The Rockland Breakwater and Lighthouse rises prominently along Rockland’s coast. Its history dates back to the time when the thriving limestone industry dominated the Maine industry for two centuries. Limestones were heated in kilns to produce the sought-after lime which was used in building construction. The lime export, along with shipbuilding, fishing and fish processing fueled Rockland’s economy, as well as ice harvesting, granite quarrying, and steamship transportation. Rockland’s harbor was the busiest during these times.
In the late 1800’s, a breakwater made of granite was built to protect the harbor. It was almost a mile long. Over 700,000 tons of granite were used and a quarter of a million dollars was spent for this breakwater. A beacon was established and it was moved because the breakwater was extended several times. Charles Ames, the light attendant was hired to keep watch and he struck a metal triangle whenever a fog signal was needed. He was given $25 a month for his job. This was the beginning of the Rockland Breakwater Light.
In 1902, the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse was established. Congress gave $30,000 for its construction. The Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse was made out of a 25-foot brick tower. A keeper’s house made of wood was attached to a brick fog signal building. The Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse was equipped by a fourth-order Fresnel lens. On October 30, 1902, the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse was lighted for the first time.
In the 1960s, the Coast Guard said that they would dismantle the structure. Amid public clamor against the destruction of the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse, the Samoset Resort took over the upkeep of this historic structure. In 1998, the Rockland City Council took over the upkeep of the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse under the Maine Lights Program.
According to the Rockland City Council, this move was a way to preserve their history because the Rockland Breakwater Light is central to their heritage. The emblem and letterhead of the City of Rockland bear the image and symbol of the Rockland Breakwater Light.
In 1999, volunteers started to restore the Rockland Breakwater and Lighthouse. Now, the Rockland Breakwater and Lighthouse boasts of a float and a ramp so that people can access the restored site without having to walk the Rockland Breakwater. In 2003, the interior of the lighthouse was also restored. A mahogany bench was also placed on the boat deck so tourists can enjoy the view from the Rockland Breakwater. Tourists can also enjoy the Rockland Breakwater and the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse by taking a boat trip on one of the ferries that travel pass the Rockland Breakwater on their way to the islands of Vinalhaven and North Haven.