This postcard comes with a bit of mystery. It appears to have been published around 1910 (and is postmarked 1915) and purports to show the Straitsmouth Light. The reverse side of the card describes the light as situated “on the northeasterly point of Straitsmouth Island, Mass., northeasterly side of Cape Ann, and southerly side of the entrance to Rockport Harbor.”
The mystery about that is that it actually shows an older lighthouse, one that was replaced in 1896 by the lighthouse that remains on Straitsmouth to this day. Was the postcard’s publisher simply unaware that the light shown on this card had been replaced? We’ll never know.
In fact, the lighthouse that stands on Straitsmouth today is the third to have been built there. The first Straitsmouth light was built in 1834, spurred on by the increasing number of ships sailing to Pigeon Cove for cargoes of granite from Rockport’s burgeoning granite industry. The first lighthouse was poorly constructed, leaky and with lamps out of plumb. Not only that, but it was situated too far away from the point of the island it was intended to warn against.
In 1851, construction began on a new lighthouse, a 24-foot tall octagonal stone tower, at a location 87 yards closer to the island’s point. This is the lighthouse depicted in the postcard, as you can see from its unique octagonal shape.
By 1896, the light again needed rebuilding, and the current lighthouse was built. The 37-foot cylindrical tower was erected on the foundation of the 1851 lighthouse. This 1896 lighthouse is the one that still stands on Straitsmouth today.
Last year, the U.S. Coast Guard turned over ownership of the lighthouse to the town of Rockport.
As for the mystery, my guess is that the publisher created the postcard based on the photograph shown to the left, which shows the lighthouse in the 1890s. If you compare the postcard with the photo, they are virtually identical.
This postcard was published by The Hugh C. Leighton Co., Portland, Maine, and printed in Germany.
For more information on the history of the Straitsmouth lighthouses, see LighthouseFriends.com and New England Lighthouses: A Virtual Guide (where I found the 1890s photo).
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