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 Lighthouse Database » North America » USA » New Hampshire

Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse
New Castle, New Hampshire

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Average Rating: 
Lighthouse Rating
 9.0 (1 review)

Recommended By: 100% of reviewers

General Information
Date Established: 1771
Date Present Tower Built: 1878
Date Automated: 1960
Height of Tower: 48 ft.
Height of Focal Plane: 52 ft.


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Open to Public?: During open houses.

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*Photos on this page are the property of jeremyD, unless otherwise noted, and may not be downloaded or used without permission from the copyright owner.

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In 1771, a wooden lighthouse was established at Fort William and Mary on Great Island, in what is now the town of New Castle in Portsmouth Harbor, about a mile from the mouth of the Piscataqua River. It was the first light station established at a military installation of the British colonies of the present United States, the 10th of 11 light stations established in the colonies before the American Revolution, and the first lighthouse in the American colonies north of Boston.

A new 80-foot octagonal wooden Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse was constructed in 1804, 100 yards east of the 1771 tower on a spot called Pollock Rock. The tower was shortened to 55 feet in 1851, and the lighthouse was fitted with a fourth order Fresnel lens three years later.

A new 48-foot cast-iron lighthouse tower was erected in 1878 on the same foundation as the previous tower. The lighthouse was painted a reddish-brownish color until 1902, when it was painted white.

The lighthouse remains an active aid to navigation and is part of the Fort Constitution Historic Site, adjacent to an active Coast Guard Station. The former keeper's house is now used for Coast Guard offices.

In early 2000 the American Lighthouse Foundation of Wells, Maine was issued a license to care for the lighthouse. A chapter of the foundation, the Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, was founded in 2001.

The grounds of Fort Constitution are open to the public during the day, but visitors are not allowed into the area near the lighthouse except during open houses held by the Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse.

Submitted by: jeremyD Date of last review: Tue Mar 9, 2010 Views: 4930

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Joined: 6 Mar 2008
Posts: 16
Review Date: Tue Mar 9, 2010 Would you recommend the lighthouse? Yes | Rating: 9 

Pros: Beautiful location, easy to get to
Cons: Restricted access outside Open House times

I went to an Open House in October 2009. You can enter the lighthouse, climb the stairs to the top, and visit the inside of the lantern room. Jeremy was there in person; he and the other docents were knowledgeable and enthusiastic about lighthouses. It's a beautiful light in a stunning location, well worth a visit. Would be nice if the grounds were open at other times.
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