Maine: An Encyclopedia

Vinalhaven Island

Carver's Harbor (2015)

Carver’s Harbor (2015)

Location Map of Vinalhaven

Location Map of Vinalhaven

Year Population
1970 1,135
1980 1,211
1990 1,072
2000 1,235
2010 1,165
Geographic Data
N. Latitude 44:04:30
W. Latitude 68:50:10
Maine House District 134
Maine Senate District 12
Congress District 1
Area sq. mi. (total) 192.8
Area sq. mi. (land) 25.3
Population/sq.mi. (land) 46.1
County: Knox

Total=land+water; Land=land only
Brown's Head Light, Postcard c. 1908

Brown’s Head Light, Postcard c. 1908

Fishing Boats Near Barton Island (2006)

Fishing Boats Near Barton Island (2006)

Brilliant Roses along the Shore (2006)

Brilliant Roses on Shore ’06

Chart of Vinalhaven and Surrounding Islands (NOAA 13305)

Chart of Vinalhaven and Surrounding Islands (NOAA 13305)

[VY-NUL-haa-vehn] is an island town in Knox County, incorporated on Jun e 25, 1789 from portions of North and South Fox Islands. It ceded land in 1846 to form the town of Fox Isle, now North Haven.

In 1878, Hurricane Isle, part of Vinalhaven, broke off to form its own town. But in 1921 it surrendered its status and was an unorganized township until reincorporated into Vinalhaven in 1937. Poet Harold Vinal, after whose ancestor (John Vinal) the town was named, wrote a poem about Hurricane Island.

Shops in the Village (2015)

Shops in the Village (2015)

Chamber of Commerce (2015)

Chamber of Commerce (2015)

The portion of the building housing the Chamber includes a Visitors Center and restrooms.

Settled in 1765 by the Carvers of Massachusetts, Vinalhaven became a major granite quarrying center, supplying the stone for New York’s Church of St. John the Devine and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Eagle Sculpture (2015

Eagle Sculpture (2015

The Waterfront (2015)

The Waterfront in the Village (2015)

According to one source: An island benefactor donated the granite eagle believing it was originally made of Vinalhaven granite. It was salvaged from part of a roof support. At the unveiling a “granite expert” revealed that the granite was not of Vinalhaven origin.  The town folks shrugged it off and kept it anyway.*

In October of 1836 the island, and nearby North Haven, witnessed a horrible fire aboard the Royal Tarr, a sidewheel steamer from New Brunswick carrying ninety people and a cargo of animals as a traveling circus.  Thirty one people drowned in the incident.

Granite quarrying was an important industry in the 19th and early 20th centuries, both on the main island and on nearby Hurricane Island, which is in the town of Vinalhaven.  The Granite Cutter’s Union was organized in 1877 and the Paving cutter’s Union, in 1901.  In the early 20th century, the use of concrete and rail transportation diminished the market for granite and ended the industry.

Small Cove at Long Cove (2006)

Small Cove at Long Cove (’06)

The island town is home to two nature preserves, both managed by the Nature Conservancy. Lane’s Island Preserve consists of rolling moors that run down to meet the sea on a 43 acre island joined to Vinalhaven by a stone causeway. Rough trails lead to beaches and bold shoreline, where the surf is spectacular on a stormy day.

In The Basin (2006)

In The Basin (2006)

Seals Basking in the Basin (2006)

Seals Basking, the Basin (’06)

The Vinalhaven- North Haven Archipelago Preserve features six islands (Big Garden, Big White, Sheep, Smith, Brimstone and Little Brimstone) that orbit the larger islands of Vinalhaven and North Haven in Penobscot Bay.

Supporting an impressive array of birds, most of the islands, with the exception of Brimstone, are without trails though are nice location for picnics and walks along the beach.

Granite mining was a major industry on the islands, as on many others in the nineteenth century. It attracted a large number of Irish workers, many of whom formed the first Fenian Circle in Maine.  The Fenian’s membership oath reflected their ultimate goal “. . . I will work with earnest zeal for the liberation of Ireland from the yoke of England and for the establishment of a free and  independent government on Irish soil . . . .”*  In 1866 hundreds of Fenians arrived in Eastport intent on invading English-ruled Canada.

A huge wheeled monster vehicle known as a”galamander,” listed below among Historic Places, was used for lifting and transporting granite blocks to awaiting ships.  See photos of the Robertson Quarry Galamander in Franklin.

The State Ferry Service provides transportation, for passengers and vehicles, to and from Rockland six times daily (in 2011).

Sailing West IconSailing East Icon<== Up West                                                        Downeast ==>

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

Brady G. Williams photos: Carver’s Harbor, Chamber of Commerce, Eagle Sculpture, Shops in the Village, The Waterfront.

Additional resources

Armstrong, Amy. Granite by the sea [moving image recording] : the History of Granite Quarrying on Vinalhaven Island. Vinalhaven, Me. Vinalhaven Historical Society. c2002.

*Barker, Matthew June. The Irish of Portland Maine: A History of Forest City Hibernians.  History Press. 2014. pp. 108-109.

A Brief Historical Sketch Of The Town Of Vinalhaven, From Its Earliest Known Settlement. Prepared By Vinalhaven (Me.). Centennial Committee. Rockland, Me. The Free Press Office. 1889.

A Brief Historical Sketch Of The Town Of Vinalhaven, From Its Earliest Known Settlement. Prepared By Vinalhaven (Me.). Centennial Committee. Rockland, Me. Press of the Star Job Print. 1900.

Clinton, Kelly. “Star of Hope Lodge.” Maine: the Magazine. August 2015. (accessed March 10, 2017)

Crossman, Phil. Away Happens. Hanover, N.H. University Press of New England. c2005.

*Firebird (a traveling blogger who visited Vinalhaven in 2014) (accessed April 22, 2017)

Gordon, John. The Burning of the Royal Tar Near Vinalhaven, Oct. 21st, 1836. Vinalhaven, Me. Gordon Press. [1937?]

Hollywood Comes to Vinalhaven [moving image recording]: the making of “Deep Waters”, a film by Army Armstrong. Vinalhaven, ME Vinalhaven Historical Society. c2007. “A documentary celebrating the 60th anniversary of the filming of Deep waters … Deep waters, an adaptation of Ruth Moore’s Spoonhandle, was filmed on Vinalhaven in 1947 …This documentary includes behind-the-scenes anecdotes, archival photographs and home movies, and reminiscences from island residents old enough to have experienced the production and young enough to remember”–Container DVD

Island Winter [moving image recording]. Produced by Accompany. Concord, NH. Accompany. c1998.

Lasansky, Jeannette. Island Saltwater Farms: Farming on Vinalhaven, 1820-1960. Vinalhaven, Me. Vinalhaven Historical Society. 2006.

**Maine. Historic Preservation Commission. Augusta, Me.  Text and photo from National Register of Historic Places:,

Browns Head Light Station: 83000460.PDF
Star of Hope Lodge: 82000767.PDF
Vinalhaven Galamander: 70000049.PDF

Richardson, Constance. Finest kind [moving image recording]. Cambridge, Mass. Dover Productions. c1976.

Sustainable Design for two Maine islands [Vinalhave and Peaks]: Final Report. Institute for Energy Conscious Design, Boston Architectural Center.  Boston, MA  BAC, c1985. Edited by Leslie Horst and Sarah P. Harkness.

Thibault, Sally. Vinalhaven [moving image recording]: Maine Msland Memories 1950-1990. Vinalhaven, Me.? Sally Thibault. 2007.

Vinalhaven [moving image recording]: a Historic Portrait of this Island Community. Pproduced by Accompany. Concord, NH. Accompany. c1996.

Vinalhaven Island. Vinalhaven Historical Society. Dover, NH. Arcadia. c1997.

Wilmerding, John. Robert Indiana and the Star of Hope. Rockland, Me. Farnsworth Art Museum.; New Haven, CT Distributed by Yale University Press. c2009.

Winslow, Sidney L. Fish Scales and Stone Chips. Vinalhaven, Me. Vinalhaven Historical Society. 1989. Rockland, Me. Courier-Gazette, Inc.

Winslow, Sidney L. Intimate Views Of Vinalhaven: History, Home Life And Personal Recollections. Rockland, Me. Rockland Courier-Gazette. 1944-1946.

National Register of Historic Places – Listings

Browns Head Light Station

Browns Head Light (2011)

Browns Head Light (2011)

[Browns Head] The light tower at Browns Head is one of the earliest designs, having been built in 1832 on order from President Andrew Jackson. It is the type of station in common use in the days before the Civil War. There was much shipping on Penobscot Bay when the light was erected and it became a key navigational aid particularly as a guide,to the entrance of the busy Fox Islands Thoroughfare. The keeper’s house dates from 1857 when the station was rehabilitated. The tower is original. This lighthouse has long been a mecca for summer visitors sailing their small boats on the Bay and Thoroughfare.**

Heron Neck Light Station

[Heron Neck, Greens Island]

Murch Family House

[Calderwood Neck SE side, 2 miles northeast of North Haven Road]

Pleasant River Grange No. 492

[Round Island Road, 0.15 miles east of junction with North Haven Road]

Saddleback Ledge Light Station

[Saddleback Ledge, Isle Au Haut Bay]

Star of Hope Lodge

Star of Hope Lodge (2015)[Maine Street] The Star of Hope Lodge is a notable architectural landmark. It is the only building of its period remaining on Maine Street, which once boasted a row of similarly distinctive structures. This impressive collection of buildings in what has now become a quiet resort and fishing community, dated from the great years when Vinalhaven was the center of the Maine granite industry.

The great columns in the nave of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City and the carved granite eagles which used to adorn Pennsylvania Station are but two outstanding examples of the products of this great industry. All this is over now, but the Star of Hope Lodge, once belonging to the International Order of Oddfellows, stands as a reminder.

Until recently the building, no longer used by the Oddfellows, was falling into a state of decay. Fortunately, it was purchased by Robert Indiana, the noted pop artist, known especially for his painting of the letters L, O, V, E that appeared on a postage stamp. Indiana was, in 1981, restoring the building for use as his residence and studio, retaining the important interior features, particularly the ornate and exotic lodge hall which occupies the entire top floor.** [Brady G. Williams photo]

In 2015 it was reported that the building’s 12 rooms hold decades of Indiana’s work. “”Bob is an inveterate collector and archivist of his own life. He has kept things for over 70 years now,” says (Farnsworth Art Museum Michael) Komanecky, who explains that the now-86-year-old artist still has drawings from when he was eight years old. Curators at the Farnsworth Art Museum discovered the prodigious collection inside Indiana’s island home, and soon after held an exhibit that pulled 80 works from his dwelling.”***

Union Church of Vinalhaven

[East Main Street]

Vinalhaven Galamander

Vinalhaven Galamander (1969)

Vinalhaven Galamander (1969)

[The Bandstand Park] The Vinalhaven Galamander is the restoration of a machine used for the transportation of huge blocks of quarried granite. A wagon about 25 feet long and 10 feet wide, it was drawn by an eight-horse team. Made of the best oak lumber with iron reinforcements, it was almost entirely handmade. Different from other stone carrying wagons, the Galamander was equipped with a derrick or lever with attached rope tackle and later with wire ropes. They were hand operated for lifting large pieces of stone from the ground and carrying them between the two rear wheels of the vehicle. Machines like this were common in Maine during 1860 to 1914. Platform stone, curbings and other stones too large or cumbersome were taken to the cutting yards or polishing mill in the Galamander.

The original Galamander stood on Bandstand Park until weather deteriorated the wood. In 1966 the Town investigated its condition. The iron parts were retrieved and used in the reconstruction; only the oak lumber and blue paint are new.** [Town of Vinalhaven, Committee for the Restoration of the Galamander photo]

Another Galamander, possibly the only other one, may be seen in the town of Franklin.

Vinalhaven Public Library

[Carver Street]

Webster, Moses, House

[Atlantic Avenue, 0.05 miles east of junction of Main Street and Atlantic Avenue]

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