The white limestone tower is what stands out, of course, on postcards and calendars and thousands of photos taken by tourists each year.
If you care to linger at the Portland Head lighthouse, however, you begin to appreciate other aspects of the rocky promontory that juts into Casco Bay from Fort Williams Park. Look through a porthole window while climbing the 89 steps inside the tower, take in the calm sea far below and consider that, during some storms, spray from crashing waves will splash windows on the second floor of the keepers’ quarters.
Lighthouse keepers haven’t been in residence since 1989, because of automation. The town of Cape Elizabeth rented out the second-floor apartment until 1998, when a couple with a baby moved out and the staff from the museum and gift shop took over the space. That baby — who happens to be my daughter — is now a high school sophomore who’s still soothed by the sounds of foghorn blasts.
As for the lighthouse, Thursday marked the end of its 222nd year of use. The first oil lamp was lit on Jan. 10, 1791.