She Calls This Lighthouse Home

Off North Haven, a painstakingly restored, sumptuously furnished, 19th-century lighthouse is a beacon of pride for its owner.

Bedroom in Goose Rocks Lighthouse
By Sara Anne Donnelly
Photographed by Tara Rice
From our Summer 2023 issue

The black-and-white, spark-plug-style lighthouse that is criminology professor and CNN contributor Casey Jordan’s summer retreat stands in open water between North Haven and Vinalhaven islands. To get there, Jordan kayaks across the Fox Islands Thorofare from her North Haven cottage to an iron ladder that rises from the water’s surface to a hatch in the lower catwalk ringing the lighthouse’s tower. She climbs the ladder with her bag, often with her cat, Bailey, tucked under one arm, and a line attached to the kayak. After pulling herself through the hatch, she hoists up the kayak, thus, Rapunzel-like, removing ready means of entry or escape. Then, she disappears for days.

Casey Jordan waves from Goose Rocks Lighthouse

“You have no choice but to confront the simplicity of the life of a lighthouse keeper here,” says Jordan, who purchased the mothballed 1890 Goose Rocks Light from the federal government with her now-estranged husband in 2006. They’d seen the listing online and decided on a whim to travel from Connecticut to the open house. “We were just going to have a fun weekend and go home,” Jordan says. But seeing the lighthouse up close, “I can’t even tell you how beautiful it was. It was an eye-opener. Like, how dead is my soul that going to a lighthouse is incredibly exciting?” They bought the property for $27,000 and moved to North Haven two years later to begin renovations.

Still an active navigational aid, Goose Rocks is equipped with a radio-triggered foghorn and a blazing solar-powered light in the uppermost beacon room. Otherwise, when Jordan and her husband acquired it, “it was just a big cast-iron can.” The couple painted the faded-gray exterior white; scraped the tower’s dirty interior brick; laid reclaimed heart-pine flooring in the squat, round rooms; and added a rustic kitchen, a bath with a composting toilet, and a propane fireplace.

Then they had to furnish their cast-iron can. “I’d love to make it sound like it was a joyous moment,” hauling furniture up with ropes and pulleys, “but it was awful,” says Jordan, who now divides her time between Maine and Connecticut. “I just remember this beautiful French vitrine going up and swaying in the wind, and trying to control it without smashing it into the side of the lighthouse. And the lobsterboats gathered around, like there’s this stupid Connecticut couple trying to move French antiques into an old lighthouse.”

Today, the lighthouse’s interior is decorated like a luxe fortress, with heavy antique walnut and mahogany furniture, nautical paintings, Persian rugs cut around hatch doors and a central support post, and the kind of sumptuous velvet upholstery and brocade draperies that would recoil at the barest spritz of salt water. Jordan allows some donors to her nonprofit organization, Beacon Preservation, which owns Goose Rocks, to make day trips or stay overnight there (from $750/night); you can also check it out on Maine Open Lighthouse Day (scheduled for September 9), or just paddle over and try to finagle a tour. “When kayakers pull up and go ‘permission to come aboard?’ I love saying yes,” Jordan says. “You can’t even imagine the look on their faces. It’s like the ecstasy of adventure.”

Down East magazine, October 2023

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