An iconic symbol of the town and of Marblehead Harbor for generations of sailors.
The iconic Marblehead Lighthouse on Marblehead Neck has stood for 125 years. It is the only tower of its type in New England, and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. The town looks after the Lighthouse, and the U.S. Coast Guard monitors the light, which sits 130’ above mean high water. Its fixed green light is visible for 7 nautical miles (8.1 miles). The core of the tower is an iron cylinder that houses a 127-step spiral staircase that leads to the landing below the lantern room. Chandler Hovey donated the land surrounding the Lighthouse to the Town of Marblehead in 1947 to create a park, which now carries his name.
The original Marblehead Lighthouse was built in 1835 of stone, painted white, and stood 34′ above sea level. It had a fixed white light, fired by whale oil. By the 1870s it was no longer visible because of large houses that surrounded it. In 1883, a mast of 100′ was erected beside the original structure and topped by a fixed white lantern. The Lighthouse complex consisted of a dwelling, barn, hen house, privy, and water pump, as well as a boathouse. The current cast iron light tower was erected in 1895, replacing the 1835 light and 1883 mast. It had a white light, and a Fresnel 6th Order Lens (still) fired by whale oil. A covered walkway linked the new tower to the keeper’s dwelling. A brick oil house was added to the station in 1907. In 1922, the light was converted to electricity and fitted with a ruby shade, and in 1936 the color was changed to green. The light was extinguished during WWII from 1941 to 1946. Joseph Barry, superintendent of the town’s parks, and his wife were the last occupants of the keeper’s house, which was demolished in 1959. The Lighthouse was automated in 1960.
Chandler Hovey Park, which contains the Lighthouse, is perhaps the finest spot for viewing sailboat races and to take in the beauty that is Marblehead Harbor. The park is the setting for many wedding ceremonies and receptions. The Lighthouse tower is illuminated seasonally in red, white, and blue during the July 4th celebrations, which include the Harbor Illumination with red Roman candles, and over the Christmas holidays when the tower is illuminated in red, white, and green.
CHECK IT OUT
To learn more, see Bill Conly’s Marblehead Light, Marblehead Historical Commission, 2017. Let us know what you think of our iconic Lighthouse below. Check out other Around the Harbor blogs here.