Back to our regularly scheduled programming! Life got in the way for a few weeks but let's dive right back into our exploration of beacons around the world!
This week, we journey to the easternmost tip of the United States in Lubec, Maine. This area abounds with American and Canadian lighthouses: Lubec Channel, East Quoddy, West Quoddy, and our subject this week: Mulholland Point Lighthouse. Mulholland is located just inside the Canadian border on Campobello Island, best known today for being a former summer vacation location for US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Mulholland Point Light is the only lighthouse shared by both Canada and the US. Technically, there is another lighthouse on land claimed by both nations but we'll get to that another day. Not many resources remain detailing the history of Mulholland, but we do know that the structure standing today is the original light.
Since most of the history of the light is not well documented (or at least not very accessible), we'll take a deep dive into Campobello Island instead. We'll be coming back to this area again for the other 3 lighthouses, so the context is important.
Long before the island became associated with FDR, Campobello was occupied by the Passamaquoddy Native American / First Nation tribe. Today, this tribe is federally recognized in Maine but does not have an official First Nation status in Canada. Their ancestral lands straddled the border of what is now Maine and New Brunswick. Today the tribe owns and maintains about 200,000 acres of tribal lands in Maine. After European settlers began arriving on the east coast, Campobello became spotted with French and then English trading posts. The island was under English control in 1713, and by 1765 the Scottish and Irish had moved up from New England.
Back then, the island was known as Passamoquoddy. In 1767, Captain William Owen received a grant for the island from the Governor General of Nova Scotia, Sir William Campbell. Three years later, Owens renamed the island to Campobello after Sir William, and brought 38 New England settlers to inhabit the island. A variety of crops were planted and 15 homes were built. Along with the English population that was already there, the island population was about 75. A century later, the island population had blossomed to 1,000 in 1862.
The island shifted its focus from crops and fishing by the late 1870s, and 2 new industries took hold: rum running and summer resorts. In 1881, a group of Boston and New York businessmen purchased Captain Owens' property and converted it into a summer resort and vacation land. Luxury hotels and vacation homes sprang up on the island. James and Sarah Roosevelt, along with their son Franklin, first visited the island in 1883. The family later purchased land and built a home on the island.
Mulholland Point Lighthouse was built in the mid-1880s to guide fishermen and small vessels through the Lubec Narrows that separates Campobello Island from the mainland. The lighthouse is a 44-foot tall wood octagonal structure, with a base diameter of 22 feet. The base is white with a red iron lantern sitting about 60 feet above sea level. Originally, the light was a Seventh Order lens powered by an oil lamp.
The summer tourism boom lasted until about 1910. A large gift of land was made to the Canadian government in 1959, and the Herring Cove Provincial Park was established. This chunk of land was predominantly the northern half of the island. Just 3 years later, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Bridge was constructed from Lubec and access to the island became significantly easier.
Around this time, FDR's descendants initiated discussions of donating their family property for public enjoyment. Since the island is part of New Brunswick, the family offered the land to the Canadian government, despite its significance lying with a US president.
In the early 1960s, navigational lights were added to the causeway, making Mulholland obsolete. The lighthouse was decommissioned and later donated to what became the Roosevelt Campobello International Park in 1964. The park is unique in that it is a joint effort between the US and Canadian governments as an expression of the close relationship between the two countries. The 34-room Roosevelt residence is the centerpiece of the park and is staffed and funded by both nations.
If you plan to visit Campobello Island and Mulholland Lighthouse, the easiest way to get there is actually by car from the US side. The FDR Memorial Bridge allows easy access from Lubec. Otherwise, you can take a ferry from Deer Island, New Brunswick. Of course, Deer Island is only accessed via ferry as well, so 2 ferries are needed on the Canadian side.
Angus Newman (1926-1963)
Wells, Kate Gannett. Campobello; an Historical Sketch. [Boston, 1893] Image. https://www.loc.gov/item/05021064/.
The Last Lightkeeper, Downeast Fisheries Trail