Edward Hopper immortalized this light station in several paintings in the 1920s. One of these paintings was reproduced on a U.S. postage stamp commemorating Maine's 150th anniversary in 1970. For many years, beginning in 1828, Cape Elizabeth had two light towers—one with a fixed beam and one flashing—to help mariners establish their positions. The western tower was discontinued in 1924 when officials decided it was redundant. Today it is privately owned. The eastern tower, now automated, still serves as a navigational aid. The lighthouse and grounds are not open to the public, but you can visit Two Lights State Park, just off Route 77.
In January 1885, during one of the coldest, most violent snowstorms, the schooner Australia ran aground near the Cape Elizabeth Light and the schooner’s captain was swept away by ferocious waves. The two surviving sailors clung to the icy rigging and were nearly blinded from exposure to the cold. When keeper Marcus Hanna tried and failed to haul them in with a line, he waded into the numbing water up to his waist—with air temperatures at 10 degrees below zero—and finally managed to throw a line to the deckhands. Then he towed them to safety. For his valor, Hanna was awarded the Life-Saving Service’s Gold Medal. Ten years later, he was also awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor for his earlier Civil War bravery, making him the only person to receive both accolades.