Penboscot Bay Press Compass Logo

Penobscot Bay Press
Community Information Services

News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, April 10, 2014
IHT seeks help in preserving Mark Island Lighthouse

The 156 year-old Mark Island Lighthouse

The Mark Island Lighthouse off Stonington needs nearly $19,000 of restoration work. Island Heritage Trust, which purchased the lighthouse in 1997, seeks donations.

Photo by Elke Dorr Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Anne Berleant

For over 156 years, the Mark Island Lighthouse has beamed out over Penobscot Bay accompanied by steady foghorn blasts.

The light was first turned on New Year’s Day in 1858 and became automated in 1960. Later that decade, the keeper’s house burned down.

Thirty-seven years later, in 1997, Island Heritage Trust purchased the property and now is set to begin a restoration project that will repaint, remortar and repoint the historic landmark.

Lighthouses are iconic of any coast but particularly the Maine coast, IHT Executive Director Mike Little said. “We’d like to keep the [Mark Island] lighthouse there and in good shape.”

The lighthouse tower was painted nine years ago, “which is part of the problem now,” Little said. The paint used—with the approval of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission—“was the wrong paint and it’s causing problems.”

The paint is trapping moisture that works its way into the mortar joints, Little explained. “It’s not a serious structural problem right now…In the long run, it could be. This is preventive maintenance.”

Island Heritage Trust seeks to raise about $19,000 to paint, mortar and repoint Mark Island Lighthouse.

“We’re looking for donations from the community, lighthouse lovers, historic preservationists,” Little said.

The full cost of the project is $26,880, but a $5,000 grant from Morton-Kelley Charitable Trust and existing funds make it possible to start the project now.

“We’ve got enough to do one wall,” said Little. “If we have to do it one wall at a time, it’s going to be more expensive.”

The Trust will use a restoration-trained mason for the mortar and point work. “When you get into working with older brick structures you need someone who knows old bricks and old mortars…it’s a different animal,” Little said.

The lighthouse light itself is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard, as is the the foghorn, as an active part of the coastal navigation system.

Despite electronic and satellite-driven navigation, lighthouses still help mariners find their way when their electronics fail, Little said.

Recently, a host of WERU “Boat Talk” spoke of coming up the Penobscot Bay at night and his electronics all died, recalled Little. “There he was, looking for lighthouses,” he said.

Donations to the Preserve Mark Island Lighthouse can be sent to IHT, PO Box 42, Deer Isle, ME 04627, noting the lighthouse on the check, or through More information on the restoration and the lighthouse can be viewed on the Preserve Mark Island Lighthouse Facebook page.