May 25, 2021 The Future of Little Brewster Island and Boston Light
HBI was one of several organizations invited to join a May 19th boat trip to the nation’s first lighthouse – Boston Light – on Little Brewster Island in Boston Harbor. An iconic local landmark, Boston Light was built in 1716 and destroyed by the British in 1776. Rebuilt in 1781 and extended in 1856, it is the second oldest working navigational lighthouse in the US and will remain so under the auspices of the United States Coast Guard, even after a planned disposition of the island and other buildings on Little Bewster.
Over the last several decades, the Coast Guard has gradually automated many working lighthouses and sold or transferred them to private owners, local governments or non-profit organizations. Such will be the case for Little Brewster Island, which the Coast Guard has announced it wishes to deaccession. It has offered the opportunity to manage the island to its sister agency, the National Park Service, which is reaching out to various partners in maritime history, education, recreation and historic preservation to envision how this island and its rich history might be best made available for public and educational uses.
As a way to help potential partners understand the island and it’s cultural and historic resources, the Park Service invited Historic Boston Inc. (HBI) to join the US Coast Guard, the US General Services Administration, Boston Harbor Now and the Trustees to visit the island on May 19th. The 25 people on the trip were greeted by long-time Lighthouse Keeper and Boston Light expert Dr. Sally Snowman who introduced the group to the history of the island and its buildings, including a boathouse, cistern, keepers house, and lighthouse. Visitors climbed Boston Light’s 72 steps to the lantern room where we saw the 12-sided second order Fresnel lens and its workings.
Evaluation of the opportunity to further open Boston Light to the public will take place over the next several months. Readying the island for more intensive use will require a dock and evaluation of facilities for public uses, and plans will need to be considered for expanding educational programming, infrastructure and transportation from the mainland.
While access to Little Brewster is limited, many of Boston’s Harbor Islands are available for regular public visits through tours, hikes, camping and boating. Visit Boston Harbor Now or the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreational Area for more information about regular and seasonal activities.