Historic lighthouses to visit in Salem, Massachusetts

Salem, Massachusetts, a coastal gem with a rich maritime heritage, offers a captivating journey through time with its historic lighthouses. These beacons of the sea have stood steadfast, guiding ships and sailors through the region’s often treacherous waters for centuries.

From the iconic Derby Wharf Light Station to the stoic presence of Fort Pickering Light, each lighthouse carries a tale of seafaring lore and technological innovation. Exploring these historic structures is a chance to step into the past, to imagine the sailors who relied on their reassuring glow, and to witness the evolution of maritime navigation.

Join us on a voyage through Salem’s maritime history as we uncover the stories behind these sentinel towers that have played an integral role in shaping the city’s identity and seafaring legacy. Here we have another article about other historical attractions of Salem.

The Bakers Island Light

Bakers Island Light, a cherished historic lighthouse gracing Bakers Island in Salem, Massachusetts, stands as a testament to maritime heritage. Illuminated for the first time in 1821, it has an impressive 59-foot height.

Originally established in 1791 with a daymark, its transformation included two lights atop a keeper’s house in 1798 and the construction of an octagonal stone tower after storm damage in 1815. The round stone tower we admire today was erected in 1820, and both towers were known as “Ma” and “Pa” until the demolition of the older one in 1926.

Bakers Island Light’s history is one of adaptation. It embraced automation in 1972, heralding a new era, and further innovation saw it convert to solar power in 2000. Its significance to maritime navigation led to its inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

While best enjoyed from the water, the lighthouse’s allure is not limited to seafarers. Even from afar, a glimpse of the lighthouse is possible from the Harbor Street – Boardman Avenue loop in Manchester-by-the-Sea.

Boat tours, such as those offered by Mahi Cruises, provide an immersive experience, passing by this historic beacon. The Essex National Heritage Commission extends this maritime adventure, offering boat tours since 2015, which have since evolved to include overnight stays.

Bakers Island Light remains a cherished sentinel of the sea, inviting visitors to connect with its enduring legacy.

Derby Wharf Light

The Derby Wharf Light Station stands as a testament to Salem’s maritime legacy within the Salem Maritime National Historic Site in Massachusetts. Its historical significance is reflected in its details: a square tower rising 13 feet above the ground, a steadfast guardian of the coast.

Constructed in 1871, the lighthouse gained recognition for its vital role in guiding seafarers. Designated a National Historic Place in 1987, it continues to uphold its maritime heritage.

The United States Coast Guard Light List characterizes it as a “White square tower, maintained by the U.S. Park Service.” Positioned 25 feet above Mean High Water, its radiant red light reaches across 4 nautical miles, providing a crucial navigational aid.

The light station’s initial iteration featured an oil lamp, its luminance cast through a sixth-order Fresnel lens, one of a mere 17 in the United States at that time. Over the years, technological progress embraced the lighthouse, transforming it into a beacon powered by solar energy.

The rhythm of its red flash, recurring every six seconds, encapsulates both its historical roots and contemporary adaptation.

To experience the Derby Wharf Light’s captivating presence, venture east on Derby Street from Highway 1A. At the wharf’s culmination, the lighthouse stands as a sentinel of the past. While visitors can explore the grounds, access to the tower remains restricted.

As a part of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, the lighthouse exemplifies Salem’s maritime heritage, narrating tales of exploration and guiding ships through history’s waters.

Fort Pickering Light

Fort Pickering Light, also known as Winter Island Light, stands as a luminous testament to maritime history. Erected in 1871 and retired from Coast Guard service in 1969, this cast-iron tower, adorned in shades of brown or red in the past, has weathered time’s embrace.

Once tethered to Winter Island by a wooden walkway, the brick-lined tower emerged just offshore. Its fifth-order Fresnel lens illuminated for the first time on January 17, 1871, casting a flashing white light only twenty-eight feet above sea level. Among the era’s conical cast-iron structures, it stood as one of the smallest yet vital sentinels.

In the early 1980s, the Fort Pickering Light Association, fueled by civic devotion, kindled a restoration effort. Repairing and enhancing the lighthouse, they rekindled its brilliance in 1983 as a private guide, supplemented by the town of Salem’s support.

Winter Island Light harmoniously blends with the Winter Island Historic District and Archeological District, both embraced by the National Register of Historic Places since April 14, 1994.

The lighthouse’s grounds are accessible to the public, although its tower remains closed. Although the keeper’s dwelling, the walkway, and other ancillary structures have surrendered to time, vibrant summer events, a campground, and a yearly blues festival infuse life into Winter Island, drawing visitors to this coastal haven and the timeless charm of Fort Pickering Lighthouse.

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