Description

ABOUT

The Thacher Island Association (TIA) was established in 1981 by the Thacher Island Town Committee (TITC) as a nonprofit group dedicated to raising funds for the restoration and on-going maintenance of the Island. The Town of Rockport owns the southern end of the Island and manages it via the TITC and TIA. The northern end is owned by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and is managed by the Town under an agreement with USFWS.

about2

Today the TIA boasts a membership of over 750 individuals, families and local businesses. The Board of Directors is volunteer-based and composed of 15 members, four of which are officers, and meets monthly. A member of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service often attends as well.  A newsletter is distributed to members two times a year and the web site receives an average of 1000 hits per month.

HISTORY2

Thacher Island's Lighthouses

  • The only currently operating twin lighthouses in America
  • One of only seven twin and one triple lights built - all on the Atlantic coast
  • The twin lights were the eleventh and last lighthouses built under British rule in 1771
  • Thacher Island lighthouses were the first to mark a “dangerous spot” along the coast, all previous lights were built to mark harbor entrances
  • The twin lights were distinguished from other lights on the coast prior to the development of revolving lenses and unique blinking patterns
  • First test site in 1814 for Winslow Lewis’ modified Argand lamp, which was later adopted for use in all U.S. lighthouses
  • The original first-order Fresnel lens, installed in 1861 in the South Tower, is on display at the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester MA
HISTORY1

Thacher Island History

Thacher Island was sighted by Samuel de Champlain in 1605, by Captain John Smith in 1614, and likely many others before them.

The name comes from a shipwreck described as "pathetic" by historians. A small boat out of Ipswich, bound for Marblehead, was caught in the Great Storm of August, 1635, and was dashed to pieces on the rocks of the Island. Of the 23 passengers and crew, only Anthony Thacher and his wife survived, watching helplessly as their children and friends were swept away.

On September 3, 1635, the General Court awarded Thacher 40 marks, and in 1636-37 the General Court voted to grant Thacher the Island "at the head of Cape Ann, as his inheritance."

In 1717 the near 50-acre Island was sold by John Appleton, an heir of Thacher, of Ipswich to the Reverend John White for 100 pounds.

In 1726-27 the Reverend John White sold Thacher to Joseph Allen for 175 pounds. Joseph Allen, Jr. then owned it until his death in 1750.

In 1771, the Colonial Government bought it back for 500 pounds. The same year, the twin lighthouses were erected and lighted for the first time on December 21st.

The present 123-foot granite towers were completed in 1861, raising the lights to 166 feet above sea level. In 1888 the Town of Rockport adopted the Seal of the Island as its official seal.

Early in the 1900s, four families lived on the Island to run the lighthouses and fog whistles. Descendants of these families still live in Rockport.

The north light was shut off in 1932, as an economy measure. The Coast Guard, which had manned the Island for many years, removed its last crew of four men in 1980. At that time, the south light and the fog whistle had become automated, and the Town of Rockport took over the Island by lease from the U. S. Coast Guard.

In 1983, the Thacher Island Association was formed as a nonprofit organization to support and encourage historic preservation and restoration of the structures on the Island. The Association financed the design and construction of a custom made aluminum launch, a mini landing craft, to provide access to the Island.

Major restoration work was completed in 1988 on the once abandoned North Tower, and it was relit and approved as a private aid to navigation. A 15-watt fluorescent lamp replicates the amber light of the original oil lamp and can be seen for almost eight miles.

In the summer of 1998 the Coast Guard installed a solar panel to power the south tower and fog horn.

The entire Island and its structures were designated as a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service. This designation in January of 2001 officially recognizes Cape Ann Light Station’s significant impact in our nation’s maritime history.

A total restoration of the brick two story duplex assistant keepers quarters and a guest apartment on the Island took place during the summer of 2002 allowing the Town to begin renting the guest apartment and providing an income stream to be used for further restoration. The Association maintains volunteer keepers on the Island during the summer months to assist and inform visitors, and to provide the daily upkeep needed for a ship-shape facility.

Also in 2002 the southern 28 acres of the Island and its structures were deeded over to the Town of Rockport by the U.S. Coast Guard. The north end and tower is owned by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and managed by the Town on their behalf as a wildlife refuge.

Ongoing work includes restoration of the island and its structures to their original 1800’s condition and keeping it open to the public as a historic and educational facility.

Historic Images

Visitors arrive from Loblolly Cove c.1930.
Visitors arrive from Loblolly Cove c.1930.
North tower with fishing schooner passing c.1910.
North tower with fishing schooner passing c.1910.
Keeper George E. Kezer. Uniforms were required after 1884.
Keeper George E. Kezer. Uniforms were required after 1884.
Keeper Eugene Larsen and wife Edvardine c. 1912.
Keeper Eugene Larsen and wife Edvardine c. 1912.
George Kezer with his oldest son Harlen and younger son Thatcher Warren born on the island in 1900.
George Kezer with his oldest son Harlen and younger son Thatcher Warren born on the island in 1900.
North tower with covered walkway c.1910.
North tower with covered walkway c.1910.
North tower keeper house c.1910.
North tower keeper house c.1910.
Principal keeper and assistant keeper houses with picket fence and outhouse c.1880.
Principal keeper and assistant keeper houses with picket fence and outhouse c.1880.
Island view from eastern shore to the west.
Island view from eastern shore to the west.
Keeper wives often fished to supplement the family food supply.
Keeper wives often fished to supplement the family food supply.
Coal cart near the radio compass tower operated by the U.S. Navy c.1911.
Coal cart near the radio compass tower operated by the U.S. Navy c.1911.
South tower with two original fog signals c.1868.
South tower with two original fog signals c.1868.
Lighthouse tender USLHT “Mayflower” delivering coal and supplies on August 12, 1913.
Lighthouse tender USLHT “Mayflower” delivering coal and supplies on August 12, 1913.
Unidentified keepers pose on porch of Principal keeper house on July 28, 1896. This may be Principal keeper Addison Franklin Tarr, with telescope, who served from 1881 to 1912.
Unidentified keepers pose on porch of Principal keeper house on July 28, 1896. This may be Principal keeper Addison Franklin Tarr, with telescope, who served from 1881 to 1912.
Whistle house with railway trestle to the roof where coal was deposited to run the steam powered fog signal.
Whistle house with railway trestle to the roof where coal was deposited to run the steam powered fog signal.
Third assistant keeper William Merrill Reed and his wife Dora and daughters Alice and Louise 1904.
Third assistant keeper William Merrill Reed and his wife Dora and daughters Alice and Louise 1904.
Current whistle house with cover cistern and schooner passing by the South tower.
Current whistle house with cover cistern and schooner passing by the South tower.
Keeper William Daggett (1870-1945) tending his cow near the North tower c.1918.
Keeper William Daggett (1870-1945) tending his cow near the North tower c.1918.
Assistant keeper John E.H. Cook with his wife Emma and son Donald in 1911.
Assistant keeper John E.H. Cook with his wife Emma and son Donald in 1911.

Island Images

Contact Us

Thacher and Straitsmouth Islands are now closed for the season. We look forward to seeing you in the Spring of 2021.

Please e-mail us at anytime:
info@thacherisland.org

Mailing address:
P.O.Box 73, Rockport, MA 01966

Web address:
www.thacherisland.org

Contact Us

Thacher and Straitsmouth Islands are now closed for the season. We look forward to seeing you in the Spring of 2021.

Please e-mail us at anytime:
info@thacherisland.org

Mailing address:
P.O.Box 73, Rockport, MA 01966

Web address:
www.thacherisland.org