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Brown's Head Light - Vinalhaven Maine

Brown's Head Light

Brown's Head Light

Nearby town:
Vinalhaven, ME


Year Light First Lit:

Lighthouse Automated:

Lighthouse Operational:
Yes, active aid to navigation

Tower Height: 20 feet

Present Optics:
Fourth Order Fresnel

By boat & car ferry; can also be viewed by boat tour

Open to public:
Yes, grounds open to public

Find Brown's Head Light

Click map image to open a Google Interactive Map for Brown's Head Lighthouse.

Google Map


Brown's Head Light - A beautiful and historic destination in Vinalhaven

Brown's Head LightiIf you are visiting the island town of Vinalhaven, located off the Rockland coast in the middle of Penobscot Bay, you should certainly stop in and see Brown’s Head Light.

Vinalhaven is one of the “Fox Islands,” a group of islands named after the gray foxes that once inhabited the area. In the second half of the 19th century, Vinalhaven was home to a thriving granite industry, supplying granite to famous structures like the Washington Monument and the Brooklyn Bridge. This industry and the fishing industry of this community grabbed national attention and is why President Andrew Jackson approved $4,000 for the development of Brown's Head Light in 1832.

Brown's Head LightBrown's Head Light (+44° 6' 42.35", -68° 54' 34.19") is located near the northwest corner of the island, marking the popular seaway between Vinalhaven and North Haven. Jeremiah Berry of East Thomaston built the original rubblestone tower and dwelling..

David Wooster of North Haven, the original keeper, served until his death in 1841. Later, Benjamin Eldridge Burgess kept this post. In 1904, The Boston Globe published an article about this man, describing him as “a good man, a good servant of Uncle Sam, and a saver of countless lives.” Ernest DeRaps, the keeper in 1961, wrote that the dwelling was so close to the water that storms often sent spray flying against the second story windows. During one snowstorm, DeRaps had to tie his six-year-old son to his body so the boy wouldn't be blown away as they trudged through two-foot snow banks to get to their truck.

Over time, additions have been made to this light. A new one-and-a-half story wood-frame house was constructed and connected via a short covered passageway to a new cylindrical 20-foot tall brick tower in 1857. Later, a fifth-order Fresnel lens was installed and a bell tower with a 1,000-pound fog bell was added. In 1902, the fifth-order Fresnel was replaced by a fourth-order Fresnel, which remains in service today. The light is fixed white with two red sectors and is 39 feet above sea level with a range of 13 miles. In 1903, an oil house was added. In 1987, Brown's Head Light became automated. The bell tower was torn down and put on display at the Vinalhaven Historical Museum. A fog signal took its place and sounds one blast every ten seconds when there is limited visibility.

Brown's Head Light is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The town owns the lighthouse and the town manager lives in the dwelling. The grounds are open to the public, but the tower and dwelling are closed. To reach the lighthouse after leaving the ferry terminal, travel six miles NW to the end of Brown's Head Light Road. It is a beautiful spot for people of all ages to enjoy.


Photos by Robert English. We would like to thank Robert English for granting us permission to use his images of Brown's Head Light. You can view more images of Brown's Head Light and Maine Lighthouses by visitng Robert's Flickr page.


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