Photographer's Note

West Quoddy lighthouse is the most Eastern lighthouse of the US. It is situated in Maine, close to the Canadian border.
The photo is part of a small series on New England's lighthouses.

Established in 1808, West Quoddy Lighthouse is noteworthy in several ways. Despite its name, it is the easternmost beacon in the United States, one of only two U.S. lighthouses with red-and-white bands, and one of the first stations to be equipped with a fog bell and, later, a steam whistle. A reliable fog signal was deemed more essential in this area than a light since fog shrouded the coast for roughly half the time during the summer months. When ships approached the bay in foggy conditions, they would fire a signal gun to prompt the keeper to start tolling the fog bell. This arrangement continued until an adequate mechanical ringer for the bell was installed.

After two decades of service, the original wooden West Quoddy Lighthouse had deteriorated to the point that Congress approved funds in March of 1831 for a replacement. Joseph Berry subsequently completed a rubblestone tower for $2,350, and the ten lamps in its lantern room were lit on August 1, 1831.

For years, the U.S. government refused to install the clearly superior French-made Fresnel lens in its lighthouses, and mariners (especially those who had sailed in Europe) complained about the shamefully inadequate state of American lighthouses. On August 18, 1856, $15,000 was appropriated “for rebuilding the light-house,” at West Quoddy Head, “and fitting it with proper illuminating apparatus.” In this case, the “proper illuminating apparatus” was a fixed, third-order Fresnel lens manufactured by L. Sautter of Paris. The new brick tower and wood-framed dwelling, which remain standing today, were completed in 1858.

In 1866, a fog signal trumpet powered by a hot-air engine was established at the station, but just two years later, plans were in the works to install an 8-inch steam whistle, as the trumpet was found to be defective in power. In 1885, the steam whistle at West Quoddy logged more hours of operation than any other fog signal in the United States – an amazing 1,945 hours. The current brick fog signal building was added in 1887, followed by a brick oil house in 1892.

The beacon at West Quoddy was originally fueled by whale oil, followed by lard oil in the 1860s and then kerosene around 1880. In 1934 the light was electrified, and a flasher changed the characteristic to a flashing white light every 15 seconds.

In 1988, the station was automated and ownership transferred to Maine’s Bureau of Parks and Land under the Maine Lights Program. West Quoddy Lighthouse is still operational and continues to use the 1858 third-order Fresnel lens . The light, which is visible for 15 to 18 miles, flashes in the following unusual sequence: 2 seconds on, 2 seconds off, 2 seconds on, 9 seconds off. Since 2002, volunteers from the West Quoddy Head Light Keepers Association have operated a visitor center in the keeper's dwelling.

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Additional Photos by Paul Bulteel (pauloog) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1393 W: 77 N: 1882] (11751)
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