Saturday, October 31, 2009
Pemaquid Point is one of the most frequently visited attractions of the Maine coast, receiving about 100,000 visitors each year. The name “Pemaquid” is said to have had its origins in an Abenaki Indian word for “situated far out.” Settlers Immigrants from Bristol, England, established a settlement at Pemaquid in 1631. Today, the area is part of the town of Bristol, incorporated in 1765.
The point, at the entrance to Muscongus Bay to the east and Johns Bay to the west, was the scene of many shipwrecks through the centuries. In May 1826, with as maritime trade, fishing, and the shipping of lumber were increasing in midcoast Maine, Congress appropriated $4,000 for the building of a lighthouse at Pemaquid Point. Jeremiah Berry of Thomaston was contracted to build the conical rubblestone tower, along with a keeper’s dwelling, also built of stone, 20 by 34 feet with an attached kitchen, 10 by 12 feet. Berry completed construction for the sum of $2,800. The fixed white light went into service on November 29, 1827.
Isaac Dunham of Bath, Maine, became the first keeper, at $350 per year. Dunham, who was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts, went to sea at an early age and visited many foreign ports. During the War of 1812, he served on a privateer.
The original stone tower didn’t last long, possibly because Berry may have used salt water to mix his lime mortar. A new conical stone tower was built in 1835 by Joseph Berry of Georgetown, who was the nephew of the builder of the first tower.
Dunham and many of his successors kept animals, including chickens, at the light station. It appears that Dunham was also an inventor of sorts. He received a patent for a system he developed to keep lamp oil from congealing in winter, and in 1837 Congress decreed that the Treasury was authorized to adopt Dunham’s improvements. It isn’t clear how widely his invention was adopted.
Keeper Joseph Lawler and his wife, Sophronia, welcomed a baby girl in 1868; Susie Lawler was the only child ever born at the lighthouse. Marcus A. Hanna, who was later acclaimed for a heroic rescue at Cape Elizabeth, succeeded Lawler in 1869 and stayed until 1873.
On September 16, 1903, while Clarence Marr was keeper, the captain of the fishing schooner George F. Edmunds tried to run for South Bristol Harbor in a gale. The vessel was driven by a strong gust into the rocks near Pemaquid Point and was dashed to pieces. The captain and 13 crew members died in the wreck; only two were saved. The captain of another schooner, the Sadie and Lillie, also died near Pemaquid Point in the same storm.
Leroy S. Elwel was keeper in 1934 when the light became one of the earliest in Maine to be converted to automatic acetylene gas operation. In March 1940, residents of Bristol voted at a town meeting to authorize the town's selectmen to purchase the property, except for the lighthouse tower.
The surrounding property became Lighthouse Park, and the keeper’s house eventually was converted into the Fishermen’s Museum. The museum opened in 1972 and has been operated since then by volunteers from the local area. The Pemaquid Group of Artists added an art gallery to Lighthouse Park in 1960.
In May 2000, the lighthouse tower was licensed by the Coast Guard to the American Lighthouse Foundation (ALF). Under the leadership of Dick Melville, a local resident, a chapter of ALF, the Friends of Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, was formed. The group soon restored the entryway to the tower and began holding open houses.
Pemaquid Point Light became the first lighthouse ever to ever appear on American currency in 2003, when its image appeared on the official Maine quarter.
By the twenty-first century, the tower’s healthy outward appearance belied the problems within; considerable water intrusion had caused deterioration of the tower’s mortar. It became apparent that significant restoration was needed in a hurry.
In February 2007, Lowe’s Companies and the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced that the lighthouse would receive $50,000 toward a $106,000 restoration. In June 2007, personnel from Building Conservation Associates (BCA), analyzed the tower’s coatings, work that was made possible by a $10,000 “New Century Community Program” historic preservation grant from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission. The remaining $46,000 needed for restoration was raised by the volunteers of Friends of Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, much of it a dollar at a time at open houses.
The tower’s repointing, which utilized the same type of natural cement-based material used during the original construction, was completed by the end of July 2007. A new coat of paint was applied in August. ALF’s executive director, Bob Trapani, commented, “The minute you drive or walk into Pemaquid Point Park, the lighthouse commands your attention in the wake of its restoration. It’s like a shining exclamation point on a seascape of blue.”
Volunteers of the Friends of Pemaquid Point Lighthouse (a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation) manages the tower only. Volunteers open the tower in season (Memorial Day to Columbus Day) to the public every day from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. There is no charge to climb the tower, but donations are welcomed. For more information, contact Friends of Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, P.O. Box 353, Bristol, ME 04539-0353. Phone: (207) 563-2739.
A one-bedroom apartment in the keeper’s house is available for weekly vacation rentals. For information, call Newcastle Square Vacation Rentals at (207) 563-6500.
For more information, see www.lighthouse.cc/pemaquid.
The public is invited to attend a special evening dinner celebration and fundraiser being held on November 7, 2009, at 6 p.m. in the ballroom of the beautiful Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport, Maine. The event marks the 15th anniversary of the American Lighthouse Foundation (ALF).
The evening will begin with a social hour, hors d’oeuvres, music, and a silent auction. Following dinner, National Geographic photographer/producer Todd Gipstein will present his program “Ledge Light.” This entertaining program will highlight one of ALF’s newest lighthouse projects and will introduce you to New London Ledge Light, a well-known offshore beacon with a storied history and a future that’s brighter than ever.
Highlighting the evening will be the presentation of ALF’s 2009 Len Hadley Volunteerism Awards, the Keeper of the Light Award, and the Distinguished Lighthouse Community Service Award.
The American Lighthouse Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to save and preserve our nation’s historic light stations and their rich heritage. ALF accomplishes this in part through the restoration, promotion, and adaptive re-use of America’s historic light stations, as well as educational initiatives that foster the sustainable preservation of lighthouses and perpetuate the legacy of the men and women who have tended them.
Tickets (reservations required) for this event are $49.00 per person and include a choice of Prime Rib, Chicken Florentine, Baked Haddock or Vegetarian Strudel. Reservations can be made by calling the American Lighthouse Foundation’s Maine office at (207) 594-4174 or online at www.lighthousefoundation.org
Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
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reliable, efficient and on the cutting edge of 21st century technology.
Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse (New Hampshire) has been honored by the United States Secretary of the Interior with placement on the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register of Historic Places is the nation's official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. The lighthouse is listed in the National Register along with the associated keeper's dwelling (1872) and oil house (1903).
This is exciting news for Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse because it brings deserved attention to the lighthouse, and also because it means the organization is now eligible for certain grants that require National Register status.
Thanks to the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources and the U.S. Coast Guard, who played major roles in making this happen.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I took this during a helicopter flight a couple of years ago, and I like it because it shows a good overview of the lighthouse (Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse), Fort Constitution, and the Coast Guard station in New Castle, New Hampshire.
I just came across this photo on Flickr. It was taken by Chris Drew, and it has to be one of the best lighthouse photos I've ever seen. There have been so many photos taken of Portland Head Light that's it not easy to come up with something original, but Chris has done that.
Visit Chris Drew Photography to see more of his work.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I just got this press release from the Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse:
Biddeford Pool, ME. The Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse (FOWIL) announced Monday that the first major phase of the lighthouse’s restoration has started. Construction boats left Vines Landing in Biddeford Pool Monday morning, ferrying tools, equipment and material to the island to begin a two month restoration of the interior and exterior of the lighthouse tower and its adjoining oil room. The work was contracted last week to Stone Age Masonry of Sabattus, ME. Only ten days after the bids were opened, Stone Age had mobilized and moved to get started ahead of the winter season.
FOWIL, a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation, was formed in 2003 to restore and preserve the lighthouse. Brad Coupe, chair of the FOWIL Executive Committee, spoke of the excitement the group feels as work gets underway. “We are ecstatic to see this goal become a reality. For six long years, our volunteers have been at this, devoting countless hours to maintaining the lighthouse and raising money,” he said. This phase of the work is being funded entirely by membership donations and donations from summer visitors who took lighthouse tours, by purchases at FOWIL art shows, sales of lighthouse merchandise, and by grants the group has attracted.
Wood Island Lighthouse, commissioned by Thomas Jefferson in 1808, was on Lighthouse Digest’s “Doomsday List” of America’s most endangered lighthouses in 2003. “We are pleased today to be pulling it back from the brink,” Coupe said. The tower is the oldest structure at the light station, having been erected in 1838. Hollis Curtis, owner of Stone Age, said, “We are excited to have been entrusted with the job of renewing this historic structure. We plan to deliver a completely restored tower to the Friends before the end of the year, if the elements cooperate,” Curtis said.
The tower work is the first of two phases planned to be completed in the next 15 months. The second phase will move to the keeper’s house. It will tackle the exterior siding, windows and roof, and it will return the porch to its attractive original design from 1906, when this house was expanded to its current Dutch Colonial design. This second phase will be funded by a HUD grant sponsored by Senator Susan Collins and initiated by the American Lighthouse Foundation’s executive director, Bob Trapani. “Without Senator Collins’ tenacious efforts on our behalf to get the federal appropriation, we could not accomplish all that is now within FOWIL’s reach,” Trapani said. He noted also that the appropriation will assist two other ALF lighthouses at Pemaquid Point and Owl’s Head. And, Coupe added, “Without the backing that this appropriation gave us, we would not have attempted to do the tower with our own funds. We owe Senator Collins a great debt of gratitude.”
Assisting FOWIL with the design of the restoration work and guiding them through the historic preservation regulatory process has been a team led by Ed Theriault of Theriault/Landmann Associates, Inc., of Portland, and Scott Whitaker of Building Envelope Consultants, South Portland. “Ed and Scott have been as enthusiastic about this project as our own members,” Coupe said. “They have worked seamlessly with the State Historic Preservation Commission and the Coast Guard to ensure that our work meets required historic standards at every step.”
I was going through some photos and came across this neat shot I had forgotten about. The Friendship, a reconstruction of a 171-foot three-masted Salem East Indiaman built in 1797, is seen here during a tall ship parade near Portsmouth, NH, in August 2008. Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse and Fort Constitution in New Castle can be seen in the background. The small boat is from Captain & Patty's Cruises in Kittery Point, Maine; see www.capandpatty.com.
Here's the Friendship in front of the old prison at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard:
Monday, October 26, 2009
The event was a benefit for Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse. For more on the Sea Captains, see theseacaptains.com and their Facebook page.
Special thanks to the U.S. Coast Guard, the volunteers of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, and all who made the event possible.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Great news! Volunteer crews have completed staining and repairs at Egg Rock Lighthouse, near Bar Harbor and Winter Harbor, Maine. The 1875 lighthouse is now owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), while the optic is still owned and maintained by the Coast Guard.
USFWS provided materials for the work, while Bar Harbor Whale Watch provided transportation. Gary Fagan, owner of the Acadian Nature Tour, donated lunches for volunteers. John Nicolia, owner of the Lulu lobster boat, was a big supporter and helped recruit volunteers.
This is a wonderful example of teamwork on behalf of a historic lighthouse. Anyone interested in helping with the restoration of Egg Rock Lighthouse should contact Zack Klyver at Bar Harbor Whale Watch at 207-288-2386.
Click here for more information.
On Sunday, October 25, 2009, at 4:00 p.m., the Sea Captains will perform at Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse. No, these captains aren’t the ghosts of lighthouse keepers past – they’re a pop-rock band based in Southern Maine and Seacoast New Hampshire. The outdoor performance at the lighthouse will celebrate the release of the band’s first full-length studio album, Unfathomable, which will be available beginning October 20 at Bull Moose Music stores and electronically on Itunes, CD Baby, and at www.theseacaptains.com.
The 11-song album was produced and recorded over three sessions with Jonathan Wyman at The Halo. It accurately captures the sound of the Captains’ energetic live show with undeniably fun, witty lyrics, and contagious melodies. The band members are longtime friends and musical collaborators who have united with the goal of sharing their fun, upbeat pop/rock music with audiences of all ages. Since 2007, the Sea Captains have toured the Northeast with great success.
Point Judith, the southernmost extremity of the town of Narragansett, juts out from the surrounding coast for about a mile into Block Island Sound. Boat traffic past the point has been heavy for centuries with vessels traveling between New York and New England, and others heading north into Narragansett Bay.
There are varying accounts of how the point got its name. There's a persistent legend about a Nantucket sea captain and his daughter who were passing the point in thick weather. The captain’s daughter was named Judith. Upon sighting land through the fog, she shouted the news to her father. The captain, unable to discern anything in the fog, exhorted his daughter to “P’int, Judy, p’int!”
Congress appropriated $5,000 for a lighthouse at the point in February 1808. It was the state’s third lighthouse, after Beavertail and Watch Hill. The first lighthouse tower was short lived. It was laid flat on September 23, 1815, by a tremendously destructive hurricane that would be remembered as the Great Gale of 1815.
In April 1816, $7,500 was appropriated to rebuild the lighthouse, and a 35-foot octagonal tower constructed of rough stone was erected that same year. The focal plane of the light was 74 feet above the sea.
Edgar Ravenswood Eaton was keeper from 1849 to 1853. In the files of the Newport Historical Society is a stern letter to Eaton dated November 18, 1850, from Edward Lawton, the local lighthouse superintendent. Lawton wrote:
Complaint has been made at this office that your Light was out from two to half past 4 o’clock this morning; how much longer the complainant could not tell. I presume it is not necessary for me to say that such an occurrence is altogether inadmissible; your light is an important one & the consequences from missing it are serious indeed—if your oil is not good or the revolving apparatus is out of order let me know immediately, and I beg of you let no more complaints be made that the lights are out.
Eaton offered a poignant defense, illustrating an essential dilemma of lighthouse keepers at times of family illnesses:
Sir I was up all night tending to a sick child and was at the Light house after 1 oclock at night it was then a bright light. . . . I was out doors about four o’clock in the morning and the light was bright then I am serting. [sic]
In 1857, a new tower and connected brick dwelling were constructed. The 51-foot octagonal tower is built of brownstone blocks and is 24 feet wide at the base, 13 feet wide at the top. Its interior is lined with brick. When the tower was built, a fourth-order Fresnel lens replaced a system of 10 Argand oil lamps and 21-inch reflectors.
A family dynasty of keepers that would span nearly a half-century began in 1862 when Joseph Whaley—oldest of 11 children and a native of Narragansett—arrived as keeper at a yearly salary of $350. “Captain Joe” and his wife raised three daughters and a son in their 27 years at the lighthouse. Their son, Henry, would become the next keeper in 1889 (at $650 per year), staying until 1910.
The Narragansett Times reported on the astounding number of vessels seen passing Point Judith from June 1, 1871, to June 1, 1872. Keeper Whaley counted 4,444 steamers, 2,183 sloops, 29,757 schooners, 728 brigs, 122 barks, and 23 other ships—numbers that attest to the continued value of the light and fog signal.
With heavy maritime traffic, wrecks continued to occur with regularity in the vicinity of Point Judith. On September 9, 1896, while Henry Whaley was keeper, a storm with winds of 80 miles per hour ran into the coast. At least five vessels were wrecked near Point Judith in the storm, and passengers on board the steamer Rhode Island reported that they received “a terrible shaking” while passing the point.
In 1899, the previously all-white tower was changed to its now familiar daymark, with the upper half brown and the lower half white. Thanks to a $230,000 Coast Guard restoration in 2000, the lighthouse tower is in excellent condition. The fourth-order Fresnel lens was removed from the tower in April 2000 and was transported to the Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team facility at Bristol, Rhode Island. The refurbishment of the lantern by Campbell Construction Group included the replacement of some of the original panels.
Some of the original brownstone blocks had to be replaced, not an easy task since brownstone is rarely quarried today. A quarry was located in Cheshire, Connecticut, in the same Connecticut River Valley area where the original stone was probably quarried. The replacement stones were dyed to match the original ones.
The lighthouse is on the grounds of Coast Guard Station Point Judith and is accessible to visitors during the day. The tower itself is not open. The site is easily accessible at the end of Ocean Road, off the end of Rhode Island Route 108.
For more, visit www.lighthouse.cc/pointjudith/. Click here for a photo gallery.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
The city of Fall River, situated where the Taunton River flows into Mount Hope Bay, was famed as the “Textile Capital of the World” in the nineteenth century. At one time, more than 100 cotton mills in Fall River employed over 30,000 people.
For a number of years before a lighthouse was built to warn of a dangerous reef at the mouth of the Taunton River, an unlighted day beacon marked the spot. On June 16, 1880, $25,000 was appropriated for a lighthouse on Borden Flats, and construction soon commenced.
A cylindrical cast-iron caisson was sunk in place on the reef, and then filled with concrete. The components of the superstructure were delivered in July 1881. The cast-iron tower, which doubled as living quarters for a keeper, was erected on the caisson, and the light went into service on October 1, 1881, with a fourth-order Fresnel lens producing a fixed red light 47 feet above mean high water. A fog bell was installed on the side of the tower, with automatic striking machinery.
There were five stories above the basement, including the lantern. The keepers lived inside the tower. Herman Georgie was keeper from 1885 to 1898. The Boston Globe reported in September 1897 that Georgie was found acutely ill with appendicitis at the lighthouse. His wife had been sounding the fog bell and waving to passing boats for some time before people on shore realized something was wrong, and the keeper was quickly rushed to a hospital. “For two days,” said the Globe, “he suffered intense agony at the lighthouse, attended only by his wife.”
Joseph Meyer was keeper on October 8, 1907, when a severe storm hit the area. In the station's log, now at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., Meyer wrote:
Violent SW gale. Occasional heavy squalls. 11 am – A barge of about 800 tons of coal sank in the harbor–two men drowned, and a sloop of 10 tons was wrecked on the beach.
John H. Paul became keeper in July 1912 and stayed until 1927. In the mid-afternoon on August 3, 1912, Keeper Paul was involved in a dramatic rescue. Two Fall River men were passing near the lighthouse in a rowboat. As the men attempted to change places, the boat overturned. Paul saw the accident and immediately launched his boat. One of the men, James Parker, was unable to swim and was lost in the waves. The other man, Matthew Loftus, clung to the overturned boat and was swiftly rescued by Paul. The keeper later received a bronze Carnegie lifesaving medal.
The lighthouse was battered in the hurricane of September 21, 1938, as were most lighthouses on New England's south-facing coast. A new, much wider cylindrical caisson was subsequently added around the old one to provide more protection.
The lighthouse was converted to electric operation on 1957, but the old kerosene lamp was kept on hand as a backup. The Coast Guard crew at the time of a 1961 article consisted of the officer in charge, Boatswain’s Mate First Class Richard Lehl of Somerville, Massachusetts; Boatswain’s Mate Third Class Albert Houde of Fall River; and Fireman Apprentice Richard Robinson of Kansas City, Missouri. The men served 18-month tours at the station at the time, with a monthly subsistence allowance of $77.10 in addition to their regular pay.
The light was automated in the spring of 1963, and the last Coast Guard crew of four was reassigned. For a while, a civilian “lamplighter” was employed by the Coast Guard to turn on the fog bell as needed from shore, with the flick of a switch.
In September 2006, it was announced that the lighthouse would be available for transfer to a suitable applicant under the provisions of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000. No organizations expressed interest, meaning the lighthouse was sold at auction to the general public. In September 2008, it went to the high bidder, attorney Michael Gabriel of Carson City, Nevada, for $55,000. Gabriel is also the owner of Bloody Point Bar Lighthouse in Maryland and Fourteen Foot Bank Lighthouse in Delaware.
Borden Flats Light can be seen from the Borden Light Marina, a half-mile south of Battleship Cove (home to the battleship Massachusetts) on the Fall River waterfront. See www.bordenlight.com for directions.
Click here for more information.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
In a sense, this is two books in one: a compendium of regional recipes, including many of my personal New England favorites (mmmm...stuffies!), and a primer on some of our most historic and beloved beacons.
Of course, for families living at lighthouses, procuring, preparing, and enjoying local food was an enormous part of daily life, and that legacy is what ties this volume together.
No lighthouse buff or lover of coastal cuisine should miss this one-of-a-kind volume.
Click here to buy it at Amazon.com.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Friday, October 2, 2009
From the time the first European settlers arrived until the Civil War, the area along the east bank of the Providence River from Watchemoket down to Bullock’s Point was sparsely populated by farmers and fishermen. Bullock's Point got its name from Richard Bullock, who established a farm on the neck of land in 1666.
The point, which juts southward toward the mouth of the river, was surrounded by shoals that proved treacherous for the growing shipping traffic heading to and from Providence in the nineteenth century. After a Congressional appropriation of $1000 in 1872, a small lighted beacon was placed on a granite pier.
It was soon deemed a necessity to have a keeper living full time at Bullock’’s Point Light. An additional appropriation of $15,000 was obtained on June 23, 1874, for the building of a new combined lighthouse and dwelling. The station was finished in the early spring of 1876.
This lighthouse was unlike any other in New England—an attractive Victorian dwelling on a rectangular granite pier, with the short lighthouse tower and lantern centered on its roof. The sixth-order Fresnel lens exhibited a fixed red light.
Joseph P. Eddy was keeper from 1886 to 1892. His four children rowed to shore to attend school in the Drownville section of Barrington every day. The Eddys had many visitors, and Mrs. Eddy said she enjoyed living at the lighthouse better than living on land. The family endured a brutally cold winter in 1892, when even a steamer bound for New York City became lodged in the ice.
Captain William Thomas Tengren, who was born in Sweden, was keeper from 1901 to 1909 and again from 1918 to 1926. Tengren had gone to work on ships at the age of nine, and his travels eventually landed him in the United States.
Tengren lived at the six-room lighthouse with his wife, Charlotta, and their three children, Anton, Agnes, and Mary. The Tengrens added a deck to the lighthouse to serve as a “yard” so that the children could play outside.
Anton Tengren’s son, Thomas William Tengren, spent some time at the lighthouse with his grandparents when Anton was overseas during World War I. Years later Thomas would say, “You ain’t been cold till you’ve sat in that outhouse in January with a good stiff breeze coming in off the bay.” The outhouse, of course, hung over the river outside the lighthouse.
The next keeper was Andrew Zuius, who had been stationed at various locations including the Delaware River. On May 27, 1930, a sailboat capsized in a squall near the lighthouse, and Keeper Zuius rescued the two persons on board.
The hurricane of September 21, 1938, the greatest storm of the twentieth century in southern New England, undermined the pier beneath the lighthouse and did great damage to the building itself. Zuius survived, somehow keeping the light burning through the storm. In the morning he found that the wall facing the wind had been ripped away and the stairs had been washed out, and all his belongings were swept away.
Bullock's Point Light was discontinued shortly after the great storm and the structure was torn down a few years later.
For more, visit this page and this article.