Portland Head Light - Fort Williams Park


In the 1780s, Portland was one of America's busiest ports, and the colonial government allocated $750 to build a lighthouse. Costs were to be kept low by using local field stones, but funds ran out, and the lighthouse wasn't finished until 1791, after the U.S. government took over the job. The rest of the story is a structural engineer's nightmare! As originally planned, the tower was to be 58 feet tall, but during the project, this was changed to 72 feet, upon which, one of the two builders quit. In 1813, the tower was shortened by 25 feet; then, in 1864, 20 feet were added. The extra 20 feet were taken out in 1882, then restored in 1883.

Activity Details

Activity Type:Trips and Destinations
Discipline:Other
Topic(s):Technology/Materials
Grade:K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Time:Full day

Fun Fact:The Portland Head Light began operation in 1791, making it one of the oldest lighthouses in continuous use in the U.S. It was the first lighthouse constructed in Maine and the first one to be completed by the federal government.