Only about a dozen lighthouses are located on the mainland. The rest sit on islands, reefs, ledges or breakwaters, and four are caisson-style stations with foundations completely submerged in the sea. To build the latter, an empty cast-iron cylinder was sunk in the water and filled with concrete; then a lighthouse tower was constructed on this foundation, with a lantern on top and the keeper’s domestic quarters below. Some people call these “spark plug lights” because they resemble spark plugs jutting out of the ocean.
Many of the towers are white with a black, cast-iron lantern on top, but colors also vary and architectural styles show characteristic Maine quirkiness, as well as the personalities of various architects and inhabitants, who added their own touches. The distinctive West Quoddy Light sports red and white stripes crowned by a black lantern with a red dome. The elegant Portland Breakwater Light "The Bug" was modeled after an ancient Greek monument with Corinthian columns. The Cuckholds Light in Newagen, named for a cuckolded Englishman whose wife had an affair with the king, is a small, meek lighthouse, more like a cupola than a tower, and seems to fit its name. The Egg Rock Light, squat and square with the black nub of a light on top, is said to be Maine’s most homely lighthouse.
Plan your own lighthouse tour of the Maine coast, or see a complete list of lighthouses and touring information.