Bear Island Lighthouse


The Bear Island Lighthouse was built in 1839 and retired in 1981.  The lighthouse is currently inoperative, and serves as a private residence.

The white pyramid-shaped builing in the photos housed a weight-driven fog bell that automatically sounded every few minutes.

See the June 2000 issue of the magazine Architectural Digest (page 122) for an article about the current occupants' restoration of the lighthouse.

Story of one lightkeeper's life
Bear Island today


  • ???? - Cadillac heirs sold Bear Island to William Bingham
  • 1809 - Bingham's estate sold to Nathan Clark of Mount Desert ($25.25)
  • 1836 - Clark sold to William Moore of Sutton Island ($100)
  • 1838 - Moore sold 2 acres on west side to US Government for the lighthouse
  • 1839 - Lighthouse is built; John G. Bowan is first lightkeeper
  • 1852 - Fire destroys lightkeeper's residence
  • 1853 - Lightkeeper's residence rebuilt
  • 1856 - Special School district 6 on Bear Island; Director is C.S. Gould, Lightkeeper
  • 1871 - School district 6 abolished, school closed.
  • 1874 - Moore's daughter Nancy (married to Abraham C. Fernald) inherits Moore's land
  • 1880 - School district 6 reinstated apparently for new Lightkeeper S. Smallidge's children
  • 1884 - The Fernalds sold all but the lighthouse lot to Charles F. Dunbar of Cambridge ($1100)
  • 1887 - Complete replacement of all government structures: lighthouse, keeper's residence, wharf. New storage depot constructed.
  • 1890s - Dunbar built the present cottage
  • 1981 - Automatic lighted buoy replaces lighthouse, which is retired
  • 1987 - National Park Service takes over the Lighthouse property
  • 1989 - Martin Morad of Georgetown acquires long term lease and restores the lightkeeper's residence.  (Architectural Digest, June 2000.)

Bear Island Lighthouse from an old Robbins Bros. (Boston) post card.  ("Place postage stamp here: domestic 1 cent, foreign 2 cents")
[1¢ US post card postage in effect 1 May 1873 to 1 Jan 1952 --BK]

another view

photo courtesy of Steve Spurling

KeeperDates of
John G. Bowen1840
Family of five
Caleb S. Gould1855$350Also acted as School District 6 Director
William Fennelly1869-76$540
Stephen Smallidge1876-83$540pay cut to $500, 1882.
Alden H. Jordan1883-99$500tr. from Baker I.
pay raised to $600, 1897
Lewis F. Sawyer1899-1909$600
E.J. Turner1935

Most information from Islands of the Mid-Maine Coast, Vol II., by Charles B. McLane.

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