Deed To Bakers Island Light Station Transferred From The United States Government To The Essex National Heritage Commission
August 27, 2014 (Salem, MA) – The deed to historic Bakers Island Light Station was transferred today from the United States government to the Essex National Heritage Commission (Essex Heritage). Essex Heritage plans to preserve the masonry lighthouse, two keepers’ houses, and lantern and oil buildings to make them accessible to the public through escorted, guided boat tours leaving from Salem.
Bakers Island Light Station is located on Bakers Island in Salem Sound, a 60 acre island with a large summer colony. The 10 acre light station is located in the northwest quadrant of the island, and has been owned and operated by the federal government since 1798. The rest of the island is in private ownership including the Bakers Island Wharf. There is currently no public access to the island.
Essex Heritage CEO Annie Harris said, “We plan to work with the island association to open up the light station to the public. But it needs to be a gradual process. The light station will not be open to boaters or kayakers to just ‘drop-in’ for the foreseeable future. It will only be open for guided tours that Essex Heritage will arrange and manage.” The only access to the light station is by landing on the rocky beach and scrambling up the embankment. Visitors are not permitted to use the private wharf. There are a limited number of boats in Salem Sound that can safely execute this maneuver and only during the summer when the seas are generally calm.
Ms. Harris said, “We will be looking to establish a regular schedule to bring visitors from Salem via a 30 minute boat ride to the light station for guided tours, with probably an hour on the island and then back to Salem. We hope to have a few tours in place by next summer.”
Essex Heritage is a regional a non-profit, affiliated with the National Park Service, which provides numerous programs that foster the preservation, enhancement and enjoyment of Essex County’s historic, natural and cultural resources. Essex Heritage’s signature event is Trails & Sails –- 6 days of free events throughout the North Shore and Merrimack Valley during the last two weekends of September. Essex Heritage also promotes the development of the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway and the Border to Boston Rail Trail. Other programs include an annual grant program for non-profits and municipalities, a summer teacher workshop on place-based education, and the future leaders job corps program, both of which are coordinated in partnership with the National Park Service.
The official deed transfer ceremony took place on the island. Speaking during the program were US Coast Guard Rear Admiral Linda Fagan who is the Commander of the First Coast Guard District, Massachusetts State Senator Joan Lovely, Salem Mayor Kimberly Driscoll, New England Regional Commissioner for the General Services Administration Glenn Rotondo, Eastern Bank Senior Vice President John Farmer, who is the volunteer Vice President of the Essex Heritage Board, Bakers Island Wharf Company President Steven Striebel, and Annie Harris. They spoke about the significant history of the Light Station where the first aid to navigation was erected in 1791 and the Bakers Island’s keeper who, during the War of 1812, saved the USS Constitution when she was being chased by British ships of war by piloting her to the safety of Marblehead Fort Sewall’s cannon. They talked about the importance of the maritime legacy to the economic prosperity of Massachusetts past and present and how pleased they are that this property will enter into a new life of service for public enjoyment and education.
In her closing remarks, Harris said, “This is an exciting opportunity but there are also some substantial challenges, too. Our pledge to the nation is to take care of this historic property and open it up for the public’s enjoyment and education, but we also understand the need to balance these goals with the concerns of the summer residents. We are committed to finding the right balance for all.”
Pictured (left to right): John Farmer, Essex Heritage Vice President; Glenn Rotondo, NE Regional Commissioner for GSA; Annie Harris, Essex Heritage CEO; Mayor Kim Driscoll, City of Salem; Rear Admiral Linda Fagan, US Coast Guard District 1; Steve Striebel, President, Bakers Island Wharf Company; MA State Senator Joan Lovely.