Portland Head Light is a historic lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Maine that sits at the entrance of the shipping channel into Casco Bay. The headlight was the first built by the United States government, and is now a part of Fort Williams Park. Cape Elizabeth is the home of Portland Head Light. Situated along the spectacular shores of Fort Williams Park, at 1000 Shore Road, the popular landmark is owned and managed by the Town of Cape Elizabeth, Maine. The Museum at Portland Head Light is contained within the former Keepers' Quarters. The adjacent ninety acre Fort Williams Park offers picnic facilities, hiking opportunities, sports and recreation areas, historic fort structures, and unlimited ocean views. Portland Head has long protected Portland and the adjacent area. Cape Elizabeth residents were deeply committed to American independence from British rule. In 1776, the new Town of Cape Elizabeth posted a guard of eight soldiers at Portland Head to warn citizens of coming British attacks.
In 1787, the General Court of Massachusetts (the Massachusetts legislature) provided $750 to begin construction of a lighthouse. The original tower measured 72' from base to lantern deck and was lit with 16 whale oil lamps. It was first lit on January 10, 1791. By 1865, the tower was raised 20' and a 2nd order Fresnel lens was installed. A portion of this lens may now be seen at the Museum at Portland Head Light. Except for a period between1883 and1885, this lens was in the lighthouse until 1958.
Late on Christmas Eve in 1886, the three masted bark Annie C. Maguire struck the ledge at Portland Head. Keeper Joshua Strout, his son, wife, and volunteers rigged an ordinary ladder as a gangplank between the shore and the ledge the ship was heeled against. Captain O'Neil, the ship's master, his wife, two mates, and the nine man crew clambered onto the ledge and then to safety . The cause of the wreck is puzzling since visibility was not a problem. Members of the crew reported they "plainly saw Portland Light before the disaster and are unable to account for same." My dear Friend Maria sent me thiscard.