Since 1819, it has been the prominent structure you first see when you enter Sippican Harbor. The Bird Island Lighthouse guided ships for 114 years until 1933. To this day, boaters and residents can still see it.
Given its longevity, there is no doubting the amount of history and the stories to be told about the structure. The Sippican Historical Society is inviting the public to check out their newest exhibit, which highlights several artifacts and paintings of Bird Island.
“We were looking for things we had history on to make a full exhibit,” said Curator Pete Smith. “With this particular lighthouse, we had a lot of stuff on it. We filled the entire room with it.”
When the lighthouse was originally constructed in the 1800s, it was built upon a five-acre plot of land, Smith said. The light keeper’s house as well as a boathouse accompanied it. However, due to erosion from hurricanes and other storms, the land has withered away to one acre of land. The lighthouse remains the only structure intact on the island today after the hurricane of 1938 ravaged the rest of the buildings.
“They have relit the lighthouse, but I don’t think in today’s world with the navigation and radar, it is what it used to be,” said Smith, who is a lifelong Marion resident and has been collecting historical items for the past 50 years.
While the lighthouse might not be used in the same capacity it was a century ago, Sippican Historical Society gives the perfect glimpse into its significance through its 27 pieces. All of the parts of the exhibit have been donated by residents or have come from the federal government.
In addition to photographs and newspaper articles, there are also light keeper logs, vessel journals, souvenir Bird Island China, a brass bell used to alert ships in the harbor of emergencies, and even original garments worn by the light keeper.
“I think you have to have an interest in history and in your hometown,” said Smith. “I like Marion and I like its history.”
The Bird Island exhibit can be seen all throughout the year at the Sippican Historical Society’s Museum located on Front Street next to the Post Office. Admission is free, however donations are always accepted. The exhibit can be viewed during the museum’s normal hours from Tuesday through Friday from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm or on Saturday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. For more information, call the Sippican Historical Society at 508-748-1116.
By Katy Fitzpatrick