Maine: An Encyclopedia

Boothbay Harbor

Location Map for Boothbay Harbor

Location Map for Boothbay Harbor

Year Population
1970 2,320
1980 2,207
1990 2,347
2000 2,334
2010 2,165
Boothbay Harbor Population Chart 1890-2010

Population Trend 1890-2010

Geographic Data
N. Latitude 43:50:50
W. Latitude 69:38:04
Maine House District 89
Maine Senate District 13
Congress District 1
Area sq. mi. (total) 9.2
Area sq. mi. (land) 5.8
Population/sq.mi. (land) 373.3
County: Lincoln

Total=land+water; Land=land only

[BOOTH-bay HAR-br] is a town in Lincoln County, incorporated on February 16, 1889 from land set off from the town of Boothbay. It is a major attraction for summer visitors with its shops, restaurants, art galleries, marinas, and recreational fishing opportunities.

Boothbay Harbor (2001)

Boothbay Harbor (2001)

Boothbay Harbor (2001)

Boothbay Harbor (2001)

Tours to coastal islands, whale watching, and a safe and engaging harbor for sailors are some of the attractions for summer visitors. The town’s history as a tourist destination is a long one. Note references in the 1931 Town Warrant to support of promotional efforts.

The Opera House at Boothbay Harbor (2013)

The Opera House at Boothbay Harbor (2013) @

The Congregational Church of Boothbay Harbor (2013)

The Congregational Church of Boothbay Harbor (2013) @

Boothbay Harbor’s population remained surprisingly stable in the thirty years from 1970 to 2000, though a modest decrease was reported in 2010. In the summer, tens of thousands of tourists roam the Harbor’s streets and frequent its restaurants and tour boats.

Aquarium at the Department of Marine Resources (2013)

Aquarium at the Department of Marine Resources (2013) @

Department of Marine Resources in Boothbay Harbor (2013)

Department of Marine Resources (2013) @

Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences (2001)

Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences (2001)

The town hosts the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, a private, non-profit research institution.

Funded primarily by federal grants, it cooperates with the Maine Department of Marine Resources in operating a Library and Information Center to support researchers, students and visiting investigators.

In August 2013 the 2013 Maine State Optimist Championship sailing event was held in Boothbay Harbor.  Scores of sailing dinghies dotted the inner and outer portions of the harbor.

Optimist Sailing Dinghies the Harbor (2013)

Optimist Sailing Dinghies the Harbor (2013) @

Boothbay Region Historical Society (2013)

Boothbay Region Historical Society (2013) @

Launching of a ship, 4 mast schooner James E. Newson, Boothbay Harbor, Maine (c. 1920)

Launching of a ship, 4 mast schooner James E. Newson, Boothbay Harbor, Maine (c. 1920)

The Boothbay Regional Historic Society is located at the 1874 Elizabeth F. Reed house and its grounds, Fullerton Park. The society has traditionally represented three towns: Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor, and Southport. Southport also has its own museum. Historically, Boothbay Harbor, along with its neighbors, has been known for its shipbuilding in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The late former Congressman Stanley Tupper was born here in 1921. A Republican, he became an independent spokesman for environmental and other progressive issues.

National Register of Historic Places – Listings

Auld–McCobb House

[Oak Street] The 1807 Auld-McCob House is one of the distinguished landmarks in Boothbay Harbor, and the oldest brick house. It was occupied by the families of merchant partners Jacob Auld and Joseph McCobb. At the close of the 18th century, Boothbay Harbor had developed into a thriving community by virtue of its proximity to coastal trade routes and fishing grounds. Among its most important businesses were fishing, shipbuilding and general retail businesses.

Auld-McCobb House front view (1985) Auld-McCobb House rear view (1985)

Joseph McCobb (1780-1825), the son of a merchant father, acquired his own business about 1797. Three years later Jacob Auld (1781-1835) opened a general store. Soon the two men merged their separate businesses into the firm of Auld and McCobb, with both partners remaining active until their deaths. In 1807 McCobb married Auld’s sister Margaret Auld, and the following year Auld wed Sarah Reed. It is thought that the brick double house was built about this time, an event which would clearly indicate the firm’s prosperity in the period prior to the War of 1812.

The building occupies an important position in the community’s architectural history. With only a handful of exceptions (most of which are limited to later 19th century commercial buildings), Boothbay Harbor’s architectural fabric is limited to wooden frame buildings. While many of these exhibit Federal period stylistic elements, few have the window sash arrangement and door configuration which are characteristic of early to mid-Federal style architecture in Maine. Furthermore, the overall scale of the Auld-McCobb House is uncommon in Boothbay Harbor.* [Frank A. Beard photos]

Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library

Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library (2002)

Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library (2002)

[Maine Route 27] The noble, impressively sited 1842 Greek Revival Temple Style building that houses the Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library was built as a private home by Cyrus McKown. Inheriting a commercial fishing business in Townsend Gut, McKown developed a highly successful shipping and shipbuilding enterprise in Boothbay Harbor. By the middle of the 19th century he had become one of the most important entrepreneurs in the community and built a home befitting his station.

In 1873 he sold the house to Chapman Reed whose heirs sold it to the town in 1923 for the Free Memorial Library dedicated to those who gave their lives in the World War. A free library, founded by vote of the town in 1906, had occupied various rented quarters until 1922 when a bond issue was authorized to purchase the Reed House. Apart from its obvious architectural merit and ties with Boothbay Harbor’s maritime history, the Library is a great example of preservation through adaptive re-use.*

Pythian Opera House

[86 Townsend Avenue] The Pythian Opera House, known as the Boothbay Harbor Opera House, is a substantial, architecturally impressive 3½ story structure designed by the Portland architectural team of Francis H. Fassett and his son Edward F. Fassett. Erected by the Pythian Hall Company in 1894, the handsome Queen Anne style building with Shingle Style details housed Boothbay Harbor’s governmental functions until the 1930s. It served as the meeting halls for two fraternal organizations into the 1960s. It was also an important public hall used by the community as a site for entertainment and recreation until the late 1980s. The Pythian Opera House is significant for its long term association with the social and governmental history of the town and for its architectural significance.* [See photo above.]

In the early 21st century, it has been a popular performance space operated by a non-profit organization.

Burnt Island Light Station

Burnt Island Light Station (2001)

Burnt Island Light Station (2001)

The 1821 Light Station is on the west side of the entrance to Boothbay Harbor. Its purpose was the safe guidance of ships into the Harbor about 1 1/2 miles away. The mission and buildings are basically the same today.

In 1888, a dead angle was put into the lantern at to prevent ships from becoming confused and get wrecked on rocks called the Cuckolds. About 1890 the light was changed from fixed white to fixed red with two white sectors covering the fairways into the Harbor. Two years later, the light was changed to flashing red every five seconds with two white sectors to prevent confusion with the other lights near the entrance. The lighthouse keepers were required to anticipate and prepare for malfunctions, enabling the light to remain operational through all kinds of weather.*

According to the the website “Burnt Island 2010,”

In April 1962, Burnt Island Light became the last lighthouse in New England to be converted from kerosene to electricity. Then, in 1988, it became one of the last Maine lights to be automated. Today the light is produced by a modern 300 mm lens.

Ram Island Light Station

Ram Island Light (1986)

Ram Island Light (1986)

[Ram Island, Boothbay Harbor] The 1883 Light Station, a guide to Boothbay Harbor, is the lone occupant of shallow Ram Island. The complex has maintained integrity of design, setting and association for over 100 years. A light station that would guide shipping in and around Boothbay Harbor was clearly needed in 1883 considering the nature of commerce at this busy port. [1986 photo by Frank A. Beard.]

Lobstering near Ram Island (2008)

Lobstering near Ram Island (2008)

In addition, Boothbay was rapidly developing a summer tourist industry that supported at least seven hotels and boarding houses. Steamboats from the village to Bath, Wiscasset, Augusta, Portland, and Boston needed assistance in navigating the area. The Light Station was automated in 1965.

Boothbay Harbor (2001)

Boothbay Harbor (2001)

Form of Government: Town Meeting-Select Board-Manager.

Additional resources

Burnt Island 2010. “”About Burnt Island.” (accessed February 26, 2015)

Chadbourne, Ava Harriet. Maine Place Names and The Peopling of its Towns

O’Brien-Merrill, Julie. One Hundred Years of Bayville History, 1911-2011. Maine. 2011.

Isaacson, Dorris A. Maine: A Guide Downeast.

Kappel, Philip. Boothbay Harbor, A Portfolio of Sketches. New York. Detroit Press. c1924.

McDougall & Keefe, photographer. “Launching of a ship, 4 mast schooner James E. Newson, Boothbay Harbor, Maine (c. 1920).” Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. (accessed December 13, 2017)

*Maine. Historic Preservation Commission. Augusta, Me.   Text and black & white  photos from National Register of Historic Places: and

Auld-McCobb House:
Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library: 77000077.PDF
Burnt Island Light Station: 77000139.PDF
Pythian (Boothbay Harbor) Opera House: 08001256.PDF
Ram Island Light Station: 87002280.PDF

Rumsey, Barbara. (e.d.) Boothbay Region Historical Sketches.  Selections from Out of Our Past. 3 Vols. Boothbay Harbor, Me. Boothbay Region Historical Society. ??, c1999, 2006.

Rumsey, Barbara. Colonial Boothbay: Mid-1600s to 1775. East Boothbay, Me. Winnegance House; Boothbay Harbor, Me. Boothbay Regional Historical Society, c2000.

Thomas, Jennifer L. Archaeological Investigations in the Boothbay Region, Maine. Orono, Me. 1995 (Thesis (M.S.) in Quaternary Studies–University of Maine, 1995)

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