Portland Head Light is a historic lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Maine that sits at the entrance of the shipping channel into Casco Bay. The headlight was the first built by the United States government, and is now a part of Fort Williams Park. Construction began in 1787 at the directive of George Washington, and was completed on January 10, 1791. Whale oil lamps were originally used for illumination. In 1855, following formation of the Lighthouse Board, a fourth-order Fresnel lens was installed; that lens was replaced by a second-order Fresnel lens, which was replaced later by an aero beacon in 1958. That lens was updated with an DCB-224 aero beacon in 1991.
In 1787, while Maine was still part of the state of Massachusetts, George Washington engaged two masons from the town of Portland, Jonathan Bryant and John Nichols, and instructed them to take charge of the construction of a lighthouse on Portland Head. Washington reminded them that the early government was poor, and said that the materials used to build the lighthouse should be taken from the fields and shores, which could be handled nicely when hauled by oxen on a drag. The original plans called for the tower to be 58 feet tall. When the masons completed this task they climbed to the top of the tower and realized that it would not be visible beyond the headlands to the south, so it was raised approximately 20 feet.