Baker Island, at the southwest entrance to Frenchman Bay, is located about four miles from Mt.Desert Island and is one of five islands that make up the Cranberry Isles. President John Quincy Adams authorized construction of lighthouse on the island in 1828 in order to mark the western approach to Frenchman Bay, dangerous ledges and shoals around the Cranberry Isles. The wood tower, built on the highest point on the island, was the earliest lighthouse in the Mt.Desert area.
William and Hanna Gilley took possession of Baker Island in the early 19th century. Gilley was appointed first keeper and held the position for 21 years until his dismissal in 1846; he then moved to Great Duck Island. Two Gilley sons subsequently harassed the new lighthouse keeper, prompting eviction efforts by the government. The Gilleys resisted and legal battles ensued for years; the lighthouse station eventually became government property with the Gilleys retaining the remainder of the island.
The present 43-foot brick tower was built in 1855 and a fourth-order Fresnel lens installed. There was at one time a short covered passageway between the dwelling and lighthouse. The light was automated and converted to solar power in 1966. In 1989 the Maine Historic Preservation Commission refurbished the light but in 1991 the Coast Guard announced plans to deactivate the light, allowing that trees obscured a clear view of the beacon. Complaints from local mariners convinced the Coast Guard to reconsider and the trees were trimmed a bit.
Plans for discontinuation of Baker Island Light were renewed in 1997. Local mariners and other again convinced the Coast Guard the light was needed but the problem with the trees remains an issue. The 123-acre wooded island is now part of Acadia National Park which offers summer excursions to the island from Northeast Harbor.
From Route 3 or 233 (Eagle Lake Road) in Mt.Desert take Route 198 south to Northeast Harbor. Turn left off Route 198 in Northeast Harbor at Harbor Drive (sign indicates "marina"). The Islesford Ferry, docked at Northeast Harbor Marina, offers trips to the island. A naturalist (sponsored by Acadia National Park) accompanies visitors and leads a walk which includes a visit to the lighthouse. Also by custom charter.