The growing lime trade in nearby Rockland and Thomaston warranted construction of a lighthouse at Owls Head, at the entrance to Rockland Harbor. President John Quincy Adams authorized the work in 1825. The 20-foot brick tower is unusually short; the height of the promontory made a tall lighthouse unnecessary, still putting the light at 100 feet above sea level. A fourth-order Fresnel lens was installed in 1856.
Legend tells that during a storm in December 185o, a small schooner from Massachusetts broke loose from its mooring at Jameson Point and headed across Penobscot Bay toward Owls Head. The captain had gone ashore leaving the mate, a seaman and one passenger aboard. As the storm intensified, the vessel smashed into the rocky ledges south of the lighthouse; the three on board huddled together, wrapped in blankets against the freezing surf.
As the schooner broke apart, the seaman left the vessel, managed to get ashore and reached the road to the lighthouse. The keeper happened to be driving by in a sleigh, took the dazed man to his house and learned of the others still at sea. A rescue party located the schooner and found a block of ice enveloping the mate and passenger. After bringing the block ashore, carefully chipping away the ice and slowly warming the victims, both revived. The mate, Richard Ingraham and passenger, Lydia Dyer, were later married. The seaman died soon after the wreck.
Another well-known tale associated with Owls Head light is that of Springer spaniel, Spot. The dog learned to pull the fog bell rope with his teeth when he saw an approaching vessel. Boats would answer with a whistle or bell and Spot would bark reply. One stormy night in the 1890s, the mail boat from Matinicus was headed toward Owls Head. The fog bell rope was buried in the snow but Spot's constant barking warned the captain in time to guide his vessel around the peninsula, clear the rocks, and sound a whistle to acknowledge safe passage. The spaniel is buried on the hillside near the former location of the fog bell.
The 1854 Keeper's house remains a residence for Coast Guard personnel and the surrounding grounds are now a state park. The bell tower is gone but the 1895 oil house remains. The lighthouse is easily accessible with parking nearby; ferries and excursion boats also pass the light.
From U.S. Route 1 in Thomaston/Rockland, turn south onto Route 73 and continue about two miles, turning left onto North Shore Drive. Go about 2.5 miles, turning left just past the Owls Head post office, onto Main Street. Continue to Lighthouse Road (marked) and turn left; the road becomes a dirt road and leads to a parking and picnic area. A short walk takes you to the lighthouse. The keeper's house is occupied by a Coast Guard family.