When Boston Light lit up on tiny, 3-acre Brewster Island in 1716, it was the country’s first lighthouse, and one of the only such structures in the world at that time. The current lighthouse, built in 1783, is the second oldest working lighthouse in the U.S. It was automated in 1998 but was still staffed by a civilian lighthouse keeper until December 30, 2023, making it the last staffed lighthouse in the United States.
The city constructed it in response to the rising number of shipwrecks and groundings in Boston Harbor, which is notoriously difficult to enter. Boston wanted to stay competitive with New York City’s rising success as a commercial harbor. The lighthouse’s wooden structure has made it susceptible to fire over the years, and it has burned several times. Chartered ferry trips and tours are the only way to access the island and tour the lighthouse.
Boston Light uses a second-order Fresnel lens. Installed in 1859, the lens is about 11 feet tall and 15 feet in circumference. It is the only second-order Fresnel lens still in use in Massachusetts.