The Working Waterfront

Community Fund grant helps island lighthouse

Swan's Island light restoration nears finish line

Staff Writer
Posted 2020-10-28
Last Modified 2020-10-28

Fifteen years of restoration work on the historic Burnt Coat Harbor Light Station on Swan’s Island is approaching completion. One of the final steps is being made possible by a grant to the town of Swan’s Island from the Belvedere Historical Preservation Fund (Downeast) of the Maine Community Foundation.

The Burnt Coat Harbor Light Station (sometimes referred to as the Swan’s Island Lighthouse) has two main buildings (light tower and keeper’s house) and two ancillary buildings, the bell house and the oil house.

The oil house, which will be restored with the help of the grant, is a small brick building built in the 1890s for storage of kerosene, then a newly-introduced fuel for the light tower lantern. The oil house is located at the base of a steep slope. Curbs encircling the foundation were originally designed to improve drainage, but over the years they have cracked, broken, and been displaced, and the absence of effective drainage causes additional damage to the foundation with each passing year.  Additionally, masonry seams on all four walls need to be raked out and repointed, using techniques and materials appropriate for historic brickwork. This will be a stable, sound, and historically accurate restoration, and the restored oil house will usefully extend storage capacity for maintenance materials for the light station buildings.

Restoration of the oil house (and ultimately, also the bell house) will enhance the importance of this historic site. Visitors to the Burnt Coat Harbor Light station see an almost intact 19th century light station, with light tower, keeper’s house, and essential ancillary buildings. This assemblage of four historic light station buildings is relatively rare, and as is the case with many lighthouses, the location is spectacularly beautiful.

Interpretive materials are available for visitors, showing how the keepers and their families lived and what the keepers did to keep the light shining. For more information, visit the lighthouse website, maintained by Friends of the Swan’s Island Lighthouse:

The town acknowledges with gratitude this grant from the Maine Community Foundation, as well as all the other contributions of money and hard work that have “kept the light shining” at the entrance to Burnt Coat Harbor.

The Burnt Coat Harbor Light Station is located at the tip of Hockamock Head on Swan’s Island, in a 20 acre park with 1.8 miles of hiking trails. The tower, as well as the keeper’s house, is usually open to visitors during the summer season.  For more information, see: