Thursday, April 23, 2009

National Lighthouse Stewardship Act Update

I recently let you know about Senate Bill 715, the National Lighthouse Stewardship Act introduced in the Senate by Senator Levin of Michigan and several colleagues. The bill is currently in the hands of the Energy Subcommittee. Sue Clark, on her excellent Lighthouse News site, has listed the members of that committee on this page. PLEASE contact these senators and let them know that you support the bill.

Click here to read the bill and follow its progress.

Improved Access at Hospital Point Lighthouse

New England lighthouse buffs know Hospital Point Light Station in Beverly, Mass., as the home of the admiral in charge of the First Coast Guard District. Because this has been the case since the 1940s, public access to this station has been very limited. For years, the public has been able to visit the lighthouse on one day each year, during Beverly Homecoming Week.

There's wonderful news in today's edition of the Salem News. Rear Admiral Dale Gabel, the station's current resident, has agreed to make the station more accessible to the public by allowing Coast Guard Auxiliary to provide tours. Details aren't available yet, but the lighthouse might be opened as often as one day each month.

"We think it's one of the crown jewels of Beverly," said Phil Karwowski of the Auxiliary. "It's one of the big things in Beverly's maritime heritage." I couldn't agree more!

Bravo to the Coast Guard Auxiliary and Admiral Gabel. Thanks to them, the public will have the opportunity to experience one of the most beautiful light stations in New England, up close and personal.

Here's a quick historic side note on Hospital Point. During the presidency of William Howard Taft (1909–12), a large home at Woodbury Point, on the shore between Hospital Point and Beverly Cove, became the summer White House. A newspaper item of August 24, 1909, reported that the president’s son Charley—about 12 years old at the time—had visited the lighthouse: “He climbed the lighthouse in order to look out on to the water and when he reached the top he complained of being sick. The little fellow was assisted to the ground floor . . . and he felt much better.”

For more, visit my website or read my book, The Lighthouses of Massachusetts.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Keeper Arthur Small: Hero and Artist

The following is an edited version of an article I wrote a few years ago for Lighthouse Digest magazine; you can read the whole thing here. The saga of Keeper Arthur Small and his wife, Mabel, is sad and inspiring at the same time. I've spent a great deal of time researching Small and retracing some of his steps around the New Bedford area, and I feel strongly that he deserves to be remembered as a true hero.

In 1922 Keeper Arthur A. Small, a native of Brockton, Massachusetts, became keeper at Palmer’s Island Lighthouse in New Bedford, moving there with his wife Mabel and two sons from Boston Harbor’s Narrows (“Bug”) Light. Known to many as Captain Small, he was a well-traveled seaman who had first gone to sea on a Maine fishing schooner at the age of 14 and had traveled around the world in 1907-09 in President Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet of battleships.

Arthur Small was also a gifted artist of sailing ships and harbor scenes, praised for his attention to detail. He started painting on scraps of sail as a hobby during his years at sea, and he later took classes to sharpen his skills.

Small was a member of the Mariners’ Club, which met for conversation and chowder at the Peirce and Kilburn Shipyard in Fairhaven just across the Acushnet River from New Bedford. A number of Small’s paintings were displayed in the area where the club met.

The popular historian Edward Rowe Snow quoted Arthur Small’s description of the importance of Palmer’s Island Light to the commerce of New Bedford Harbor, saying that without the proper functioning of the light and fog bell, “all the city would be seriously crippled.”

But Small downplayed the so-called heroism of keepers. “Whenever they say anything about a lighthouse keeper,” he once said, “they always act as if he were some kind of hero. We’re not heroes. Here I am on this island, perfectly safe, working and painting pictures, while you wander around in New Bedford, crossing streets with automobiles and trolley cars whizzing by, just missing you by a few feet. Why, you people take more chances in a week than I do in ten years.” He would later disprove his own words.

On September 20, 1938, Mabel Small took part in one of her regular activities, a sewing circle in Fairhaven. One of the other women there saw Mrs. Small looking anxiously out at the water. The woman asked what was wrong, and Mabel Small replied that the seas were rough and she feared that Arthur would not be able to row over from Palmer’s Island to pick her up. But her husband was waiting at the landing at the usual time, and Mabel shouted, “See you girls next week!” as she headed home to Palmer’s Island.

The very next day, a ferocious hurricane took the area by surprise as it battered the south-facing coast. During the afternoon of the storm 53-year-old Arthur Small attempted to walk the 350 feet from the house to the lighthouse on Palmer’s Island. He left his wife at the oil house, which he considered to be relatively safe as it was on the island’s highest point.

As he struggled to reach the tower, Arthur Small was struck by a large wave and was swept underwater. He managed to swim back to safety. He looked back and saw his wife attempting to launch a rowboat to come to his aid. As Mabel Small tried to launch the boat a tremendous wave destroyed the boathouse, and Arthur Small lost sight of his wife.

Keeper Small later said, “I was hurt and she knew it. Seeing the wave hit the boathouse was about the last thing I remember. I must have been hit by a piece of timber and knocked unconscious. I came to some hours later, but all I remember was that I was in the middle of some wreckage... Then I must have lost my sense again, for I remember nothing more.”

Somehow Arthur Small kept the light burning through the night. The morning after the hurricane, two friends of the Smalls had rowed to the island. They took Arthur Small to a local hospital under police escort. They had first contacted the Lighthouse Service for permission, as no keeper was to leave his post until relieved “if he is able to walk.”

Three days after the storm, Commissioner Harold D. King of the Bureau of Lighthouses called Arthur Small’s performance during the storm “one of the most outstanding cases of loyalty and devotion that has come to the attention of this office.”

Mabel Small had not survived. Her body was later found and identified in Fairhaven. Many of Keeper Small’s paintings were lost in the hurricane along with his large library of several hundred books. His wife had their savings of about $7,500 in her possession when she drowned, and this was also lost.

Arthur Small asked for no compensation for his paintings, but in his official report he assigned a value of $75 to his library and $100 to his records and notes on sailing ships, “the result of thirty years’ work and used for reference in painting the history of sailing ships, a spare-time hobby.” After an extended leave that included time in Panama, Small became keeper at Hospital Point Light in Beverly, Massachusetts, in 1939. During World War II he maintained a shore patrol in the area and had to check Derby Wharf and Fort Pickering lights in Salem in addition to Hospital Point Light.

When Arthur Small died in 1958, he was honored by the Coast Guard with a burial at Arlington National Cemetery. A plaque honoring Arthur and Mabel Small can be seen today on the Fairhaven side of the harbor at Fort Phoenix.

Dining with the Dead

Author and lighthouse historian Jeremy D'Entremont and renowned paranormal investigator and radio personality Ron Kolek discuss some of the most haunted lighthouses in New England at the Windham Restaurant in Windham, NH, on Monday evening, April 27, 2009.

They will reveal the legends and the results of their investigations into these buildings including their Emmy-winning investigation into New London Ledge Lighthouse. A portion of the proceeds of the evening will go to Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse.

Click here for more info and tickets.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Lighthouse of the Week: Morgan Point Light, Connecticut

This lighthouse in the quaint fishing village of Noank is seen by few tourists, but lighthouse seekers can get views from cruises out of Waterford, Groton, and Mystic. Just up the street from the lighthouse is one of the best places in New England for lobster: Abbot's Lobster in the Rough.

The name of Noank, a village of Groton, comes from the Mohegan Indian word for "point." Noank was a busy port in the nineteenth century. To help mariners enter the Mystic River and the harbor of Noank, Connecticut, from Fisher's Island Sound, the federal government decided to build a lighthouse at Morgan Point in 1831. Land for the light station was purchased from shipbuilder Roswell Avery Morgan, a descendant of an early settler of the area, Deacon James Morgan.

The first lighthouse was a 25-foot white granite tower with a separate six-room stone keeper's house. The tower held 10 lamps and reflectors. The first keeper, Ezra Daboll, made some additions to the house and was reimbursed for his expenses of $100.

Daboll died in 1838 and was succeeded by his widow, Eliza, who remained keeper until 1854. Lieut. George M. Bache reported in 1838 that "the establishment is kept in great neatness by the widow of the former keeper." Eliza Daboll had six children, and her eldest daughter took great interest in maintaining the light. The girl became known for her habit of singing loudly while working at the lighthouse in foul weather.

There were complaints that Morgan Point's Light was too dim; the nearby lights at New London and Stonington could be seen from far greater distances. The situation was improved somewhat in 1855 when a sixth-order Fresnel lens replaced the old array of lamps and reflectors.

Captain Silas Spicer, who became keeper in the 1850s, once saw a burning vessel offshore. He quickly rowed to the ship and rescued the captain, his wife and child, bringing them safely back to the lighthouse. The grateful family spent a few days recuperating at the lighthouse.

The shipbuilding industry was growing in Noank by the 1860s. It was decided that a new lighthouse was needed, and construction began in 1867. The new lighthouse, finished in 1868, was a two-story, eight-room granite structure with a cast-iron light tower attached to the front of the roof. The building's style was very similar to others built in the same period at Sheffield Island, Block Island, Great Captain Island, and a few other locations.

The lighthouse was built under the supervision of a local man named Henry Davis, who later became the U.S. Assistant Superintendent of Lifesaving Stations.

Morgan Point Light had a second female keeper in Frances McDonald, who took over for her husband Alexander, a Civil War veteran. Frances McDonald kept the light from 1869 to 1871. She was replaced by her brother, Mystic native Thaddeus Pecor, a Civil War veteran who served 48 years at the station. There are rumors that the ghost of Keeper Pecor still frequents the lighthouse.

One winter during Pecor's tenure, the survivors of a wreck rowed to Morgan Point. The keeper had to cut the frozen clothing and shoes from some of the frostbitten sailors.

In 1921, the lighthouse was discontinued and replaced by an automatic light to the east on Crooks Ledge. The lighthouse was sold to a private party for $8,625. According to some sources, the original lantern was destroyed in the hurricane of September 1938; others say it was removed in the 1920s.

In 1991, the property was purchased by Jason Pilalas from San Marino, California, a partner in an investment management firm. Pilalas grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, near the Great Captain Island Lighthouse that is almost identical to the one at Morgan Point.

He set out to restore the exterior of the lighthouse to its original appearance, while converting the interior to a comfortable living space for his family. Herman Hassinger Architects of Moorestown, NJ, were commissioned to do the renovation.

The interior was gutted to the granite walls. The rooms were designed to create a more spacious feel and more interior light. The first floor of the lighthouse became a living space and library, while the upstairs was converted to bedrooms.

A new lantern room was fashioned of aluminum and glass from U.S. Lighthouse Service designs, at a cost of $35,000. An extension including a master bedroom and office was added at the back of the lighthouse.

The Pilalas family summers at Morgan Point. Jason Pilalas has said, "I couldn't be happier. I get so excited every time I come here." The lighthouse is the setting for an annual Fourth of July party. Rena Pilalas, Jason's wife, told Coastal Living Magazine, "They sleep on couches, they sleep on the floor. They don't care -- they just like being here."

You can read much more about this lighthouse in my book The Lighthouses of Connecticut. Also see for more info.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lighthouse of the week: Cape Elizabeth Light, Maine

For many years, the approach to Portland Harbor from the south was treacherous, and as maritime trade increased, so did shipwrecks. A 50-foot black and white pyramidal stone day beacon was erected in 1811 on a rocky promontory at the southeastern point of Cape Elizabeth, at the southwestern limit of Casco Bay and about five miles southeast of Portland Harbor.

Shipping in the vicinity continued to increase, and officials recognized the need for a light station. A sum of $4,500 was appropriated in February 1828. It was determined that the station would have two lights, one fixed and one revolving, to differentiate it from Wood Island Light (revolving) to the south, and from Portland Head Light (fixed) to the north.

The station was established on 12 acres of land. The east light was built on the former site of the stone day beacon, and the inner or west light was built directly to the west, 895 feet away. The lights were considered among the most important on the coast; mariners approaching Portland Harbor would line them up to know they were on course.

In 1872, the Lighthouse Board announced that the two towers had deteriorated to the point that they had to be rebuilt. A pair of identical 67-foot cast-iron towers replaced the original towers in 1874, after a congressional appropriation of $30,000. The lighthouses were given delicate Italianate architectural detailing. Second-order Fresnel lenses were installed in both towers.

Marcus Aurelius Hanna, the best-known keeper in this station’s history, was born in 1842 while his father, James Tolman Hanna, was keeper of Franklin Island Light. His grandfather had been one of the first keepers of Boon Island Light.

Marcus Hanna went to sea as a cabin boy at the age of 10. During his service in the Civil War, he was praised for exposing himself to enemy fire while retrieving water for his men, an action that later earned him the Medal of Honor.

On the night of January 28, 1885, Marcus Hanna was suffering from a bad cold. A storm hit and increased in severity as the night progressed. Hanna sounded the steam fog whistle all night despite being ill and exhausted. Hiram Staples, the assistant keeper, relieved Hanna at 6:00 a.m. The blizzard was by then “one of the coldest and most violent storms of snow, wind and vapor . . . that I ever witnessed,” Hanna later said. He had to crawl through enormous snowdrifts back to the house.

Hanna was soon asleep. His wife, Louise (Davis), who held one of the assistant keeper positions for some years, extinguished the lights in both towers after sunrise. Then, at 8:40 a.m., she looked out toward the ocean and saw a schooner aground on Dyer’s Ledge, near the fog signal building. The vessel was the Australia out of Boothbay, which had been headed for Boston with a cargo of ice from the Kennebec River in the hold and 150 barrels of mackerel on deck. The captain had already been swept away by the waves; only two crew members remained alive. The men had climbed to the rigging and were practically frozen alive in the bitter cold.

Louise Hanna shouted to her husband, informing him that a vessel was ashore. The keeper rushed to the signal house. Staples hadn’t seen the wreck through the thick snow. The two men hurried to the edge of the water near the schooner. Hanna later recalled, “I felt a terrible responsibility thrust upon me, and I resolved to attempt the rescue at any hazard.” He tried a number of times to throw a line to the vessel but failed. Staples returned to the fog signal building. Meanwhile, Hanna’s wife alerted neighbors.

Hanna, practically frozen by this time, waded waist-deep into the ocean and again threw a line to the schooner, this time hitting his target. One of the crewmen, Irving Pierce, managed to pull himself from the rigging and tied the line around himself. Hanna somehow pulled the helpless man through the waves and over the rocks to the shore. According to Hanna, “Pierce’s jaws were set; he was totally blind from exposure to the cold, and the expression of his face I shall not soon forget.”

After several tries, Hanna landed the line on the Australia again. The other crewman, William Kellar, tied the rope around himself. Hanna’s strength was giving out and he faltered as he tried to pull the man to safety. Just then, Staples and two neighbors arrived. The four men hauled Kellar to the shore, and then carried the two sailors to the fog signal building. The men were given dry clothes and, once they had thawed enough, hot food and drink. After two days they had recovered enough to be taken to Portland by sled.

Six months later, Marcus Hanna received a gold lifesaving medal for “heroism involving great peril to his life,” in recognition of one of the greatest lifesaving feats at an American lighthouse.

In 1924, government officials decided to change the station to a single light, and the west light was extinguished for good on June 14. In May 2000, the east tower was licensed by the Coast Guard to the American Lighthouse Foundation (ALF). The tower’s foundation was repaired in the fall of 2008.

Unfortunately, public access to this very handsome lighthouse is limited because it's surrounded by private property. You can get a nice view from the nearby Two Lights Lobster Shack.

For more, information, visit these sites: and You can also read much more about this lighthouse in the book The Lighthouses of Maine, to be published by Commonwealth Editions in June 2009.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Support the National Lighthouse Stewardship Act

The idea of a national lighthouse preservation fund has been tossed around for years. There's no doubt that it's needed; many lighthouse preservation groups are struggling to stay above water. A large number of these groups are caring for lighthouses that are still owned by the federal government, or lighthouses that have been recently transferred from the federal government. It's only fitting that some federal dollars should be put into them.

On March 26, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, along with Senators Snowe, Stabenow, Collins and Schumer, introduced the National Lighthouse Stewardship Act. This act compliments the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act (NHLPA) of 2000, which facilitates the transfer of lighthouses to suitable new stewards. Under the NHLPA, some 46 lighthouses nationwide have been transferred to new owners. Many of these lighthouse are offshore and hard to access, and many are in dire need of restoration.

The pilot program proposed by Senator Levin would authorize $20 million a year for three years for the lighthouse stewardship fund. This isn't much, considering the large number of lighthouses that would be potential recipients. But every bit helps, and this would be a big step forward.

You can read Senator Levin's proposal at The bill has been assigned Senate Bill number s715.

By working together, lighthouse organizations and individual lighthouse aficionados can help make the National Lighthouse Stewardship Act a reality. Please contact your legislators and urge them to support this legislation, and let them know that you consider the preservation of our historic lighthouses to be a worthy and noble cause. And please spread the word to your friends who care about lighthouse preservation.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Lighthouse of the Week: Duxbury Pier Light, Massachusetts

This stout, coffeepot-shaped lighthouse is known fondly to locals as “Bug Light,” or simply “The Bug.” Located in Duxbury Bay, in the main channel to Plymouth Harbor, it occupies an important niche in lighthouse history as the first offshore cast-iron caisson lighthouse in the United States. Built in 1871, the lighthouse contained three levels below the lantern, including two levels that served as living quarters. The first keeper was William Atwood, who stayed until 1878.

Like so many offshore lighthouses, “The Bug” was a rough assignment for keepers. In early February 1875 the revenue steamer Gallatin was in the vicinity when the captain noticed a signal of distress flying at the lighthouse. The tower was surrounded by so much ice that it was impossible to reach the keeper by boat. The steamer got close enough so that the crew could converse with Atwood, and they learned that he had not been off the lighthouse since December 22 and his supplies of food and water were gone. The keeper and his wife had been reduced to a pint of water a day for several days. Two of the crewmen from the steamer spent two hours cutting through the ice to get a small boat to the lighthouse, and the Atwoods were furnished with supplies.

Getting to and from the lighthouse was a challenge in itself. Keeper Tolman Spencer was fortunate to escape with his life in a harrowing episode in late December 1920. Spencer had gone ashore to visit with his wife, and he left in the afternoon to row back to the lighthouse to light up for the evening while his wife attended a movie. When evening arrived, Mrs. Spencer knew something was amiss when she saw from shore that the light wasn’t lit. The Coast Guard at the Gurnet section of Plymouth was alerted, and they sent a man to light the light, while other crewmen searched for the missing keeper.

The Coast Guardsmen couldn’t find Spencer, so the keeper’s wife went to the police. She went out in a motorboat with two men, vowing to find her husband. Well out in the harbor, they discovered Spencer, who had been unable to make any progress as he rowed with all his might against the increasing wind and tide. He was pulled into the motorboat and immediately collapsed from exhaustion. The keeper and his wife were taken to the lighthouse, and Spencer eventually recovered.

Harry Salter, a Cape Cod native, became the Coast Guard officer in charge in 1944. Salter was at the station when the damaging hurricane of 1944 hit, battering the isolated station with 30-foot waves. He described the scene: “The gigantic waves were hammering this stout little light station unmercifully. It shook so bad we had trouble keeping the oil lamps lit. . . . The heavy seas on the east side were striking against the light, then crashing up under the catwalk and tearing away at our boat that we had previously lashed high on the davits.”

The station was automated and destaffed in 1964, and some restoration was completed in the 1980s. In 1993, the Coast Guard talked of replacing the lighthouse with a fiberglass pole, or at least removing the lantern. Dr. Don Muirhead of Duxbury, an avid sailor, spearheaded a new preservation effort. In 1994–95, 30 volunteers spent more than 420 man/woman hours cleaning, scraping, sanding, and painting.

Project Bug Light eventually took over responsibility for the care of Plymouth (“Gurnet”) Light as well, and the name of the organization was changed to match its mission. In the fall of 2001, Project Gurnet and Bug Lights hired the Campbell Construction Group of Beverly, Massachusetts, for another major renovation.

I had photographed almost every other lighthouse in Massachusetts before this one. It remained a speck seen from the Plymouth waterfront until I got a boat ride with the Campbell Construction crew in 2001. It’s always an adventure visiting an isolated, offshore lighthouse; I wish more of the public had the opportunity to experience this rare treat.

To read more, visit or get the book “The Lighthouses of Massachusetts.”

For more on Project Gurnet and Bug Lights, visit

Friday, April 3, 2009

Lighthouse of the Week - Sakonnet Light, Rhode Island

I'm always drawn to the isolated, offshore lighthouses because of the dramatic human history that's often associated with them. That's certainly the case with this wave-swept beacon, located offshore from Little Compton, Rhode Island. I had photographed all the other lights in RI before this one, except for the distant view available from the beach at Little Compton. In recent years I've been lucky enough to view it from a boat and from a helicopter.

The name "Sakonnet," by the way, is said to come from a local Indian word for "abode of the black goose." The Sakonnet River, actually an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean, separates Tiverton and Little Compton from the busier Aquidneck Island to the west. If you stop around here for jonnycakes (cornmeal pancakes) or a cabinet (milkshake), you might hear someone use the old time pronunciation, “S’cunnet.”

Back to the human drama. Here's an excerpt from my book, The Lighthouses of Rhode Island (Commonwealth Editions, 2006):

Life at offshore lighthouses could be stressful in many ways, particularly when personality conflicts developed between keepers. For several years in the 1930s, the first assistant keeper of Sakonnet Light was Samuel Fuller, who had a long career in the lighthouse service. The second assistant keeper from 1937 to 1939 was Ralph L. Sellers. A maintenance man named George Nemetz later recalled a confrontation between the two men.

During a January rainstorm, probably in 1937, Sellers was relaxing with a book by the kitchen stove. William H. Durfee, the head keeper, was away from the station. Tensions had apparently been building for some time between Sellers and Fuller, but Sellers was nevertheless shocked when he suddenly sensed sharp, chilly pressure from a yard-long icicle being pressed against his neck by Fuller.

Sellers jumped up, ran to a drawer, and grabbed a butcher knife. The two men circled round and round a center post. As the weird waltz continued, the heat inside the lighthouse melted Fuller’s weapon, and Sellers broke the icicle with his knife. Fuller ran through a door to the gallery outside, and Sellers locked the door behind him. According to Nemetz, Fuller remained outside for two days before a passing fishing boat picked him up. He managed to stay somewhat warm by lying on a spot on the floor that was directly over the fog signal machinery. Both Sellers and Fuller were transferred to other locations, and they never worked at the same lighthouse again.

If that's not dramatic enough, read the account of the catastrophic hurricane of 1938 on my site at The aftermath of that storm was summed by one of the keepers: "We were surprised when we looked to the point and saw that everything had been washed away."

The Friends of Sakonnet Lighthouse have been caring for this cast-iron structure for more than 20 years. As anyone involved in lighthouse preservation knows, the care of an offshore lighthouse is daunting and very expensive. I was very pleased to see that the Friends were granted funds from the federal Transportation Enhancement Program in 2006.

I recently received this restoration update from architect Deane Rykerson, based on a presentation given by John Wathne of Structures North:

The structure is a cast-iron drum with an interior lining of brick. The structure tapers with thick flanged iron sheets engaging masonry. Although this is not truly a structural composite, the iron and brick interlock in such a way that one cannot move without the other moving. Brick growth, natural cement mortar harder than the bricks of the liner, and corrosion jacking on the inner faces and joints of the iron sheets, work together to announce the lighthouse's deterioration as a "paint problem" to passing recreation boaters. The primary problem with corrosion, and the primary consequence of paint failure, occurs at the joints of the panels of the drum, which are bolted but not welded and no longer watertight on the exterior.

Structures North decided to tear out the existing brick liner in vertical "lifts," dropping it into the void of the caisson below. This avoids the costs and environmental issues of disposal of the brick at this off-shore site. The cast iron will be shot blasted on both sides then painted with a 3-part paint system (zinc-rich primer, epoxy, and polyurethane top coat). New brick will be brought to the site to replace the ruined liner. The project is currently working its way through permitting at the Rhode Island Department of Transportation. John is full of admiration for his client group who has stayed with the project enthusiastically - even as its complications unfolded.

I wish the Friends success and good luck in all their efforts. You can read more about Sakonnet Light on my site at

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Great American Lighthouses at the Morris Arboretum

Here's something cool for anyone who might be visiting Philadelphia this summer (May 23 - October 13):

Great American Lighthouses returns as the 2009 theme for Morris Arboretum's Summer Garden Railway display. With a changing theme each year, the Garden Railway is featuring historic buildings and Great American Lighthouses, some of the guardians that embody America's long relationship with the sea. These are the lighthouses that will be displayed this year: Boston Harbor Light, Brant Point Light, Cape Hatteras Light, East Brother Island Light, Fort Thompkins Light, Mukilteo Light, Old Point Loma Lighthouse, Pass A L'Outre Light, Race Rock Lighthouse, Sandy Hook Light, St. Joseph North Pierhead Lights, Whitefish Point Light, Thomas Point Shoal Light, Whaleback Lighthouse, Whitehead Light Station, Yaquina Bay Light.

All structures are created entirely of natural materials, each meticulously detailed with leaves, bark, vines, twigs, mosses and acorns. Hollow logs, branches and old railroad ties are also used to create unique tunnels, with a cascading waterfall completing the magic and drama to the already-exciting exhibit.

Nestled in this landscape are more than 1,000 feet of track, with ten G scale trains, representing various railroads throughout history. Two trolley car lines, Three cog lines. There is a constant flow of these wending their way across the terrain among woody plants, colorful annuals and perennials. One train passes over a giant trestle that visitors stroll beneath. The finished product is an enchanting landscape that never ceases to delight visitors both young and old.

The lighthouses and the display itself were designed by landscape architect and set designer Paul Busse of Applied Imagination -- -- in Alexandria, Kentucky. He and his staff spent many hours painstakingly constructing the lighthouse models. Busse has always been interested in lighthouses, and he realized that their popularity made them a natural focus for the garden railway display.

The Morris Arboretum is located in the Chestnut Hill Section of Philadelphia PA. at 100 E. Northwestern Ave.

Adult $14.00, Senior (65+years) $12.00, Youth (3-17 years) $7.00.
Student (must have ID) Children less than 3 Free. & Members Free

For more information call 215-247-5777 or

Outdoor Dining service is available at the Café Morris under the spacious tent located in back of the Widener Visitor Center, for hours of operation call

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Getting Attention

I launched this new blog site yesterday (April Fools Day) with a silly story about plans to move Whaleback Lighthouse from its offshore ledge near Kittery, Maine, to the site of the old Yoken's restaurant on Route 1 in Portsmouth, NH. The story may or may not have made you laugh, but I hope it got your attention. If it at least did that, I consider it somewhat successful. I hope some readers also caught the underlying intent.

Much of my time these days, as the operations manager of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse and the first vice president of the American Lighthouse Foundation, is occupied by the need to bring attention to the cause of lighthouse preservation. I've been sending out press releases and posting on the social networking sites. Sometimes I feel like I'm shouting into a void, but I've got to keep trying.

In these tough times, donations are down and every dollar is vital. With economic turmoil and troubling international affairs, there's no doubt that a cause like the preservation of historic lighthouses is far down on the list of priorities for many people. In fact, I'd say it's not even close to making the list for most people.

There are so many hands out pleading for our dollars, and human service organizations like the Red Cross and the United Way will always come first for most people. And rightly so.

Meanwhile, the lighthouses aren't healing themselves. The job of keeping these treasures in top condition never ends. Wind, waves, and salt air continue to do their worst; they don't take a break because of a recession. In fact, if you believe the scientists that the weather is getting more severe because of global warming (as I do), the situation is growing more dire all the time.

It's not so dire for those lucky lighthouses that are fortunate enough to 1) be accessible by car, and 2) have adequate facilities for a museum, gift shop, and/or b&b. It's an entirely different story for the organizations managing offshore, hard-to-access lighthouses.

In the situations where you can't bring people to the lighthouse, you have to bring the lighthouse to the people. That was my underlying message in the April Fools Day post about Whaleback Lighthouse being moved to Route 1. Believe me, if it was feasible to actually move Whaleback Lighthouse, we'd have to consider it. Desperate times call for innovation. But not only would the cost be astronomical; it would destroy the historic fabric of the lighthouse to remove it from its perch on a treacherous ledge.

It was built there because Portsmouth was a leading port, and the dangerous ledges at the mouth of the Piscataqua River caused significant losses of life and property before the lighthouse was built. Having the lighthouse where it is serves as a constant reminder of those facts. Its location lends drama to its appearance. It also stands as a memorial to the brave keepers who lived inside it through storms and high seas for so many years.

We'll continue trying to get the word out about lighthouse preservation, and we'll hold events that will raise funds and awareness. It will be frustrating at times, but we plug on because we believe in the cause.

Lighthouses symbolize many things to many people, all of them positive: strength, steadfastness, hope, faith, and guidance among them. I often think that if every person who has derived at least a moment of pleasure from lighthouses would donate even a small amount to lighthouse preservation, we'd have more money than we need.

Historic Lighthouse Will be Moved to Route 1

Whaleback Lighthouse, a granite tower built in 1872, is perched on a wave-swept ledge just offshore from Fort Foster in Kittery, Maine. It’s a beloved icon of the Seacoast, but very few people have the chance to experience it first hand. “It’s hard to raise funds for a lighthouse that people can’t visit,” laments Ross Tracy, chairman of the Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse (FPHL). FPHL is a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation, the organization that was awarded ownership of Whaleback Lighthouse last November.

To solve the dilemma, the directors of FPHL have devised a unique plan. The lighthouse, which is about 60 feet tall, will be carefully dismantled by volunteers, block by block. Volunteers will be expected to bring their own crowbars, and must be capable of lifting 4,000 pounds. "This should be a perfect project for local senior citizens and schoolchildren," says Yvonne Zemotel, treasurer of FPHL.

Each block will be carefully numbered with a waterproof marker. “We’ll most likely use a black Sharpie,” says Tracy. The blocks will be hauled to the vacant lot on Route 1 that was once home to Yoken’s Restaurant, and the tower will be re-assembled in its new home. “We figure the lighthouse will make a nice companion piece to the old Yoken’s ‘Thar She Blows!’ sign,” says Joanne Yeaton, vice chairperson of FPHL.

Asked if the lighthouse will retain any navigational importance so far from the sea, Sharon Mills, secretary of FPHL, replied, “The light and foghorn will be a boon to late night drivers finding their way home from the bars in downtown Portsmouth. To replace the lighthouse off Kittery, we’re thinking of painting the rocks day-glo orange for the benefit of the fishermen.”