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Mary Island Lighthouse

The Mary Island Light Station is a lighthouse located roughly twenty-five miles south of Ketchikan and about the same distance north of the Canadian border. In 1890, the Lighthouse Board requested funds for a lighthouse and fog signal on Mary Island, after noting for Congress the increased commerce in Alaskan waters due to the Gold Rush in the Klondike.

Construction commenced in May 1903 on Alaska’s fourth lighthouse. The first Mary Island lighthouse consisted of an octagonal, one-story building with a smaller octagonal tower extending from its center to a height of nearly fifty feet. It housed a fourth-order Chance Brothers Fresnel lens that beamed forth a fixed white light at a focal plane of sixty-seven feet above the water. A Daboll trumpet served as the station’s fog signal.

A pair of galvanized-iron oil houses were placed forty-feet west of the lighthouse, while two one-and-a-half story frame dwellings were built an additional sixty feet farther west. A boathouse and boat launch were also provided to facilitate access to the station. After a customs house was relocated to Ketchikan in 1900, the keepers and their families had the island practically to themselves.

The Light Station was opened in 1903 and was one of a series of staffed lights established to guide ships through the treacherous waters of Southeast Alaska's Inside Passage. In 1937, a concrete lighthouse and fog signal building replaced the original wood tower. The station was automated in 1969 and the radio beacon was removed. No other buildings and structures at the station stand today, other than an outhouse. Each year, vegetation covers more and more of the lighthouse area.

In 2005, the Fresnel Lens from Mary Island Lighthouse was on display as part of a shipwreck exhibit at the Juneau-Douglas Museum. While the lens appears to be in great condition, the lighthouse on Mary Island is showing signs of neglect. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Mary Island Light Station in 2005.


A 52 Weeks of Fun Fascinating Fact about Mary Island Lighthouse

The red sector, a narrow pane of ruby glass placed in the lantern room, warned vessels of Twin Islands, a navigational hazard located just over three miles north of the lighthouse.

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