There has been a lighthouse since 1839 on Bear Island, smallest of the Cranberry Islands at the entrance to Northeast Harbor. The current light, 31 feet of brick that sits 100 feet above sea level, was built in 1889. Only a few hundred yards from Mount Desert Island, this was usually a pleasant assignment for a keeper and his family.
After 13 keepers and 142 years of operation, the light was discontinued in 1981. When Acadia National Park took possession of Bear Island in 1987, many people assumed the lighthouse, by then quite decrepit, would be demolished. Others, however, wanted it to remain in place, and a restoration effort led by Friends of Acadia saved the property.
The light, which flashes white every five seconds, also was turned back on in 1989, as a private aid to navigation.
Since the early 1990s, under a long-term lease from the national park, the house has been the private summer home for a university professor and his family, who spent three years renovating it, and who have agreed to pay for its maintenance and repairs.
The lighthouse is best viewed from various tour boats, or the mailboat to the Cranberry Islands.