Located in the historic town of Cape Elizabeth just south of the city of Portland, Maine, stands the iconic Portland Head Light. The Portland Head Light is the oldest lighthouse in the state of Maine. Constructed in 1791, the tower once stood at a height of 72 feet with 16 whale oil lamps to help guide ships into Casco Bay and to the Portland harbor. The white tower was modified a few times during its 226-year history and now stands at a height of 80 feet. In 1989 it was decommissioned.
While the lighthouse is not open to the public, the Keeper’s House, now a museum dedicated to the history of the light, is. For a small admission fee, visitors can follow a historical timeline and view some of the original equipment used at the light. The original Keeper’s House was a one-story house built in 1790. The current two-story building was built in 1891 as a duplex to house the both the light keeper and the assistant light keeper and their families. For museum hours and fees, go here.
After its decommission, the lighthouse grounds and Keeper’s House were handed over to the Town of Cape Elizabeth, while the U.S. Coast Guard owns and operates the fog horn and light beacon for navigational purposes. The lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Portland Head Lighthouse is one feature of the larger Fort Williams Park. The 90-acre park was once home to the U.S. Army post of Fort Williams, which was last operational during World War II. Remnants of old batteries and buildings are stationed along the shoreline and open for exploration. A sheltered cove called Ship Cove offers a rocky beach that provides access to the water, and at low tide a small sandy beach is exposed.
The park is owned and maintained by the Town of Cape Elizabeth. Entry is free and is open from sunrise to sunset year round. Donation boxes are dispersed throughout the park. All donations go to the Fort Williams Park Foundation, which funds park projects and maintenance.