Lighthouses in Salem, MA
With Haunted Happenings right around the corner, it might be difficult to think of Salem for anything besides our favorite Halloween celebration. Even with the summer months behind us, Salem can be a great place to see lighthouses, which have served the town since the 17th century in helping ships safely access the harbor. The weather might be cooling down, but there is still time to see some of these amazing sites:
Derby Wharf Light Station
The Derby Wharf Light Station, located at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, is rather unique with its square shape and short stature. This lighthouse measures only 12 x 12 feet, and the top of the cupola reaches about 20 feet off the ground. This station was built in 1871 to assist merchant ships entering Salem Harbor. Where most lighthouses traditionally have live-in caretakers, the Derby Wharf Light Station’s caretakers were able to live wherever they pleased in Salem due to its close proximity and easy access from the town. Astonishingly, there have only been six caretakers throughout the entire history of the station!
The National Park Service gained ownership of the lighthouse in 1977, and began a restoration project on the site that would not be completed until 1989. During the refurbishment, the lighthouse was painted white (a change from its original red coloring) and a solar powered light which flashes every 6 seconds was installed. While the interior of the station is not open to the public, the exterior is fully accessible and is a beautiful walk on a nice day right down Derby Wharf.
Bakers Island Light Station
The Bakers Island Station, which is Massachusetts’ largest residential island north of Boston, dates back to Salem’s early days. Bakers Island itself became a part of Salem in 1660, and about 10 years later the entire island became home to tenant John Turner who you may be familiar with as the builder of The House of the Seven Gables. The island is also said to have been named for a man who was struck and killed by a falling tree, who also went by the name of “Baker.” If that bit of history isn’t gruesome enough, there was also a series of shipwrecks that took place nearby during the late 18th century, which suggests that the lighthouse was not as effective at the time as residents would have hoped.
The light station was established in 1791, with the current lighthouse we see today being built in 1820. In contrast from the Derby Wharf Light Station, Bakers Island does have a resident caretaker, who is typically the only person on the island during the winter months. While not open to the public, the Essex National Heritage Area runs boat trips to the island during the summer months. Without access to the island, this lighthouse is best seen from boat, about 3 miles East of Salem Harbor.
Winter Island Light (Fort Pickering Lighthouse)
Winter Island Light, or the Fort Pickering Lighthouse was established in 1871 as part of the joint effort with the Derby Wharf Light Station and Hospital Point Light Station in Beverly to safely direct ships into Salem harbor regardless of the times of day they were coming in. The lighthouse is adjacent to the Fort Pickering area, which was built as a defense fort in the mid-16th century, and had been used for this purpose until the Civil War. Now primarily used as a campsite and recreational area, guests are welcome to visit Winter Island Light, which is accessible at 50 Winter Island Road.
Hospital Point Lighthouse, Beverly
Hospital Point Lighthouse, named for a smallpox hospital once located on the site, was established in 1872 as the last lighthouse fulfilling the need for ships to have a clear sense of direction when coming into Salem Harbor. One of the most unique aspects of Hospital Point is that this lighthouse is one of only 5 total in Massachusetts that still uses its original Fresnel lens. Though the lighthouse itself is closed to the public, the best views may be seen from boat, the Salem Willows, or from Bayview Ave. in Beverly.
Marblehead Light, Marblehead
The station at Marblehead Light was first established in 1835, with the lighthouse we see today being constructed later in 1896. Marblehead Light is known for being one of only 14 pyramidal skeletal lighthouses in the United States, meaning that the structure itself is not enclosed, and is made entirely of metal. The lighthouse is located at Chandler Hovey Park, a 3.74 acre recreational area at the end of Follett Street that is open to the public. Without accessing the park, Marblehead Light is best seen by boat from the entrance to Marblehead Harbor.