Posted by: tflana | June 25, 2018

A Historical Find?

Historical Bakers Island Picture

Historical picture of the 2 towers on Baker’s Island, Ma Baker is the tower in the back ground

     One of the favorite past times Brian has on the old USCG lighthouse islands, is looking for the old dump and he spends time looking for treasures. Over the past few weeks, he has found a 1942 Coca Cola bottle and a few other machinery parts. But on Saturday afternoon, he came into the house with a huge smile on his face and said he found pay dirt! He thought he found a full stair and the gallery decks from Ma Baker!


     Saturday night, Brian and I spent time on line researching the history of cast iron use in lighthouses and a little more about the tower known as Ma Baker. Here is a quick review of the smaller tower’s history on Baker’s Island. In 1816, a small octagonal tower was built on the island that stood 26 feet tall and 75 feet above sea level. A taller second tower was conical is shape and built in 1820. Most likely, Ma Baker, the smaller tower, was built of stone and had granite steps ascending the tower. In 1857, Fresnel lenses were installed in both towers and both towers were lined with brick at this time. Cast iron became the popular choice of stairs and railings in lighthouses starting in the 1840’s (as noted in Historic Lighthouse Preservation Handbook). It is possible when the Fresnel lens was installed in Ma Baker, the stair structure and pedestals needed to be upgraded to support the heavier lens in the tower, and a cast iron spiral staircase would have been in vogue at the time and far stronger than the old stairs. The cast iron staircase would have wound up to the gallery decks which would sit on top of the tower masonry. When Ma Baker was dismantled in 1926, and Pa Baker had some much needed repairing, the mechanic, John Robinson found an 1847 penny under Pa Baker’s pedestal, which backs up the timing of the cast iron installation of the gallery decks in the taller tower as well.

     When Ma Baker was dismantled, her debris was pushed down the hill to the west of the Engine House. And this leads us back to Brian’s search for treasures. There are piles of loose bricks and pieces of mortared bricks and granite pieces mixed in, but if you have a pry bar, a pair of loppers to cut down vegetation and a strong pair of gloves, you can easily move the debris piles around and find historical items, like the cast iron stairs and gallery decks.

The 3 Pieces assembled as a stair case

The 3 pieces of the cast iron staircase assembled with a little help to stabilize the pieces

     When Brian took me out to the Engine House to show me his treasures combined with the pieces Essex Heritage had found, I was able to recreate how the pieces fit together like a jig saw puzzle. Brian had also cleared around the cast iron gallery decks which were partially lined with brick and mortar, most likely where the decks were sitting on top of Ma Baker’s masonry structure. However, the 4 pieces he uncovered were far to heavy for us to lift and carry up the hill. He worked out a system with the ATV to drag the 4 pieces up the hill without anything or anyone damaged. We still have not had a chance to try to put these pieces together to represent how they would have sat on top of the tower, but it will be fun to work on over the next week and I am sure now the weekend guests are gone, Brian will be spending more time on the hunt for buried treasures.



Information found in Historic Lighthouse Preservation Handbook (August 1997 ) and Baker’s Island Light History – A Virtual Guide written by Jeremy D’Entremont


  1. How exciting! Treasures, indeed.

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