The Salem Insider

Insiders guide to food, entertainment & living in Salem Massachusetts for tourists and residents.

Secret Salem Real Estate – Bakers Island

By on 80 Comments
Categories: hidden treasure, history, photos, seasonal, tourism, travel

I know it’s just February 1st and that we are in the middle of winter but I’m already thinking of my summer getaway. I’m looking for a rustic summer home or small cottage on a secluded island. I’d like beautiful vistas in a picturesque Norman Rockwell New England setting. I also want it to be fairly private but close enough to civilization so I can have access to the world if I need it. At first I was thinking of Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket but they are too overpopulated and not very rustic. Next I thought about an island off the coast of Maine or maybe a cottage on a lake island in New Hampshire or Vermont. Those places are nice but I need to be closer to home. Then I hit the jackpot. I found exactly what I was looking for, a hidden real estate gem right in our own back yard, Bakers Island.

What the heck is Baker’s Island?

Most people are familiar with Salem’s 8.1 square miles of land but know nothing about our 10 miles of water or what exists out there. Salem maritime properties include Children’s Island, Ram Island, Cunney Island, Tinkers Island, Great Misery Island, Little Misery Island and Baker’s Island. While some of them have summer homes none are inhabited year round.

The 60 acre Baker’s Island lies 3.5 miles off shore. In addition to its one light house (visible from the Salem Willows) the island is home to 55 cottages most built in the late 1800′s to early 1900′s. The island also has a store, fire house, meeting hall (Sherman C. Burnham Hall), and gift shop known as Driftwood. Baker’s Island it’s Massachusetts’ largest residential island north of Boston.

History of Baker’s Island

During the golden age of sail, Salem was the wealthiest city in the States all because of her port but there were no major aids to navigation to help mariners past the islands and rocks outside her harbor. A conical day beacon erected in 1791 was 57 feet tall, painted red, and topped by a two-foot diameter black ball. Unfortunately this beacon was not much help at night or in the fog and after three wrecks in 1796 killing 16 men the Salem Marine Society sent a message to Congress stating they needed to replace the beacon with a lighthouse.

That much of the property and many of the lives of their fellow citizens are almost every year lost in coming into the harbour of Salem for want of proper lights to direct their course… This calamity can, in the opinion of this society be prevented only by erecting a lighthouse on the northern end of Bakers Island . . .

Congress authorized $6,000 for the establishment of twin lights on Baker’s Island which first lit up on January 3, 1798. The two towers were located on top of a two-story keeper’s house, about 40 feet apart at either end of the building with four lamps being fueled by whale oil. In the early part of the 1800′s there were some configuration changes to the light houses, one was shortened then later restored to its previous height after some confusion with Boston light. In 1926 one of the lights was removed and by 1938 the sole remaining light was electrified.

Baker's Island Light c. 1929

Baker's Island Light c. 1929

In addition to the light house (set on 10 acres) the remainder of the island was privately owned. In 1888 a homeopathic doctor from Salem named Nathan Morse built a hotel/spa on Baker’s Island called the Winne-Egan. It had 50 guest rooms and catered to seekers of “health, pleasure and needed rest.” In addition to island activities such as sailing, fishing and swimming, guests could play tennis, or even shoot a short round of golf on the hotel’s six-hole course. Like many of Salem’s old buildings the hotel met its demise in 1906 when an accidental fire burned it to the ground.

Baker’s Island real estate; old money, private sales and coastal views.

There is not an abundance of information available about properties on Baker’s Island. No rentals what-so-ever and according to my real estate agent “There hasn’t been a public sale (in MLS) of anything on the island since 1999 – all private sales, and at that only a few”. I examined Salem’s GIS (Geographical Information System) viewer and found most parcels of land have been owned by family’s since before 1900.

Bakers island home 2 Bakers island home 1 Bakers island home 3
Homes on Baker’s Island

Today access to the island is limited to residents and their guests. The islands one pier is where all visitors arrive and depart. Many residents have their own boats but a water shuttle the Double Eagle, is available from Salem harbor.

bakers island pier at sunset
a view from the pier at sunset

Final thought

I am still looking for my summer retreat. Many Salem residents visit this site, so if you have a place out on Baker’s Island contact me, I would love to learn more about what is in our own back yard. And for all my out of town readers, if I get the opportunity to go over there, walk around and shoot some photos, you can be sure to find them right here at theSalemInsider.com.

80 Responses

  1. Ian says:

    Any luck? I’m very interested in finding a place on the island as well.

  2. jacqui says:

    I would love to go on that island. For years I’ve been fishing off it and just once would like to actually take a tour. You say the same families have owned the places there for years, thats probably why you dont hear much about it, there are no outsiders. I’ve also read a couple of ghost stories that relate to the island too. Keep me posted and let me know if you get on. I love the pictures of the cottages. Thanks Jacqui

  3. Glen Hughes says:

    We have received plenty of email regarding Baker’s Island, unfortunately most of them are inquiries just like Jacqui and Ian. People over there are tight lipped.

    Once again, if any homeowners on the island are interested in renting this summer or selling, drop us a line!

  4. Islander says:

    My family owns a house on Baker’s Island.
    It amazes me how many people are interested in it, I guess I never really occurred to me that I take living there for granted.

    It’s my paradise. Everyone there is like family to me. It’s so nice to have somewhere to go where you know everyone and they’re all so nice and peaceful.

    I’ve been going there every summer since I was born, and I still look forward to going there every year.

    Peace and love.

  5. Glen Hughes says:

    Islander,

    You are quite lucky. My family had a nice vacation home in York ME but it eventually went to a university in trust. I think it would be great to have something so close to my home in Salem yet secluded.

    Enjoy.

  6. Islander 2 says:

    Glen, My family has been on Baker’s Island for 6 generations. The “seclusion” you mention is destroyed by “‘advertisement” such as your website here.

    Our children enjoy the freedom of moving around there in a way not safe here on the mainland. As a result, our children enjoy a rich childhood there. If you are a parent, you might understand that.

    Imagine for a moment, you had an acre of property as your back yard. You toil for years to make it a respite you can unwind in and your Children are safe to relax and play in. Do you want it advertised to strangers. Do you want those strangers right there in your back yard. As a parent, would you be able to relax if that were the case? Would it change the “rules” you give your kids when they go there. Remember, this IS your back yard.

    Baker’s Island has remained the very special place over the generations due to the hard work and commitment of a great many people.

    Becoming an Islander takes time. It also takes respect for what makes it the place that it is.

    My best to all the readers here and wishes for a relaxing and enjoyable summer.

    • Jo Smo says:

      Seriously please get over yourself and preaching about it. Unless you actually paid something for it, you lucked out when you inherited the place ( though I’m sure someone paid in the past for it). But please spare us the unwashed masses preachiness. In fact, all parents want to keep their kids safe and don’t need to be on an island to do it. Nice that it exists but there are many places outside the US like this.

    • rk donovan says:

      Sound like an island full of John Kerry clones. I admired the island from afar, now I look at it as home to elites. All of the Boston Harbor island are public except for Thompson Island. Even the owners of Thompson welcome the public. Salem should take a second look at Baker’s.

  7. Glen Hughes says:

    Islander 2,

    You offer an interesting take on your special get-away. Keep in mind however that long before your family (or the others on the island) owned their chunk of land it was owned by the government, Nathan Morse and a host of others. This post regarding its history and current usage is no more “advertising” than the lights that shine from it at night.

    There is a wealth of information online regarding the island that is accessible to anyone. Unlike the island itself which although a part of our fair city of Salem is only accessible to a few. Knowledge of Baker’s Islands existence won’t infringe on your seclusion as people are still not allowed access.

    Thanks so much for sharing your insights into island life and the sense of safety and community you and fellow islanders feel. It sounds more and more like a little slice of heaven stolen from a simpler time.

  8. jacqui says:

    I agree with Islander 2 to an extend. This is their yard. Myself, I have a beautiful garden in a large yard on the “main land” and I know people would just love to come in and check it out. Would I be happy if random strangers just came marching up my driveway? Not so much. Would I have liked it when my child was smaller and playing in the yard? Not at all. But I’m not so sure about the advertising of the island. Had I not had a boat, I would have never known what Bakers Island was. I also wouldn’t hold on to the false sense of security that there are no strangers on the island. Anytime one of the other islanders bring on a friend, family member,neighbor, or co-worker, wouldn’t they be considered a stranger? I hope you continue to enjoy the island for many more summers to come, as I will continue to enjoy fishing around it…..Have a great summer! Also, if you or anyone else is looking for a generator sales and or service, please contact me at the http://www.maplewoodelectric.com.

  9. JD says:

    I have conflicting feelings about the attitude of the residents of Baker’s Island. On the one hand, I tend to agree that the upkeep, maintenance, fact of ownership, and desire to remain a private getaway entitle the residents to some seclusion and privacy. On the other hand, I tend, also, to believe that Islander 2′s comments about child safety is a bunch of bull-puckey. It’s not as though fleet of boating fiends will now overtake Bakers’ Island in search of little ones simply because of the “advertising” on this website. Baker’s has been there since whatever Tectonic Plates shifted to give it rise from the North Atlantic. Never heard of a high crime rate there since man invented the dug-out canoe. The idea that the “secrecy” and “safety” of the place is somehow shattered because people know about Baker’s and some would like to see it and share it is simply self-indulgent and self important hoo-hah. As is the presumptious comment about “only a parent would know.” Parent status is a primarliy biological function and if Islander 2 bothered to read a mainland newspaper ow and then, he or she would know that the fact of parenthood does not necessarily instill some sage wisdom. I prefer honesty. Simply state that someone in the family scrubbed out a cottage on a scrap of rock before those who are off-islanders and that those on the island share a collective “first-in-time-first-in-right” attitude about the whole thing and skip the condescening tones of superior knowledge of child safety issues. Geez. I suppose the house on the “mainland” is fenced, gated, moated and dogged.

    Anyway, Baker’s is overrated as to its simplicity and beauty. It’s a rocky bump with a lighthouse and a bunch of hostile single-minded seclusionists mowing their lawns that abut muddy paths through a mis-mash of cottages that stand an astounding 4 or so miles from the shores of Salem, Beverly, Manchester, and Marblehead. Way to get away from it all! Must be real rough hopping into the Whaler and skimming across 5 whole miles of coastal rim to get a bottle of milk if you need it. How secluded! As I said earlier, I am conflicted. While I think that the entitlement is there because of the fact of ownership and upkeep, etc., it’s the attitude that’s offensive. Imagine the arrogance in titling those who are really neighbors “strangers” and “off-islanders.” Please.

  10. Friend of Bakers says:

    I have the privilege of having friends that own a cottage on beautiful Baker’s Island. I also have had the privilege of meeting the wonderful and gracious people of this slice of heaven! There is nothing that compares to Baker’s Island. You cannot describe the Island. You must feel it….live it….to appreciate it. To those who feel that these people are ‘hostile, single, minded seclusionists’ obviously have never experienced the Island or its residents.
    Yes, they have been there for generations but that is what gives it its charm. People growing up together….every summer together. Families, knowing each other for decades! They are all very blessed! For my family, driving 6-7 hours just to get there is ALL worth it. Long live Bakers and its families!!

  11. jacqui says:

    I dont think the families are hostile, single minded seclusionists. I’m sure they are very nice people. I do not know anyone one on the island. Islander 2′s mesg comes off as being a little smug and may think they are the voice of the island. And again, there doesn’t need to be a blog on the computer to advertise Bakers Island, it is what it is, an island. People go past it, around, above it all the time. Its located on maps, in pictures, and on photos. Its not safe from strangers as any time someone with a boat wanted to get onto the island they could. And you don’t have to have children to have common sense. Having children does not make you more in the know than people with out children. You do not hold the key to any secrets. And yes I do have a child. So lucky you having to get to spend some time there. Hopefully you will be at your friends this weekend!!!

  12. G. Roghaar says:

    We owned a home between the two ponds on Baker’s Island and sold it in 1967 for $7,500 – sure wish we owned it now. Our children still talk about their summers on the island. Unfortunately, we sold it because of vandalism during the winter when we weren’t there.

  13. i am 82 years old. my father was born in the lighthouse on baker”s island on jan. 2, 1899. his father, oscar r.couch, was a lighthouse keeper there. my father’s name was robert w. couch and his birth is registered at the court house in salem. i would love to visit this lighthouse just once before i die but i don’t know how to get permission to do this. i live in columbus,ohio and i drove up the coast from salem to glouster looking for baker’s island in late october 5 or 6 years ago. nobody knew where it was, including the historical society in salem.can anyone help me with this request? mary.

    • Nelson Dionne says:

      Re; Bakers Island; I have biographical info on the keepers as well as both books & a large number of photos of the island . Re the change of trusteeship of the lighthouse; if the Bakers Island Assn. had just opened the lighthouse one day a year, they would have likely have complied with the requirements of having the structure available to public viewing. Having failed to do this,it is not surprising they lost control of the light. I would not be surprised to see a publicly funded dock leading to the lighthouse reservation built sooner or later.

  14. Skip says:

    What a bunch of condescending, arrogant phonies are these Baker’s Islanders? I wouldn’t want to spend five minutes with them. Give me a place with real people any day. These snobs lack what we used to call “breeding”.

  15. Andrew says:

    Hello,
    I know this is most likely a futile attempt but, I was wondering if anyone on Bakers Island could use a personal chef. I am a highly skilled chef and specialize in Italian and Latin cusine as well as on the grill. If anyone on the island is interested in hiring me for a party or any other occasion, please let me know. In leu of payment for my services I would except housing on the island so I could bring my family there. I do have a job, so being paid is not an issue. I figured that if I was hired and met a family there they could assess my character and determine if I could be a good fit as a part time (maybe a week or weekend) inhabitant. Thanks to all for your attention, hopefully an islander reads this.

  16. Charlie says:

    To Mary,
    I have a friend with a home on Bakers and would be happy to arrange a visit for you to the island and the lighthouse. Contact me through this website.

  17. Jimmy T says:

    Jeez. Bakers Island LOOKS friendly, but it sounds like a horrid place. Enjoy the summer, you bunch of inbred snobs.

  18. Carolyn Bellamy says:

    I cannot speak for every soul on this wonderful planet, but Baker’s Island sounds more like a piece of magical history caught in time. I don’t blame the people who inhabit Baker’s Island. All they are trying to do is keep their dream. Don’t try and take that away from them. This planet is full of wonderous and miraculous places right outside you doorstep all you have to do is look for them. And remember, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”

  19. for charlie/may 3,2009 says:

    Charlie, thank you for your reply. Please tell your friend thank-you also. Tell me how we can do this. I will give you my cell phone # so you can reach me. 614 893 2209. Here is my daughters # also, incase you can’t reach me. 614 439 3383.
    Once again thank-you, for you and your friend’s kindness, in answering my request. I will be looking eagerly for your reply.

    Mary

  20. To Charlie on May 3rd, 2009: Thank you so much for your response to my inquiry about Baker’s Island. Your offer to arrange a visit to the island is much appreciated. Now,how can we set this up? You could call me on my cell phone, which is 614-893-2209, or if you have any other suggestions, I would like to hear them. I am really excited about this prospect of visiting the island. Thank you very much.

  21. To

    Charlie on MAY 3RD, 2009: Your response to my inquiry about Baker’s Island was greatly appreciated. Now, how can we make these arrangements? You could phone me on my cell phone which is 614-893-2209. If you have any suggestions, I will be glad to hear from you. I hope you read this as I am computer illerate.I am very excited about this prospect that you have so kindly suggested. Thank you very much.

  22. To Charlie: See what I mean about being computer illerate? I thought my messages didn’t “take” so I sent two more. Sorry, MARY.

  23. Islander 3 says:

    WOW! I knew Islanders had a bad rep for those who aren’t included in our small clique. I’m sorry to those who aren’t included, but as it was stated, the island really is a small knit community, and the peronality of that community wouldn’t survive if there were an influx of tourism or strangers.
    JD- you’ve got some resentment! JEEZ! This “rocky bump” is our home, our passion, and our heaven. Those of us who are there understand the old-school and simplistic lifestyle that it provides.
    Islander 2 was correct in all they said. Though the if you were a parent comment was a bit much. I am not a parent, but I am a resident. I love and respect all of the families there, and we all take care of each other. Our children can have responsibilities and freedoms at young ages that wouldn’t be possible on land. We protect our land, because we preserve it and upkeep it. The influx of people unfamiliar to our ways of life could very easily end our ways of life out there. 5 miles is a long way for police and firemen to travel, across ocean, before a disaster has gone too far. The coastguard can’t always be any faster. Salem residents are not our neighbors, nor could they quickly grasp our ways of life.
    We are, however, not inbred snobs. We protect what is ours and what we love, as you would if someone decided to test drive your new car or set up a tent in your front yard.

  24. Alan Jay says:

    Bakers Island…..the world we live in today is not the kind of world (i’m sad to say), that would respect a place like Bakers Island….Just make it a summer tourist ferry stop ….then go back and see how the
    “friendly” tourists leave the place….”SAD BUT TRUE”.
    What many people strive for is insulation….work hard enough and you might be able to achieve that for yourself…just don’t try and take it away from others that already have it…..Alan Jay.

  25. friend of baker says:

    i’ve been to baker’s several times to weekend with a friend whose family has had a house there for many years. islander 2′s comments (however well intentioned) do not represent the residents. in my time there, i’ve found everyone to be happy, fun and welcoming. indeed, what the residents have there is pretty special…truly the kind of place where you don’t have to lock your door. they just don’t want to ruin it.

  26. Valerie says:

    I grew up on Baker’s Island. And yes, my grandparents and the rest of the family regretted selling their cottage. The memories are magical – barefoot all summer, the yearly show at the hall, going to the well for water, drinking tonic while perched on the store porch railing, tricks my Uncle played on everyone, outhouse antics… I returned as an adult on a boat delivery north (I’m sure my love of the sea started at Baker’s). I could hardly believe it – there is was. We went ashore and were immediately and unfriendily questioned, “May I help you?” the euphemistic query meaning, “Get out of here you lowlife.” What? I grew up out here! This is my island~!
    Sadly I have no claim to Baker’s any more. I completely understand the attitude of islanders who protect it. Its small. Its safe. If the public was allowed there it would be ghastly. They’d want to eat, they’d want to go to the bathroom, noise, trash – who would handle that? Why would a group of people who own the island want their idyll changed? Of course they are protective. I would be if I was lucky enough to go out there again.
    Its a private island. There are plenty in Maine that need the tourist dollar.

  27. Bob says:

    Yes Bakers island is very private, exclusive and restricted. Which is why I ask are there assesments so low
    Such as 46_0037_0
    Address BAKERS ISLAND
    Land Use 132
    Book and Page 9925-269
    Lot Size (Acres) 0.10
    Assessed Value $12,600.00
    I think Bakers Island needs to be re assesed and take into consideration the value of its exclusiveness. I am paying a hell of a lot more for property in a crime ridden neighborhood that is worth far less than the property on Bakers Island.

  28. mary e. couch thomas says:

    well, I made it. Charlie got me to Baker’s Island late in Sept. It was fantastic, seeing where my father was born; the people involved in this adventure were wonderful to us and very admirable and kind. I will always cherish this trip. I made some gracious new friends, which at my age I never thought that would happen. I look forward to another visit next summer. To all of you dissedents: you must be jealous or just mean-minded. Mary.

  29. Jennylee says:

    Mary, I’m so happy that you were able to visit Baker’s Island and re-live to some extent your childhood memories of living and growing up there.

    And a GOD BLESS you to Charley, for his invaluable help in making it happen.

    JL

  30. Johnny says:

    I was blessed to have spent many summers on Bakers Island. We had our family reunions on the island every summer for almost 10 years when I was younger. (Up until my late teens.) I still have family on the island that live there year round. It is a wonderful place, and everyone there is friendly. The pier was always fun to jump off, just dont get caught climbing the crane!! I look forward to going back, its been a few years. Everyone drives around on lawn tractors and electricity if I remember is mostly from solar panels and generators. It is unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been, its like living in the 1800′s (In a good way!) Good luck on your search for real estate there, as everyone I’ve met inherited the houses from great great great so and so… If you ever get the chance to get out there and check it out i suggest you take it. It is a wonderful place!!

  31. Johnny says:

    Oh and for any of you Bakers residents, If you attend the annual “Gong” show haha, You might remember 4 young brothers on surf boards “Surfin USA” quite a few years ago… Oh boy do I miss the Island!!

  32. islander 4 says:

    The residents of Bakers Island come from around the globe, returning each summer to enjoy the peaceful life of days gone by. And to Bob who thought our tax assessments should be raised, keep in mind that we use the island for about 4-5 months a year. The rest of the year we pay a caretaker to guard the island so that vandals don’t come steal things or burn down the place like they did no Misery Island. Many are not aware that Misery was once called Mystery Island but again that was before vandals burned everything to the ground. Maybe that is why we are so carefu. In terms of our tax burden to the city of Salem, we have no schools, fire department, police, street lights or just about any of the social services you have yet we pay our taxes each year just like you do. The parcel you mentioned with the tax assessment of $12,600 was an empty lot. Since the inception of title five (septic law) most empty land on the island is unusable yet still taxed at the same rate as if onshore. I personally pay thousands of dollars for my 6000 square foot home site on which my house sits. We have no power, no central sewer, no public water (we go to a well and carry it back) and most of us collect rain water off the roof for things like showers, dishes and toilets. Believe me we pay MUCH MORE than those on shore in comparison to the services we receive in exchange.

    • hey says:

      actually it is called misery island because prior to being a summer resort it was where people with incurable diseases were sent to die

  33. J says:

    I still think it’s a shame and it does sound class-ist, isolationist, privledged, and segragated – The capitalist notion of private property which historically, was only meant for a certain few to take advantage of in the first place, taken too far. I wonder how many working class and/or non-white folks from Lynn enjoy a piece of this “magic” with their children. Many of the hard working variety who would love it, probably clean your bathrooms, take care of your elderly parents, walk your dogs, and cook your food for a pittance. Now that’s magical. Certainly wouldn’t want those untouchables ruining it now would we.

    I think that’s a little bit of what’s wrong with this country. A small group of old money richies who won’t share with their fellow Americans hiding behind a bunch of transparent excuses. That what they’ve worked so hard for will get ruined. What work? Anyone who can afford to have their children with them on a secluded Island certainly isn’t working as hard as I am all summer and I’m white collar. Ever hear of sharing? It’s an Island for crying out loud! Or how about expanding your horizons?
    Share and meet with people who fall just outside of your high class zip code instead of just learning about “those other people” in your ivy league political science classes or in the 3 seconds of conversation you may entertain while they take your order or deliver your folded laundry.

    I bought a boat this year and was very interested in seeing the Island. I still am believe it or not. However, if all I will find is a group of people who consider themselves to be special or above another. Believing that their heritage and inheritance is a good enough excuse to cut off the rest of us bums… I’d rather walk my dog on the beach and sweat it out with all the have-nots.

  34. bill says:

    J – Ive been a friend with a resident of the island for many years and have visited many times. You certainly don’t have the right to say that anyone out there doesn’t work as hard as you and that you deserve the right to go out there. you have no idea how much effort it takes to maintain a house on the island.

    And if you want to share, then maybe you should talk to my friend who has a house out there, im sure he would love to have someone help him…. carry his bags to his house, mow the lawn, paint the house, clean the windows, get water from the well, clean the boat, stain the decks, move 180lb gas tanks, clean gutters, cook food on 1950s stoves, carry trash to the pier, carry water from the ocean to flush the toilets, winterize the house

    all of these things take up a large portion of either everyday of portions of every year and believe me ive seen and helped with some of these things and its not easy. Just because you have ridden by on your boat on the weekend and seen people at the beach doesnt mean they sit at the beach all week and drink pina coladas. These people have jobs on shore and going to the island is what lets them relax, im sure they dont appreciate it when people like you who have never been there or met them say they are rich spoiled and lazy.

    I can certainly understand people being jealous that they dont have a house out there, but its quit ridiculous to assume that you have the right to go out there and enjoy the island when you have put no work into it like everyone there has.

  35. salem res. says:

    I heard about the island a number of years ago from a former homeowner and thought it sounded interesting. There was no electricity or running water at the time he had a house there and described it as being back in the 1800′s.

    I tried to visit the island once and was nicely greeted by someone on the dock asking who I was and if I was not visiting someone or owned a house I needed to leave. Apparently it is a very tight knit group as people say because this gentlemen new immediately that I was not a resident or friend.

    I later learned the the entire island, besides a government owned portion, was actually owned privately and that for years people have been attempting to or have successfully got onto the island and were walking through peoples property or trying to camp in peoples yards and even worse causing damage to property.

    I was not treated inappropriately when i tried to get on the island but I’m surprised that I was not if it is true that people are always sneaking on the island, and even more so if they cause problems.

    I think we should all respect their right to be secluded and be private. And I don’t think that they are snobbish or selfish after learning of how some people from shore have treated them in the past. I would be on guard if there was any threat from outsiders of causing damage or danger to anyone or anything on the island as help is not close at hand.

  36. DM says:

    I live in Marblehead and have enjoyed fishing & swimming off Bakers Island in the summer. Great place! Reminds me of Block Island, Rhode Island, just smaller. I used to live on Block Island and I understand living in a small community with limited resources (i.e police, fire, etc.). Important for Islanders to help protect an island to keep it the way that it is – afterall, that’s why we are all interested in Bakers, right? I think it’s great that the residents protect it the way they do! Keep it up, it gives me something to aspire to. I’ll continue to fish and swim off the island and hope that one day I’ll be one of the fortunate to own a place there. Cheers!

  37. E. Covert says:

    My parents’ home in Beverly looks out on Mackerel Cove, and in the distance you can see Baker’s Island. It was fascinating to read this blog and find out more about what must be a beautiful place. I can’t blame any of the residents for wanting to protect it, but I find it a bit sad that folks aren’t able to visit for just a bit. We’ve been looking at that light since 1974 and enjoying not only Baker’s, but all the islands in that harbor. How fortunate for those few who live there–I hope you do appreciate what you have.

  38. Valerie says:

    Wow, I just stumbled back on this site and read Bob’s comment 10/12/09 about island proprety being reassessed. I don’t think people realize this is not and island of large, fancy cottages (personal chef? you need to cook with bottled gas and if lucky have some kind of gas ‘fridge!)
    Cottages on Baker’s have no electricity, outhouses and no central heat and no tv or computers. Offers of electricity have always been turned down. You must fetch drinking water in wheelbarrows and bring over the bulk of your food however you can. Folks want the simple life out there away from all the trappings of civilization and beaurocracy. Give them a break. If you think its an exclusive rich man’s enclave, you are very mistaken. Its regular people who want nature, peace and a nice summer to let their kids know what life was like. They play board games and sing songs on the porch. They are fortunate to have this little pocket for themselves and kudos to them for keeping it that way. Why do you want to spoil it? Shame on you, Bob! And you too “J” 12/29/09, you are completely wrong – no old money richies, many blue collars, just “folks” – you’re both commenting on your own imagined, resentful fallacy about Baker’s Island and the people there. Disgusting.

  39. Janee' says:

    Hi my grandmother grew up on this island summer after summer in the 1930′s and 1940′s. Her aunt and uncle owned a home there and also her uncle Ernest Sampson was the assistant lighthouse keeper. My grandmother is 78 and very sick with emphysema. She always talks about how much that place meant to her and all of her memories of her summers there. I am writing to find out if anyone knows of anyway I can get her there. She always says she wants to go back before she dies. Please if anyone can help me at all with where I should call or what I can do it would really mean everything to her. Thanks-Janee’

  40. Val says:

    Janee – I know how she feels. I might have a lead for you. Contact me at: fringepress@gmail.com I wish I could get back there too.

  41. Florida Bob says:

    As a former Salem resident, I feel I can enter the conversation, briefly. Not knowing anyone on Bakers Island, I can only imagine what life is like there. From here, in usually sunny Florida, I can remember the bleak winters in Salem. Imagine, the lives of the caretakers during the sleet, snow and fridgid days! Not my idea of “a special place.” At least not special as in Paradise.

    I respect the owners’ wishes to remain secure and free from idle visitors. After-all it is their property and they quite naturally see the “well-meaning” but “very curious” visitors as impositions or maybe even burdens. The residents of Bakers Island share what could be considered a private enclave, if not for the American concept that almost all property is public in one way or another.

    I would like to see the Island, but, I realize that I have no real right to do so. In the very same way as I do not have the right to enter a neighbors back garden and snoop around peering into his goldfish pond and kid’s play area. That, without permission, would be rude and improper. So, I thank the residents greatly for the glimpses they provided us. And, politely, I hope, I will bid them all best personal wishes and hope others, besides me, will let6 them live and grow as they want on the island. The best.

    Bob

  42. Edward Crowley says:

    How sad for all of you to argue quite honestley I left the northshore years ago and moved to Newyork city bakers sounds ok but a summer in Corsica is more my speed or venice I would never want to go to Bakers Island as my Godchildren are half black and native American stunning beautiful and modeled in Paris to pay for their college education hanging out with a bunch of inbred bluebloods named skippy and buffy and drinking scoth for breakfast no thanks

  43. Edward Crowley says:

    funny my good friends who own a pennensula in corsica every winter squatters move into their home they lock up all their valuables and leave them a case of wine how silly all you north americans are some day I will go out to Bakers Island possibly with a nice botle of wine and just leave it on the dock cheers

  44. H says:

    Bakers island is a piece of heaven, and the only people who would call the wonderful people there snobs are idiots! People on bakers island are what neighbors should be! They are kind, protective of one another, and fun loving! You could never meet more amazing people or be in a more special place!

  45. E says:

    I am invited to the island every year for a week or two and I enjoy it, I don’t understand why people are infuriated on here, some people were just lucky enough to have something handed down to them, there arent too many other places to put a house out there, and more people would just run the well dry, and then how would we shower..
    It’s true it is harsh living, with wheeling the barrel to the well, pumping out some water and then laying the shower bag in the sun for hours for it to heat up.

    But to be honest people don’t name the island too much beyond what it written on t-shirts
    people want to keep the island all hush hush for these reasons and more, but to be quiet frank, with some of the comments posted above, I’m glad it’s a private island..

  46. Friendly Human Being says:

    I have never met a nastier group of people than those on Baker’s Island. Yes, they might each own a piece of land on the island, but it is still part of Salem and the greater Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It is not theirs to hide from the rest of the world.

    I can’t be more happy to know that the lighthouse is going into public hands (despite arguments from the islanders) and the beautiful 10 acre parcel will be available for everyone to visit and enjoy.

  47. Florida Bob says:

    What is all this hostility about snobs on Bakers Island ? As I wrote, I do not know them but I was born and brought up in Salem. Snobbishness is like a unique face and an unusual accent, strange and if you allow it, wonderful. Most times it’s tissue thin.

    I’d love to see a little of the Bakers Island lifestyle described if for no other reason than to lay to rest the idea that residents are merely show-offs. I would bet they’re protective for good reason. Just listen to the carping of outsiders jealous and angry at their situation, yet panting at the idea they can “come on down” when the lighthouse begins to offer tours!

    Bob

  48. Realistic says:

    but lets be serious here, you tourist people expect to come to the island and hang out at the 10 acres of space avaliable on the light house, and do what? Sneak in peoples backyards? That’s all it is, a bunch of houses.. lived in houses.. I don’t walk through your backyard

    It isn’t as easy as it sounds
    there are no public bathrooms, the trash is expensive to haul back and pay another trash boat to pick up..

    I understand the jealousy, but ranting and raving isn’t going to get you an invite.. besides, with the celebrities on the island things would just get out of hand, people go to get away from the hustle and bustle

  49. Ben says:

    I completely agree that it is elitist snobbishness…entitlement taken beyond what should be legally allowed. I don’t understand how the people of this island are allowed to kick people off of it. It is a part of the united states and while homes are private, rodes, etc. are not.

    What would they think if Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket became private?

    I live in Marblehead, where I’m sure there are huge collections of people that would like to keep it private and not let people in….yet people walk through our back yards to get to beaches, historic sites, and other places of beauty. It’s the price we pay for living in a lovely area.

    I find it shocking that this group of people hire somebody to stand at the dock and tell people to get lost. Shocking. And no amount of “these people are really nice” can change that. They’re nice, but it’s a part of the United States. And the property values need to be reassessed. That is shocking.

    No amount of work you have to do to live there “earns” you any right to start your own civilization….like it or not, your a part of the US. I agree with the other poster who stated that anyone who has entire summers to spend with their families…no matter how much they are “roughing it”….(and lots of us pay a lot of money for the privilege of “roughing it” likt that)……they are rich and privileged.

    Who among us can just take 3 months off of a job? Adjust the property values and maybe they’ll actually have to work to afford their paradise and you’ll see more rented homes….like there should be.

    • BevLax says:

      You think because the island is a part of the united states that you deserve the right to go there? Thats the same as me saying that you live in the united states, so i have the right to come onto your property.

      There are no roads, there are no public buildings, there are no historic places, everything is owned privately, either by a homeowner or group of homeowners. Hence, they are able to ask people to leave.

      Regarding the tax rates; these are not homes, they are summer cottages on an island. They have no electricity or running water. The island receives no services from the City of Salem, ie schools, police, fire, emt, elec, water, sewer, but still pays for them.

  50. Tom says:

    Well up until today I did not even know Bakers Island existed!
    Why do I know now?

    This morning I took the train up to Manchester and let my stand-up paddleboard into the water. I paddled out of the harbor and after taking in the beautiful scenery decided to aim for “an island with some houses and a lighthouse” – maybe I could take a short break there, get some food and be on my way again…

    More than an hour later I did need a rest and paddled near the pier.
    Lots of kayaks and a few old windsurfers were piled up and spread out high up from the water – looked like a nice place.
    A grim looking man on a blue boat (“off the hook”) slowly chugged by towards his mooring and mustered me, though.
    Our eyes lock and we exchange terse “Howyadoins”.

    I was alone, with a small backpack on a what looks like a big surfboard and a long paddle – I was silent, did not make wakes and stayed out of everyones way.

    Some folks on the shore and the pier watched me but that´s normal.

    Since I was not sure what sort of place it was, I only dragged my board 5 feet from the water – at least 10 feet below (!) the highwater line marked by a line of seaweed – so as not to take my break on anyones “private beach”.

    A man with a wheelbarrow was near the pier filling it with things from the beach. He mustered my board and things apprehensivly as I walked over, politely said hi and ask if there was a store where I could get something to drink.
    His reply: “Do you know anybody here?”
    Me: “No?”
    He:”No store here. This is a private island.”
    I immediatly got the message:”OK, I´ll just finish my short rest and be off.”
    He (in a very relaxed and almost thankful tone now):”Thank you.”

    Respectful communication among adults!

    So I went back to my stuff, sat down two more minutes and started to prepare my things to leave.

    As I´m doing this Mr. “off the hook” had made his way to the pier and felt compelled to yell a question at me which I only understood after the second time because we were so far apart..:
    “Do you know anybody here?”
    Me: “I already talked to someone. It´s private and I´m just getting ready to be on my way.”
    He:”Just wanted to make sure – Pal!..”

    And he stood there “making sure” until I was finally in the water a few minutes later.

    All of this took place under a big U.S. flag flying in the summer sky, and not under “Keep away from Bakers Island” which they should maybe fly instead, just to make things clear for everyone from a distance.

    Only after this experience did I find out where I had been.

    My point:
    Nowhere in the world have I ever been “welcomed” in such a way.

    And with all my respect for the history of the place, private property and despite the “fear-of-the-unknown-outsider” in which at least several of the islanders obviously live, this is now way to treat anyone who in the middle of the day rings the bell at the gate to your “private property” to ask for directions.

    • salem res says:

      apparently you did not see the giant sign on the pier, directly below the flag, that says “private island, no trespassing”

      • C.L. says:

        Hmmmm…I wonder how many will drown because they read a “No Trespassing” sign put up by an “inbred selfimpossed hanging on to property because there’s no money left in the family trust, lack of any real pedigree” group.

        • Kelly says:

          I too live on a small island and we feel our children are safer living in this almost-controlled environment. However we have a name for that kind of behavior – it is the pull-up-the-bridge mentality. Now that they are on the island, no others should be allowed. Acting so entitled is an unattractive quality. What’s next? A warning shot?

  51. Holly Geribo says:

    My Husband and I recently purchased some land on the island and would like to go see it. Can anyone recommend a boat “taxi” to take us over for a short visit?

  52. Craig Stevens says:

    Holly, you can take the ferry offered by Double Eagle Charters.

    http://doubleeaglecharters.com/

    You can reach them at (978) 658-6322 or amy@doubleeaglecharters.com

    Only residents and invited friends of island residents are offered the ferry service, so you’ll have to contact them in advance to state your case.

    Good luck!

  53. Jealous says:

    Hey! I was just reading this. I am so interested in Bakers Island. It sounds so perfect. Just the kind of place I want for my family. To anyone who lives there I hope you really enjoy it and appreciate it! I WISH I could buy a house there for my family.. You are truly blessed to be able to have a place separate from the craziness of this world.

  54. Johnny says:

    I can’t believe how anyone could bad mouth the folks of bakers island! I understand everyone curiousity about the place, but I am also curious what the inside of the playboy mansion is like. You think old Heff would mind if I just stop by sometime and swim in his pool and roam around his property? Bakers Island is one of my favorite childhood memories, they people are amazing, the land is amazing. There are grape vines growing near the walk ways, the seaguls will dive bomb you if you disturb their eggs (NOT THAT I KNOW… A friend ehh… told me )

    If you want onto the island bad enough, do what my uncle did… Marry an islander… Otherwise, let them live the good life undisturbed on their beautiful retreat.

    Don’t go changing Bakers Island, you are perfect the way you are!

  55. Elizabeth says:

    WE were the last of the lighthouse keepers in the U.S.Coastgaurd in the 1970′s…………..It was a beautiful place and I would love to revisit the Island again some day…….It is like no other place I have known…My best to everyone………….

  56. Kim says:

    Wow, I too just stumbled on this site! I was talking to my sister who now lives in WA state, when I was a little girl she and my brother-in-law Dave lived at the Coast Guard station on Baker’s Island for 3 years. I had a blast visiting them there. Dave would bring us around in a wagon on the back of an old tractor, and at night we would lay under the stars and watch the light from the light house. I don’t remember anyone being mean, but of course I was 6. I told her about a book I just read called Haunted Happenings By Robert Cahill. A lot of people in the book talked of Baker’s Island being haunted, but neither of us remember that. We were saying when she and her husband retire next year we would love to visit Baker’s Island, that’s how I came upon this site. Anyway I have really fun memories of there, and guess it was just fun reading this. Hope everyone stays happy as this world is hard enough these days, so lets all just be nice to each other! :)

  57. cshelton says:

    Interesting article. What is even more interesting are the comments by some people.

    In general, I have to agree that it is a shame not everyone can enjoy the island. But this was not always the case. Its private now but 40-50 years ago, you could visit the island even if you were
    not a resident. It all changed once people started vandalizing and burglarizing homes out there, what choice did the islanders have but to declare it as private and start asking people to leave? And now, many years later, they are elitist snobs for protecting their homes and property?

    Its simply amazing how some of you can twist this against the islanders.

    I support them 100%. Allowing the public on the island will lead to all sorts of problems. One person mentioned it, but I’m sure most of you either forget or don’t know, Misery Island was once inhabited as well. Along with a dozen houses, it had a hotel, casino, golf course and sea plane hangar. Everything is now gone thanks to vandals.

  58. Jeff says:

    This seems to be quite an emotional issue. Baker’s Island has always been a draw to me, as well. Who wouldn’t want to visit it? However, it is private, and we need to respect the law, whatever our impulses to the contrary.

    In the same vein, in Massachussetts, the land between the high and low water mark is all public, as long as you can access it from the water. Therefore, maybe those of you who are dying to visit Baker’s could come ashore at low tide and walk the beach, as long as you don’t stray inland. For non-residents, that will have to do unless or until the lighthouse is open to the public.

    The locals will almost certainly not like ‘outsiders’ strolling the edge of the beach; but, again, we all have to respect the law, regardless of our own personal feelings.

    • G says:

      Jeff, I think visiting Bakers Island, below the high water mark is a great idea. Give it a try, and let us know how it goes. Stay for two hours. That will tell us what we need to know about the residents. I’m betting you don’t make it the two hours.

      As for assessments, until there are some sales recorded, and not of the $1, I’ll pay you off the books variety that we see, we won’t know if this land is assessed properly or not. This was the year that the assessor’s office was supposed to attempt to view each property in Salem. Any word on how that went out there?

    • random says:

      Why would anybody want to visit the island if they don’t live there? I don’t understand. It’s not like they would be able to do anything interesting. Why not go to a public beach or buy your own property by the shore. And if you’re so intent on sharing, go ahead and let anybody you don’t know hang out on your own property, it’s your choice. I think the islanders really don’t mean to come off as impolite, and maybe everyone who commented means well, but some just don’t understand the others’ viewpoints.

  59. Reggie says:

    I’m slightly confused about this article, at first I thought it was about how the writer had found their summer retreat. But then I come to the end of the article where they state its a private island and its restricted and residents are hush hush but then he/she ask readers for help finding a place there, it felt a little misleading.

    It was interesting to learn about the islands history though, I never knew there was a hotel there.

    P.s. Jeff,

    FYI – the law for public rights to coastal properties states the land below the ‘median’ tide mark is public, above the median belongs to the land owner. But keep in mind, although this is regarded as the standard law, by no means is it all inclusive. There are dozens if not hundreds of properties in the Beverly, Salem, Manchester, Marblehead area where the entire beach, down to the low tide line is considered private and going on it is trespassing. Just something for people to keep in mind before pressing that sort of issue.

  60. Geoff says:

    The Salem News is reporting that the Park Service intends to start tours of the lighthouse property on Baker’s Island, and intends to purchase a boat that will allow passengers to access that property directly. That won’t go over well with the residents.

    http://www.salemnews.com/local/x233318644/Park-service-to-get-boat-for-Bakers-Island-tours

  61. Chris says:

    I’ve always been interested in visiting Bakers Island. I only recently found out about how protective the residents are though, so I guess I won’t be trekking it out there in my friends recently purchased motor boat. From the sounds of things though, doesnt sound like Im missing much. The whole living life like we’re back in 1892 thing? Might as well just camp down the Cape. And after looking at Satellite pictures of Bakers, it doesnt seem like theres even a decent beach on it. Makes sense, Salem itself doesnt really have a decent beach. Still, I am curious to see it sometime and would always take up an opportunity to go if I was invited.

    Now the whole resentment thing. I can see the islanders’ point. They have these properties there, its theirs, they own it. And imagine if the public started coming over? Trash everywhere, graffiti maybe, noise, vandalism, the list goes on and on. Not to mention, someone gets hurt, which might be easy especially with the place not really up to modern civilization standards? Lawsuits waiting to happen. What happens at public beaches? Same nonsense. The public can’t be trusted to behave and respect people’s properties! And who cares if theyre rich? Let them be rich! Thats America.

    NOW, having said that…. I can also see the other point a little bit sometimes. We live in a capitalist society, so what you pay for is yours, good. But is every inch of this place actually owned by people? I guess I have trouble with people being able to own an island in the first place. Its like being able to own a lake or a pond in my mind. Doesnt seem like things like that should be able to be “owned.” I see rock formations on the eastern shore? Are they all owned? If every inch is in fact owned by different people it seems like a convenient way to just keep out the public and mask it as something else. When I bought my house, I couldnt buy parts of the street with it.

    So theres my 2 cents. Let them enjoy it. Like I said, doesn’t sound like the place is even that happening. Rather spend more money and try a place down the Cape or something.

  62. Dottie says:

    I see Bakers every time I go from Beverly Farms to Beverly, ust off the cpast of Endicott College. It looks like you can swim there from from here. I am totally intrigued and would LOVE to visit, but I so agree with the insular attitude. Keep it as pristine and mysterious as it is. I wonder if the author of The Lace Reader wrote with this place in mind. Is Misery a private community as well?

  63. elizabeth says:

    Did they ever start the boat tour to the Island?

  64. elizabeth says:

    Did they ever start the boat tour ?

  65. Lorraine Anderson says:

    My husband and I were family light keepers on Bakers Island for several years. We were very young, my daughter was 4 months old and my son was born while we were stationed there. My memories of that time are wonderful. My memory of the residents there are that they were kind and thoughtful people. In the early spring I would push my daughter along the trails (not an easy task) and an elderly couple would invite me in for cocoa. The teenagers on the island liked to visit the station because we had tv. We had a room full of people in our living room the night the first man landed on the moon. We would really like to visit the light station one last time, but are at a loss as to how to go about it. We are planning a trip to New England soon, I really hope to make this happen,

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