Boon Island is located in southern Maine, about six miles from the nearest point of land. The popular writer Celia Thaxter once called the small rocky island “the forlornest place that can be imagined.” It was the scene of many shipwrecks over the years, including the wreck of the British Nottingham Galley in December 1710, an incident that was later the basis of a novel by Kenneth Roberts.
For the safety of local fishermen and coastal trading vessels, a lighthouse replaced an earlier day beacon in 1811. The original wooden tower was only 32 feet tall. The slender granite tower that stands today is 133 feet tall, making it the tallest lighthouse in the New England states. A second-order Fresnel lens in the tower was first lighted on January 1, 1855.
These photos of Boon Island, circa 1978, are courtesy of Kirby Eldridge. The boathouse and peapod boat are on the left, and the keeper’s house is on the right.
The Coast Guard automated the station soon after the keepers’ house was badly damaged in the disastrous Blizzard of 1978. Kirby Eldridge and Leo Berry were the last keepers on the island. After his time in the Coast Guard, Kirby spent about 17 years in the Army, followed by 25 years working as a systems engineer until his recent retirement. He lives today in Georgia.
Co-hosting this episode is Bob Trapani, Jr., executive director of the American Lighthouse Foundation. Bob is also a lighthouse technician and he’s had some personal experience with Boon Island.
Below: Left, the demolition of the keeper’s house in 1982. Right: Boon Island Lighthouse in 2007 (photo by Jeremy D’Entremont).
Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org