Visitors at Lighthouses
Visiting lighthouses eighty-plus years ago was not nearly as prevalent as it is today. It was not that the public did not have a fascination with lighthouses and their keepers – for they certainly did, but rather the concept of just getting to a lighthouse was much more difficult from a transportation (roads and vehicles) perspective. In addition, the tourism industry was not near as large and widespread as it is today.
To think that a popular lighthouse like Bass Harbor Head recorded only 3,800 visitors in the year 1938. Today, each year during Maine Open Lighthouse Day in September, anywhere from 500 to 750 visitors climb Bass Harbor Head Light in a mere six hours.
From the April 1939 U.S. Lighthouse Service Bulletin…
“It has been estimated that more than a third of a million people visit the country’s lighthouses in the course of each year, in the Northern States these visits being largely confined to the summer months, the peak month being August. Figures compiled by the keepers of lighthouses show in an interesting manner, those lighthouses which are looked upon by the general public as the most interesting, having in mind, of course, the question of accessibility.
(Later) “At lighthouses where the number of visitors is high, the work of the lighthouse keepers is made particularly arduous, for not only must they attend to all their usual duties, but must also climb the tower with each group of visitors. At certain of the most popular stations, it is necessary during visiting hours for one keeper to be stationed constantly at the top of the tower, while another keeper remains below and admits visitors in groups of suitable size.”
Bass Harbor Head was listed as the most visited lighthouse in the First District with 3,800 visitors from the previous year (1938).