Standing on a small, rocky, barren island about 6.5 miles southeast of Cape Neddick, this light is clearly one of the most isolated. Severs storms, typical of this area, have swept away numerous light towers on this ledge. The first 50-foot wooden tower was established in 1800 but the flimsy wooden structure was destroyed by a winter storm in 1804; it was replaced with a stone tower the following summer. President James Madison authorized a new lighthouse in 1812 but storms again destroyed the light in 1831. Finally, the Lighthouse Board allowed that a much more sound, substantial structure was required. In 1852 the present light tower was constructed and, at 133 feet, is the tallest in New England, measuring 25 feet in diameter at the base, 12 feet wide at the top.
Tales and legends involving the island are numerous but the most well-known incident was the wreck of the British ship Nottingham Galley in December 1710. Survivors struggled to stay alive for three weeks, finally resorting to cannibalism. It's said that after this disaster local fishermen began leaving barrels of provisions (a"boon") in case of future wrecks. Legends also tell of keeper's wife driven mad after her husband's death on the island, of a keeper who left the island for food, later found wandering aimlessly hundreds of miles away and of marooned keepers saved by a the crew of a passing schooner who retrieved their plea for help set adrift in a bottle.
This island is continually pounded by the sea; the Blizzard of 1978 destroyed the keeper's house and outbuildings as five feet of water inundated the station. During that storm granite boulders were tossed about as if they were pebbles. The two keepers, having taken refuge in the tower, were rescued by helicopter the following day. Shortly after this storm Boon Island Light was automated; the second-order Fresnel lens was removed in 1993 and replaced by a modern solar-powered optic.
Boon Island Light is now licensed to the American Lighthouse Foundation.
From I-95 or U.S. Route 1 in York, take U.S. 1A to York Beach, continuing to Nubble Road (marked with a small "Nubble Light" sign). Follow this road to Sohier Park and the Parking area. The Light is visible in the distance.