Thacher Island Twin Lights // 1861

Located on Thacher Island off the rocky coast of Rockport, MA, stand two massive stone lighthouses appearing as sentinels over the horizon.

The Thacher Island was named for Anthony Thacher, an Englishman whose vessel, the Watch and Wait, was wrecked in a ferocious storm near the island in 1635 on its way to Marblehead from Ipswich. Thacher and his wife, Elizabeth, were the only survivors of the wreck in which 21 people died including four of Thacher’s children from a previous marriage and his cousin. The General Court awarded Anthony Thacher the island “at the head of Cape Ann” to recompense him for his losses, and he originally dubbed the island “Thacher’s Woe”. The island eventually was bought back by the Massachusetts colonial government at a cost of 500 pounds for the purpose of establishing a light station.

Twin lighthouses built on Thacher Island in 1771 and were the first built to mark a dangerous spot (the Londoner Ledge southeast of Thacher Island) rather than a harbor entrance. They were also the last lighthouses built under British rule in the colonies. The two lighthouses in Cape Ann dubbed “Ann’s Eyes” stood on Thacher Island until 1860, when itt was decided that new, taller towers were needed. Twin towers, 124 feet high, were built in 1861. New Hampshire granite was used instead of local Cape Ann granite, which drew much criticism from locals.

In 1932, the use of the north tower was discontinued making it one of the last operational twin light stations on the Atlantic Coast. The south tower was electrified via a submarine cable to the mainland that same year and provided a more intense light. The south tower was automated and unmanned, when a modern optic replaced the Fresnel lens in 1979. In January 2001, the Cape Ann Light Station, including several associated outbuildings, received recognition as a National Historic Landmark.

The Thacher Island Association was established in 1981 by the Thacher Island Town Committee as a non-profit group dedicated to raising funds for the restoration and on-going maintenance of the Island. The Town of Rockport owns the southern end of the Island and manages it via the Association. The northern end is owned by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is managed by the Town under an agreement with USFWS.

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