A white house with blue trim and a porch.

The Thacher Island Association (TIA) was established in 1981 by the Thacher and Straitsmouth Islands Town Committee (TSITC) as a nonprofit group dedicated to raising funds for the restoration and on-going maintenance of the islands. The Town of Rockport owns the southern end of Thacher Island and manages it via the TSITC 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. Straitsmouth Island is primarily owned by Mass Audubon. The Town of Rockport owns and manages the eastern end where the lighthouse is located.

A plaque is shown in front of the entrance to cape ann light station.

Today the TIA boasts a membership of over 1000 individuals, families and local businesses. The Board of Directors is volunteer-based and composed of 18 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.

Three men standing on a porch with a steering wheel.

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
A black and white photo of some houses

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, Elizabeth (Jones) Thacher, 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

A group of people in a boat on the water.
Visitors arrive from Loblolly Cove c.1930.
A lighthouse on the side of a hill.
North tower with fishing schooner passing c.1910.
A man and woman sitting next to each other.
Keeper George E. Kezer. Uniforms were required after 1884.
A man in uniform standing next to a wall.
Keeper Eugene Larsen and wife Edvardine c. 1912.
A man and boy on steps in front of house.
George Kezer with his oldest son Harlen and younger son Thatcher Warren born on the island in 1900.
A black and white photo of a lighthouse.
North tower with covered walkway c.1910.
A black and white photo of the cape ann lighthouse.
North tower keeper house c.1910.
A picture of some houses in the past.
Principal keeper and assistant keeper houses with picket fence and outhouse c.1880.
A black and white photo of three lighthouses.
Island view from eastern shore to the west.
A woman in white dress standing on the water holding onto a rope.
Keeper wives often fished to supplement the family food supply.
A black and white photo of an old trailer.
Coal cart near the radio compass tower operated by the U.S. Navy c.1911.
A black and white photo of a building with a flag on top.
South tower with two original fog signals c.1868.
A large boat in the water near some buildings.
Lighthouse tender USLHT “Mayflower” delivering coal and supplies on August 12, 1913.
Three men standing next to a wheel on the dock.
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.
A black and white photo of the lighthouse.
Whistle house with railway trestle to the roof where coal was deposited to run the steam powered fog signal.
A man and woman holding two children in front of a house.
Third assistant keeper William Merrill Reed and his wife Dora and daughters Alice and Louise 1904.
A black and white photo of an old building.
Current whistle house with cover cistern and schooner passing by the South tower.
A man standing next to two cows in the grass.
Keeper William Daggett (1870-1945) tending his cow near the North tower c.1918.
A man and woman standing on steps with a boy.
Assistant keeper John E.H. Cook with his wife Emma and son Donald in 1911.

Island Images

A rocky beach with the ocean in the background.
A sailboat in the ocean near a lighthouse.
A small white house sitting on top of a grass covered field.
A person riding waves on top of a surfboard.
A lighthouse on the beach with waves crashing in front of it.
A view of a lighthouse from the porch.
A lighthouse with the sky in the background
A lighthouse on the shore of an island.
A lighthouse on the rocks near water

Contact Us

Thacher Island Keeper:
We are now closed for 2023. Contact us through email at any time.

E-mail us anytime:

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

Web address: