1960); Lawrence F. Crouse (Coast Guard Officer
in Charge, 1960); Richard T. Hassett (Coast Guard Officer in Charge,
1961); Charles A. Balsdon (Coast Guard Officer in Charge, 1962); Murray
A. Berger (Coast Guard Officer in Charge, 1964); SA Charles A. Bailey
(Coast Guard, 1964); Larry A. Plummer (Coast Guard assistant 1964-1965)