• Lush vegetation on the top of Spectacle Island's North drumlin dominates the foreground. Boston's skyline can be seen in the distance.  The park's logo with tag line minutes away, worlds apart empashises the stark contrast between the city and islands.

    Boston Harbor Islands

    National Recreation Area Massachusetts

Island Facts: Little Brewster

Home to Boston Light, the oldest lighthouse site in the country.

 
Alternate Names
Island names have changed, depending on ownership and the customs of the times. What's in a Name? lists alternate names for park islands (and a few Harbor islands not within the park). Following are known names for Little Brewster Island:
  • Beacon Island (1715)
  • Light House Island
 
This bedrock outcropping is one of the Brewsters, a group of the outermost islands in the park. It is an active Coast Guard navigational aid facility, so the buildings are not open to the casual visitor and there are no public rest rooms on the island. A carry-in/carry-out policy applies to all trash.
 

Short History
This two-acre island is best known as the home of Boston Light, the country's oldest continually used lighthouse site (1716). Originally financed by a tax of a penny-a-ton on all vessels entering and leaving the harbor, the stone lighthouse was largely destroyed by the British when they evacuated Boston at the close of the Revolutionary War, but was rebuilt in 1783. In 1859, the tower was raised 14 feet to its present height of 102 feet above sea level, enabling its light to flash 27 miles out into the Atlantic. By 1990, the Coast Guard had automated every lighthouse in the United States, with Boston Light scheduled to be last in the process. Preservation groups appealed to Congress and the Coast Guard and funding was appropriated to keep Coast Guard staff on the island, where they remain to this day, recording meteorological data in addition to maintaining the light and structures on the island.

Boston Light is a National Historic Landmark, listed in the National Register of Historic Places. For more information about the facility, please go to the National Park Service Maritime Heritage Program Inventory of Historic Light Stations.

 

General Information
This island of Boston Harbor Islands national park area is managed by U.S. Coast Guard, First District.

Agency Designation: Light Station Boston
Current Use: Aid to navigation; park purposes
Harbor Location: Outer Harbor
Acreage: 7 (upland acres: 2.9; intertidal acres: 4.17)
Highest elevation: 18 feet
Longitude: 42° 19' 45.6" North
Latitude: 70° 53' 30.5" West
Miles from Long Wharf: 9.33

 
Visitor Facilities & Services
The Boston Light tower is open for group tours during spring, summer, and fall by arrangement only: call 617-223-8666. Little Brewster Island is open to private boaters on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 12:30 PM to 3:00 PM for drop-off and pick-up only-No docking. Boaters must anchor off shore.
Hours:
By arrangement
Piers/Docks:
Yes
Visitor season:
0
Boat slips:
0
Visitor staff:
Yes
Moorings:
0
Guided tours:
Yes
Park boats:
Park tour boat
Lifeguards:
No
Car access:
No
Flush toilets:
No
Campsites:
0 (capacity ea: 0)
Composting toilets:
No
Group campsites:
0 (capacity ea: 0)
Picnic areas:
No
Camping capacity:
0
Refreshments:
No
Cooking grills:
0
Drinking water:
No
Walking trails:

No

On-island Circulation: Concrete paths link the lighthouse, keeper's house, sheds and the dock facilities that are on the west side of island.

Visitor Cautions: The island is composed of rock outcrops and bluffs that are sharp, slippery and steep thus visitors should be careful and stay on paths.

 

Natural History Overview
Vegetation
Most of the island is covered with mowed turf. Some seasonal flowers are planted around the keepers house.

Wildlife
Survey in progress.

Geology
The island is composed of exposed bedrock and covered with a thin layer of soil.

Water Features
Two cisterns collect rainwater for the keepers. One is located in the keeper's house. The other larger cistern is housed under a hip-roofed shed that collects rain.

Views and Vistas
Rising 89 feet, visitors that ascend the light with the permission of the U. S. Coast Guard staff enjoy excellent views of the Brewsters, the Graves, Hull, the inner islands and the Boston skyline, almost ten miles away. On the ground the island offers unrestricted views due to the lack of vegetation

 

Structures
Buildings

  • Lighthouse - 89-feet high; rubble stone, brick and granite; strengthened with iron bands
  • One-story, brick lighthouse entry building (attached to tower)
  • Keeper's house - 1-1/2 story frame and clapboard
  • Cistern and shelter - one-story wooden, hipped roof shed and 20,000-gallon tank
  • Generator building - one-story, one-room stone structure with mounted foghorn
  • Oil house - one-story, white painted brick.

Fortifications

  • None

Other Structures

  • Pier - concrete and steel; formerly with marine railway to boathouse
 
 

Did You Know?

Airplane at Boston Logan Airport 1941

Boston Logan International Airport sits upon land that used to be four islands – Apple, Bird, Noodles and Governors Islands. Today, visitors travel past Boston’s Logan International Airport on their way to explore Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. More...