There is something about a lighthouse that stirs the imagination. They are the guardian angels of those who venture forth upon the sea. In bygone times they were manned by stoic and courageous souls who endured loneliness and hardship to protect others. I have always been drawn to lighthouses. My fascination with lighthouses may be “in my blood.” One of my great-great-grandfathers was a lighthouse keeper.
I was captivated by the view of the Blue Hill Bay Lighthouse on my first visit to Sea Meadow. It sits atop Green Island at the mouth of Blue Hill Bay. The tides in this part of the world can have a range of up to 12 feet. At low tide, Green Island is five square acres in size but shrinks to around one acre at high tide. A ledge connects Green Island to Flye Island to the north and continues on to Flye Point on the mainland. At low tide, you can walk from Flye Point to Green Island. (Returning to the mainland without getting your feet wet may be a problem, however!)
The City of Ellsworth, Maine sits at the head of Blue Hill Bay. It was reported to be the second busiest lumber port in the world at the mid-point of the 19th Century. The US government bought Green Island from Brooklin resident Abraham Flye in 1855 for $150. The Blue Hill Bay Lighthouse was constructed in 1856 to help guide ships in and out of the bay. Little has changed at the lighthouse in the ensuing 161 years. A two-room addition was built in 1890 and a 1,000-pound fog bell was added to the light station in 1900. A brick oil house was added in 1905.
Lighthouse keepers and their families had to be very self-sufficient. On Green Island, rainwater was collected in a 1,050-gallon cistern in the basement of the keeper’s house and supplied fresh water to the keeper and his family. The keeper supplemented his food supplies by fishing. Most lighthouse keepers kept a few chickens for fresh eggs and a cow or two for milk. The keepers of the Blue Hill Bay Lighthouse kept cows on neighboring Flye Island to graze during the summer. Depending upon the tide, the keeper’s children either walked or rowed to the island twice a day for milking. There was no telephone at the lighthouse. During the 1920s, if the lighthouse keeper was needed on shore, a woman on the mainland hung a black suit outside her house as a signal.
The Blue Hill Bay Lighthouse was deactivated on May 1, 1934 and replaced with an automated light on a tower. A solar-powered green light sits atop a low tower on the eastern side of the island today. At night, you can see the flashing green glow of the light from the cottage.