This Region:
Southern Maine
Previous Light:
Cape Neddick
(Nubble)

Next Lighthouse:
Cape Porpoise
(Goat Island)


Boon Island Lighthouse

boon island

York, Maine
Built in 1811


 

Location:

Boon Island, about nine miles from the York coastline. Can only be viewed by boat.

Latitude: 43° 07' 18" N
Longitude: 70° 28' 36" W

Historic Stories:

Being a tiny desolated island or rocks, Boon Island became the point of many stories of shipwrecks, one especially regarding the Nottingham Galley in the winter of 1710, where the survivors had to struggle on the rock for three weeks to survive by resulting to cannibalism. In fact, the name “boon” came from packed food and clothing called boon that fishermen placed on the island for those mariners who may have found themselves shipwrecked on the rocky island.

When a lighthouse was built in 1811, its lonely desolation and constant over pouring of the waves, as it was only 14 feet above sea level, caused the first two Keepers to resign within weeks of being installed there. Eliphalet Grover, the fourth Keeper who started in 1816, managed to stay on the island for the next 22 years.

In 1846, the schooner Caroline shipwrecked on the island during a storm and Keeper Nathaniel Baker saved the entire crew. He was later dismissed in 1849 due to "political reasons" in being outspoken against some of the government practices. This was usually the case for some keepers in those times, regardless of their heroic deeds.

early boon is light

Early Boon Island Light
Courtesy US Coast Guard

Over the years, the constant cold and rogue waves that would often encompass the island, and the constant thrashing of these waves against the lighthouse kept its desolate location an erie sight. Many Keepers and mariners have reported seeing the ghost of a woman on the rocks amongst other paranormal activities and sounds. In the early 1970’s, a Coast Guard keeper and fellow crewman went off fishing a short distance from the island when they noticed they had drifted too far from the island to make it back in time to turn the light on before dark. Although no one was on the island, the light was turned on and glowing brightly by the time the keepers returned.

During the great Blizzard of 1978, as the gale force winds forced huge waves to crash and cover over the island with blinding snow, three Coast Guard keepers were clinging to the spiral staircase inside the tower that was swaying in the storm. They survived that day and were rescued by helicopter the following the day during a lull in the blizzard. They were the last lighthouse keepers to staff the tower. The buildings were destroyed from the storm and later the Coast Guard had them burned in the 1980's. Only the automated tower remains today. The original 2nd order Fresnel lens is on permanent display at the Kittery Historical and Naval Museum.

 

New England Lighthouses

 

Places to Visit Nearby:

York is an affluent community with beautiful Victorian homes, beaches, and organizes many events year round. In the heart of York Village, lies the Museums of Old York, operated by the Old York Historical Society. The Museums consist of nine historic buildings including The Old Jail (Gaol), the nation’s oldest royal prison, where the jail keeper’s family lived above the prisoners’ dungeon. Other buildings include the 1834 Remick Barn, Jefferd’s Tavern, a true colonial tavern dating back to 1750, and an old schoolhouse. Mount Agamenticus nearby is an easy hike on this “big hill” to enjoy mountaintop views of the ocean and surrounding area, and the occasional concerts that happen there during the summer months. Just follow Mountain Road from Route 1.

Boon Island lighthouse can only be viewed by boat and is not accessible to the public. The Friends Of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, in cooperation with Granite State Whale Watch, has a special lighthouse cruise in September that takes visitors around Boon Island and four other local lighthouses. They will also be having a couple sunset lighthouse cruises to view Portsmouth Harbor light, Whaleback light, and White Island light in June. Boat leaves out of Rye Marina in NH.

 

Contact Info:
American Lighthouse Foundation
P.O. Box 565
Rockland, ME 04841
Phone: (207) 594-4174

 

 

Local Boat Tour

Boat tour mentioned below offers many different types of cruises.

Isles of Shoals Steamship Co.
Portsmouth Harbor and Isles of Shoals tours, makes annual tours to Boon Island.
315 Market Street,
P.O. Box 311
Portsmouth, NH 03801
(603) 431-5500
(800) 441-4620

 

 

 

My 300-page book (with over 360 images), Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Northern New England: New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, published by Schiffer Publishing, provides human interest stories from each of the 76 lighthouses, along with plenty of coastal attractions and tours near each beacon, and contact info to plan your special trips.

There is also a segment of stories of haunted lighthouses, of which Boon Island is considered haunted by the distraught wife of a keeper that died on the island.

Look inside!

book northern New England lighthouses and attractions

 

 

 

Back to Top