Fort Pickering

Fort Pickering Lighthouse
Fort Pickering
Current Version Built:
Height (ft):
City of Salem

Fort Pickering Lighthouse can be found on Winter Island, a peninsular on the northern shore at the entrance to Salem Bay. The lighthouse takes its name from the nearby historic fortress that was built here in 1643.

Salem Harbour is the second deepest harbour in the state of Massachusetts, once making it an important refuge for larger ships, especially in times of war, however the harbour's importance waned after the war of 1812.

The small lighthouse was one of three in the area that were given the go-ahead to build in 1869, making a chain of lights along the bay with Hospital Point and Derby Wharf. The tower is a small brick-lined cast iron type, standing atop a concrete foundation. Built in 1780 and entering service on the night of January 17th 1871, the light was originally painted either red or brown all over and was reached by a footbridge from the shore, where a small keeper’s dwelling was provided.

The US Coastguard established an air station for seaplanes on Winter Island in 1935, just west of the lighthouse. These facilities included barracks, a hangar and a ramp into the water for launching and recovering the aircraft, becoming the first such station on the eastern seaboard to be designated part of the Air-Sea rescue service.

Following the introduction of helicopters to replace sea planes in the late 1960s, Coast Guard facilities without land-based landing strips were gradually closed, with Coast Guard Air Station Salem closing in 1970. With the US Coast Guard's departure from Winter Island, the lighthouse was replaced by a marker buoy and gradually fell into disrepair.

In 1978 the entrance door to the tower was ripped off by a storm. A few years later Fort Pickering Light Association was formed, going on to restore the lighthouse to operation as a privately light.

Nowadays Winter Island is a popular recreational area, the apron on which the seaplanes used to be parked is now the carpark, from which the lighthouse can be viewed.