A Brief History
By the early 19th century, the waters off Maine were busy with commercial shipping and fishing boats. The rocks and shoals off Pemaquid Point were a particular hazard. As a result, in 1826, Congress appropriated $4,000 for the construction of a lighthouse to mark the entrances to Johns and Muscongus Bays. The new tower and adjoining Keeper's House, both constructed of local stone, were finished in 1827. Isaac Dunham of Bath was the first keeper at a salary of $350 a year.
Within a few years, both the tower and the house began to crumble. Apparently, the original mason made his mortar with sea water -- not fresh water -- a mixture that leads to quick decay. In 1835, the tower was demolished; its replacement was built properly and still stands today. The keeper's house was replaced in 1857 with the two story wooden home you see now.
Federal budgets were under pressure in the early 1930's. As a cost savings, the government opted to make Pemaquid one of the first automated lighthouses in Maine. In October of 1934, LeRoy Elwell became the last in a long line of keepers at Pemaquid Point. The task of overseeing the lighthouse, cleaning the lens and performing maintenance chores fell to visiting keepers. In 1937, the government removed the fog bell and replaced it with a gong buoy anchored just off shore.
The Lightstation and the Town of Bristol
At the same time, the Coast Guard was focussing its efforts towards the growing threat of war. Government officials began to sell some of its lightstation properties, retaining only the land and facilities needed to maintain the navigational aids. In 1940, the Coast Guard negotiated with the town of Bristol to sell the 7 acre property surrounding the tower, including the keeper's house and the outlying buildings. They kept only the tower and the small rectangle of land on which it sits. The only stipulation from the government was that the land be used as a public park, for education and recreation. Since 1941, the town has owned, operated and maintained Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park for all to enjoy. Today, the town's Parks and Recreation Commission provides for all care and upkeep at the park.