Saturday, January 30, 2010

Charles Lindbergh and Goat Island Lighthouse

After the world famous aviator Charles Lindbergh married Anne Morrow in 1929, they spent their honeymoon touring the New England coast in a rented 38-foot yacht. A recent story by on tells what happened when the boat anchored off Goat Island Lighthouse, near Kennebunkport, Maine:

Capt. Jim Anderson, keeper of the lighthouse, was offended the little launch failed to answer his customary salute of three bells. He grabbed his powerful binoculars and was able to identify Lindy and Anne moving about the boat. Anderson called to his wife and children so that they might get a glimpse of the celebrities. The following morning, the lighthouse keeper revealed to a Portsmouth reporter that the honeymooners turned out their cabin light at 8:25 p.m."

You can read the entire interesting story here.

Donald Duck: Lighthouse Keeping (1946)

Another classic lighthouse cartoon!

Lighthouse of the Week: Bear Island Light, Maine

Eleven-acre Bear Island, near the town of Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert Island, is one of the island group known as the Cranberry Isles. Nineteenth-century landscape artists, including Frederick Church and Albert Bierstadt, were drawn to Bear Island’s rugged beauty. The historian Charles B. McLane postulated that the island’s name was originally “Bare.” McLane believed that the name stemmed from the island’s treeless appearance from the west rather than the unlikely presence of bears.

Congress appropriated $3,000 for the building of a lighthouse on the island in July 1838, and the station went into service in 1839. The first lighthouse building took the form of a wooden tower on the southern end of the roof of a small rubblestone dwelling. John G. Bowen (sometimes spelled “Bowan”) was the first keeper.

Lighthouse-keeping appointments were highly political in the first half of the nineteenth century. After Bowen was dismissed in 1842, Secretary of the Treasury Walter Forward explained the reasons. “Interference in elections, both under the late and present administrations, and absence from the lighthouse for days in succession are the principal charges against Mr. Bowen,” Forward wrote to a Maine congressman in June 1842.

John Bowen returned for a second stint as keeper (1844–50). In March 1850, a local politician, Charles Peters, wrote to a justice of the peace in favor of Bowen’s removal: “Washington needs to know what kind of a critter Bowan has been. . . . if he has been known to attend political conventions . . . if he has been an active and brawling Partizan. . . . I want to sluice Bowan before he knows it.” After many prominent Whigs signed a petition, Bowen was removed in favor of Levi Robinson, a native of the nearby town of Tremont.

A fire did great damage to the lighthouse building in 1852, and the 1854 annual report of the lighthouse board announced that the station had been rebuilt. The new lighthouse consisted of a round brick tower at one end of the dwelling.

Around the time of the station’s rebuilding, John G. Bowen returned for a third and final stint as keeper (1853–55). Caleb S. Gould succeeded Bowen in 1855. It isn’t clear how many children Gould had, but there were enough, in combination with one other family on the island, for Bear Island to be named a separate school district under Gould’s direction in 1856.

A fifth-order Fresnel lens was installed in 1856. In 1888, a 1,000-pound fog bell and striking apparatus were installed. The present 31-foot brick lighthouse was built in 1889–90 after a congressional appropriation of $3,750, as were a new one-and-one-half-story, wood-frame keeper’s house and a barn.

Elmo J. Turner was the keeper for some years in the 1930s, after time at Great Duck Island Light. Like many lighthouse families, Turner and his wife kept chickens and a cow at the island station.

“There was no power on the island,” says Turner’s great-granddaughter, Joyce MacIlroy, “so my great-grandmother would keep the fresh cream in the cellar.

"One day, the cow had to be taken to the mainland, so Elmo loaded her into the dory and rowed her across to Northeast Harbor, then rowed her back over to the island. The cow got seasick on the way back—that must have been quite the sight!”

In the early 1980s, Bear Island Light was discontinued and replaced by an offshore lighted bell buoy. The property became part of Acadia National Park in 1987. Through most of the 1980s, the station fell into disrepair.

In 1989, the Friends of Acadia refurbished the keeper's house for $17,000 and the tower was relighted as a private aid to navigation. The National Park Service then granted a long-term lease on the property to Martin Morad, who is required to pay for the upkeep of the property.

Morad, originally from Iran, is a professor of pharmacology and medicine at Georgetown University. Fabiola Martens, his wife, is Belgian. She is a former lawyer and now is an interior designer. Morad had originally seen Bear Island Lighthouse in 1971 and had attempted to buy or lease it to no avail. By 1989, the house had fallen into such poor condition that it took three years of renovation before Morad and Martens could move in.

Click here for much more information on this lighthouse.

Photo of the Day: Marshall Point Lighthouse, Maine

I had some nice late day light for this shot. Marshall Point is one of the prettiest lighthouse locations in New England -- I always try to visit when I'm in the area.

Click here for more on Marshall Point Lighthouse.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Boston Globe mention of "The Lighthouses of Maine"

There's a nice mention of my book "The Lighthouses of Maine" at today:

Jeremy D’Entremont has a passion for lighthouses and their history, and “The Lighthouses of Maine’’ (Commonwealth Editions, $19.95) is a highly readable and exhaustive reference to the Pine Tree State’s iconic aids to navigation. It’s worth picking up just for D’Entremont’s tales of rescues and his scrupulously researched stories of lightkeepers’ lives.

The book is available in many bookstores and from

Lego Lighthouse Wins Prize!

Congratulations to Matthew Allen of Wilton, Connecticut, whose model of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse (New Hampshire), made of Legos, took third place in the annual “Festival of Lighthouses” contest at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, Connecticut.

Nice choice of a model and a terrific job by Mr. Allen!

Click here for more info.

Photo of the Day: Stonington Lighthouse, Connecticut

I took this photo in the mid-'90s, during my first visit to this lighthouse. This is the only mainland lighthouse in Connecticut that's open to the public on a regular basis.

It's well worth a visit to the tidy little Stonington Borough. Inside the lighthouse is a six-room museum of local history, including paintings, whaling and fishing gear, and an exhibit on the lighthouses of Long Island Sound. The museum, run by the Stonington Historical Society, is open May through October.

Click here for more on this lighthouse.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Photo of the Day: Doubling Point Lighthouse, Maine

This is one of the prettiest lighthouse locations around. It's in Arrowsic, on the Kennebec River, across from the waterfront of Bath.

This particular photo was taken in June 2001, when I visited here with the French photographer Jean Guichard. While we were there, we saw a deer close by at the edge of the woods, and we also saw an otter in the water. Jean remarked, "It is like a Disney film here!"

Haunted Lighthouse video clip - Seguin Island, Maine

My friend Ron Kolek just sent me a link to the video below. This is a segment from a show on the SciFi Channel several years ago. It's about the supposedly haunted Seguin Lighthouse, at the mouth of the Kennebec River in Maine.

The segment is kind of lame, but it's really nice to see clips of an interview with Connie Small. Connie was the author of the wonderful book The Lighthouse Keeper's Wife, and her positive attitude and love of lighthouses made her an inspiration. Connie was 99 when this was shot, and she lived to be 103.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Alan Claude's Art Prints & Valentine Special

I really love the work of graphic artist Alan Claude. His posters of Maine lighthouse are reminiscent of classic travel posters of the 1920s, but Alan's style is all his own.

From now to Valentine's Day, Alan's offering free shipping and free gift wrapping on any purchase.

Click here to look at Alan's prints and calendars.

Also, check out an interview with Alan on Maine's WCSH 6 show "207" --

Photo of the Day: Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, Maine

I posted a photo of this lighthouse in the fog a week or so ago. This photo was taken on a perfect day in November 2008 - chilly but clear, with gorgeous blue skies and puffy clouds.

For more on this lighthouse, click here.

Theater review: 'Whisper House' set at a lighthouse

The new musical play “Whisper House," set at a Maine lighthouse during World War II, has gotten a positive review in the Los Angeles Times.

Critic Charles McNulty calls the play "darkly enchanting" and writes, "What excites me about the musical is the way it reaches for poetry."

The lighthouse is suggested on stage by a spiral stairway and a real Fresnel lens. This play looks intriguing and I hope a production is mounted on the East Coast.

Baker's Island lens video

I just revamped my history of Baker's Island Lighthouse in Salem, Massachusetts. In the course of doing this, I found a video clip from nearly 20 years ago. It shows the fourth-order Fresnel lens removed from Baker's Island in the 1970s. At the time I shot the video, the lens was on display at the Shore Village Museum in Rockland, Maine. That museum later grew into the Maine Lighthouse Museum on Rockland's waterfront.

The man you hear talking about the lens is Mr. Lighthouse himself, Ken Black. Most New England buffs are very familiar with Ken -- he was a retired Coast Guard officer who rescued many artifacts and built an incredible collection that's now the basis of the Maine Lighthouse Museum. Sorry the quality of the video isn't great. The transfer was done many years ago. I need to dig up these old tapes to do new digital transfers one of these days.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Photo of the Day: Spiral stairway inside Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, New Hampshire

The stairs inside Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse never cease to fascinate me.

Surf at Portland Head Light

Here's a nice video I just found, showing heavy surf at Portland Head Light in Maine on August 23, 2009.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A classic! "Lighthouse Mouse"

Cabo da Roca, Portugal

This photo of the lighthouse at Cabo da Roca in Portugal was taken by my brother, Jim D'Entremont, during a recent visit there. Cabo da Roca, near Sintra, is the westernmost point of mainland Europe.

The tower was built in 1772, placing it among the world's oldest working lighthouses.

A plaque at the site reads, "Onde a terra se acaba e o mar começa" ("Here ends the land and begins the sea," a line from a poem by Luís de Camões.)

Plum Beach Lighthouse license plate

The Friends of Plum Beach Lighthouse are now accepting applications for a Rhode Island license plate featuring their lighthouse. In October 2009, RI's General Assembly passed a bill giving the group the right to sell the plate, and the governor signed the legislation in November. The friends have now entered the next phase toward making the plate a reality. Before issuing the new plates, the DMV requires payment for 900 orders before committing to making them. The plate charge is $41.50, $20 goes to the state for plate production, $1.50 goes to the DMV for computer enhancement, and $20 goes to the Friends to help them maintain the lighthouse.

Click here for more info.

More in this clip from WNAC FOX 64 Providence:

Photo of the Day: Aerial View of Poplar Point Lighthouse, Rhode Island

I took this photo a couple of years ago during a memorable helicopter flight from Newport. I also had the pleasure of touring the property a few years ago when I was working on my book, The Lighthouses of Rhode Island. Russell and Cathy Shippee were very gracious hosts.

This spectacular property is now for sale. Click here to read all about it.

There's also more on the property here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Rose Island Lighthouse tour on January 23

The Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation in Newport, Rhode Island, is offering the rare chance to visit the island lighthouse in winter. Here's the note I just received:

Come help support the lighthouse during the winter months.

We are excited to offer a wonderful opportunity with the assistance of Oldport Marine Services to schedule a trip out to the lighthouse this Saturday January 22 at 1:30 PM. No reservations necessary -- just stop in and purchase your tickets at the Oldport Office. The total trip time is 1.5 hrs.

Adults $15
Children $10

This is your chance to enjoy a beautiful Saturday on the water and to get out of the house. The island is open for walking and as always there is great beach glass to be found!

For more info call weekdays 401-847-4242 or 401-429-8944 on weekends.

We hope to see you there.

Dave McCurdy, executive director

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Whisper House, a Haunted Musical

Strange as it may sound, a new musical play that just opened takes place at a haunted Maine lighthouse during World War II. The musical, "Whisper House," by Duncan Sheik and Kyle Jarrow, is at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, California. It stars Mare Winningham, who's well known for many appearance in movies and TV.

Here's a description of the play from the Old Globe Theatre:

Set in 1942 at the height of World War II, Whisper House is the story of an 11-year-old boy, Christopher, who lives with his Aunt Lilly in a haunted New England lighthouse following the death of his father. All of the songs in the musical are performed by the ghosts, played by David Poe and Holly Brook, and embody the boy's subconscious thoughts and fears. When Christopher begins to hear strange music seeping through the walls, is his imagination getting the best of him, or is he receiving warnings of the very real dangers that lie ahead? Whisper House is a touching and beautiful story about how we should embrace, rather than fear, the unknown.

Sounds pretty intriguing to me. Check out this video for more info on the music:

Photo of the Day: Petit Manan Lighthouse, Maine

This photo was taken in August 2004 during a visit to Petit Manan Island with members of the Coast Guard and the General Services Administration. At the time, the lighthouse was being offered for transfer under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act.

It was so foggy that it was hard to find the island. You had to be within maybe 100 feet to even see the lighthouse.

For more on this lighthouse, click here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Quirpon Island Experience - Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Check out this neat video at my other blog -

Photo of the Day: Prudence Island Lighthouse, Rhode Island

Prudence Island Lighthouse (a.k.a. Sandy Point Lighthouse), Rhode Island, and a pair of cormorants. This was taken more than a decade ago, during my only visit to this island.

This is the oldest lighthouse in Rhode Island. It was originally built on Goat Island in Newport, RI, in 1824. It was moved to Prudence Island in 1851 after a new lighthouse was built at Goat Island.

For more on this lighthouse, click here

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lighthouse of the Week - Lubec Channel Light, Maine

In the late 1800s, Lubec, the most northeasterly town in the United States, was an important trade and fishing port. The town later became a center of the sardine industry; it was home to 20 packing plants. The slender channel called Lubec Narrows, between Lubec and Campobello Island, New Brunswick, was dredged in the early 1880s. The Lighthouse Board urged the funding of a lighthouse at the entrance to Lubec Narrows, which would make the channel “of value to commerce at night.” Congress appropriated $40,000 for a lighthouse in the summer of 1886.

The station went into operation on December 31, 1890, with a white flash every 15 seconds shown from 61 feet above sea level. The tower was painted brown until 1903, when it was changed to white. Lubec Channel Light was a "stag" station staffed by two male keepers. The first principal keeper was Frederick W. Morong and the assistant was Loring W. Myers. The tower contained five levels, two of which were living quarters for the keepers. The lower deck was a combination living room and kitchen. The next deck was a bedroom.

Loring W. Myers, formerly a steamboat captain, advanced to principal keeper in 1898 and was in charge until 1923. Myers moonlighted as an entrepreneur and inventor; he dabbled in real estate and owned a sardine packing plant.

Myers was credited with many lives saved during his long career. Once, a group of young women was passing by in a motor vessel when the boat caught fire. Myers rushed to the scene and rescued all the women, who were described as hysterical. On another occasion, the keeper saved two men whose boat had capsized near the shore of Campobello. The men were clinging to fishing weir stakes when Myers reached them.

Elson Small, who went on to a 28-year career at several stations, became the assistant keeper in November 1920, weeks before he married Loring Myers’s niece, Constance “Connie” Scovill. Myers and Small alternated two-day stays at the lighthouse.

Click here to listen to Connie Small's description of the interior of Lubec Channel Lighthouse, from a 1997 interview.

An assistant keeper, Nathaniel Alley, was alone on duty one day in 1939 when he was overcome by gas from the coal stove. The captain of the Grand Manan ferry, which ran regularly through the area, was accustomed to hailing the man on duty. When no one appeared, the captain became suspicious. Nathaniel Alley was found and taken to Lubec for medical treatment, but he soon died. The light was automated a short time later, with the installation of an acetylene gas system and a sun valve.

In 2006, the lighthouse was made available to a suitable new steward under the guidelines of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000. There were no applicants, so in July 2007 it was auctioned to Gary Zaremba for a high bid of $46,000. You can read more about him here.

Click here for more on this lighthouse.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Photo of the Day: Lobster boat

A lobster boat photographed in rough seas on a foggy day, near Great Duck Island, Maine.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Photo of the Day: Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, Maine

This photo was taken from a scenic cruise back in August 2004. There was just enough fog to make the photo interesting.

Click here for more on Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Longships Lighthouse, Cornwall, UK, on March 10, 2008

Photo of the Day: Curtis Island Lighthouse, Maine

I've missed a couple of days with this blog -- I was preoccupied with finishing my book on Maine shipwrecks, which will be out in the spring. It's finished!

Curtis Island Light is a postcard-perfect lighthouse, and it's in Maine's prettiest harbor. There's nothing like a schooner ride out of Camden into Penobscot Bay, with the Camden Hills behind you.

Click here for more on this lighthouse.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wood Island Lighthouse newsletter

The latest newsletter of the Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse (Maine) is online - click here to see it.

The restoration of the lighthouse tower at Wood Island is well underway -- congratulations to this great group!

(Photo by Sean Murphy)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti Earthquake - How You Can Help

The suffering caused by the disaster in Haiti appears to be staggering. There are many ways you can help -- click here for an excellent page that lists relief organizations.

Cape Meares Lighthouse vandalism

I mostly try to stick to New England stories in this blog, but I feel I have to include something on the terrible vandalism that just occurred at Oregon's Cape Meares Lighthouse. Gunshots were fired at the lantern, breaking 15 panes of glass and damaging the rare first-order Fresnel lens. Damage is estimated at $50,000, at least. Follow these links for more information:

Corvallis Gazette Times

The reward to help Oregon State Police in the investigation has now increased to $5,000; click here for details.

I know how difficult it is to preserve a historic lighthouse, and my heart goes out to everyone at Cape Meares. I hope they're able to get the lighthouse and lens fully repaired soon, and I hope they catch the SOB(s) who did the damage.

You can help by donating -- click here.

Photo of the Day: Portland Head Lighthouse, Maine

I went to visit the offices at Portland Head Light today to copy some photos. The walking around the grounds was pretty icy, but the snow, some wispy clouds, and calm seas made for nice photos. You can see the Christmas wreath on the lighthouse; there's a story about that here.

More on Portland Head Light here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Photo of the Day: Hog Island Shoal Lighthouse, Rhode Island

This 1901 lighthouse, near Portsmouth, Rhode Island, was up for transfer in 2004 under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act (NHLPA). There were no applicants within the allotted time period, meaning the lighthouse was auctioned to the highest bidder under the provisions of the NHLPA.

In November 2006, it was announced that the lighthouse had been sold for $165,000 to Jon and Juli Chytka of South Dakota.

Click here for more on this lighthouse.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tempête sur la pointe de Bretagne

Amazing video of lighthouses in high seas off the Brittany Coast of France.

Photo of the Day: Nubble Light in the Snow

This was taken after a snowstorm in March 2005. I posted a more distant view earlier, but I like this tightly cropped shot.

For more on the Cape Neddick "Nubble" Light, click here.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Weekend at Goose Rocks Lighthouse, Maine

Check out this interesting story with great photos at Treehuggerphotography's Blog.

F. Ross Holland quote on lighthouses

Here's what the late historian F. Ross Holland had to say at a ceremony held at Portland Head Light in Maine on August 7, 1989:

Americans love lighthouses. Artists and photographers find them picturesque. The dreamer finds them romantic. The boaters find them comforting. The navigator finds them helpful. The shore walker finds them peaceful. The historic preservationist feels they make a statement about a period of time. The historian is fascinated with the human and technological story they embody. And the idealist is drawn to them because they symbolize man’s humanity to man. Americans truly like and respect their historic structures, but it seems to me there’s a special place in their hearts they reserve for lighthouses.

Hard to improve on that!

Photo of the Day: Prospect Harbor Lighthouse, Maine

This lighthouse is on a U.S. Navy base with very high security, so the public can't get onto the grounds. The keeper's house is a available for vacation housing for active and retired military people.

The lighthouse tower is cared for by the American Lighthouse Foundation. You can get a good view near the entrance to the base. Click here for more info.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Photo of the Day: New London Ledge Lighthouse, CT, in the fog

New London Ledge Lighthouse is at the mouth of the Thames River, near Groton and New London, Connecticut.

This was taken early in the morning after I had spent the night inside the lighthouse with the New England Ghost Project and a TV crew from "American Builder." New London Ledge Lighthouse has a reputation for being haunted. (See

For more on New London Ledge Lighthouse, click here.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Photo of the Day: Browns Head Lighthouse, Maine

Taken during a cruise in October 2005. This lighthouse is the home of the Vinalhaven town manager -- not a bad gig!

Click here for more on this lighthouse.

Lecture at North Hampton (NH) Library on February 10

I'll be speaking about southern Maine and NH lighthouses -- click here for the details.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Rusty Nelson, an extraordinary volunteer, will be missed

I've just learned that Lester "Rusty" Nelson passed away on January 5, 2010, at 80. Rusty was a longtime volunteer for the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse Trust in South Portland, Maine. He was a graphic designer by trade, and for many years he did the layout for the U.S. Lighthouse Society's magazine, Keeper's Log, and designed the stamps for their "lighthouse passport" program. He also created the historic displays inside Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse.

It was a 1991 visit to the Shore Village Museum in Rockland, Maine, that sparked Rusty's passion for lighthouses. In 1995, he became a trustee of the Portland Harbor Museum and the museum's resident “lighthouse person.” In 1998, he became the first chairman of the new Spring Point Ledge Light Trust, a position he held for five years. Rusty also spearheaded the relighting of Portland Breakwater Lighthouse (Bug Light).

Rusty was always cordial and pleasant -- a true gentleman. He once said that the best part of working with lighthouses is the people you meet.

He was the kind of volunteer any organization would be very lucky to have, and he will truly be missed in the lighthouse community. A memorial service will be held at a later date.

Left: Rusty Nelson talks to visitors inside Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse.

Portsmouth Harbor lighthouse in need of a new coat of paint

Foster's Daily Democrat
By Charles McMahon
Thursday, January 7, 2010

NEW CASTLE, NH — It seems as if every time Jeremy D'Entremont visits the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse these days, more and more paint has chipped away from the pearly white beacon, and rust has gradually begun to pop up on the outer facade.

For D'Entremont, operations manager for Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, the flaking paint and rust spots are an "ongoing battle" that need to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Click here to read the rest of this story.

Photo of the Day: Stratford Point Lighthouse, Connecticut

Sadly, the grounds at this attractive lighthouse are normally off limits to the public because a Coast Guard family lives in the keeper's house. This photo was taken during a bus tour that visited there a few years back.

Click here for more on this lighthouse.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Photo of the Day: Burlington Breakwater North Lighthouse, Vermont

The Burlington Breakwater Lights were first established on Lake Champlain in 1857, and they were moved and rebuilt multiple times. They were reconstructed in 2003.

There's now a world-class waterfront park in Burlington with views of the two lighthouses. You can also see them from the decks of the Spirit of Ethan Allen II.

Click here for more on the Burlington Breakwater Lights.

Monday, January 4, 2010

VR view of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse

Check out this really cool VR view of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse in Rhode Island!

Be sure to click on the tower and flagpole views, too.

Photo of the Day: Deer Island Thorofare Lighthouse, Maine

I took this photo in July 2007 during a cruise from Stonington, Maine. I always enjoy visiting that area -- Stonington is a pretty, unspoiled fishing village, and that part of Penobscot Bay is filled with picturesque islands.

For more on this lighthouse, click here.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Photo of the Day: Portland Head Lighthouse, Maine

I can't make it up to Cape Elizabeth today to photograph Portland Head Light in the snow today, but it probably looks much like it did when I took this photo a couple of years ago.

Click here for more on Portland Head Light.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Air foghorn at Thacher Island, Massachusetts, circa 1989

This video was taken at Thacher Island, off Rockport, Massachusetts, circa 1989. Thacher Island's twin lighthouses are a National Historic Landmark. Armand Desharnais, the resident caretaker, turned on the equipment to run the old air foghorn, which was no longer used at the time. Suzanne Gall Marsh of the Friends of the Boston Harbor Islands pushes the button to activate the horn. You can see that it was so loud that it even distorted the video. The man next to Suzanne is Ned Cameron, who started the Thacher Island Association.

Photo of the Day: Nayatt Point Lighthouse, Barrington, Rhode Island

I took this shot during a helicopter flight from the airport in Newport, RI, a couple of years ago. (Highly recommended - click here for details.)

Nayatt Point Lighthouse dates back to 1828, but it's been inactive since 1868. It's privately owned and off limits to the public, but you can see it from some of the scenic cruises in the area.

Click here for more on this lighthouse.

Click here for photo prints.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Trailer for "The Lightkeepers"

Cape Cod, Dreyfuss shine in "The Lightkeepers"

The new movie "The Lightkeepers," directed by Daniel Adams and starring Richard Dreyfuss as a Cape Cod lighthouse keeper, has gotten a positive review in the Barnstable Patriot. The film opens nationally in March; for now, you can see it at the Cape Cinema in Dennis, Mass.

Richard Dreyfuss made an appearance at the cinema on December 27 -- you can read about it here.

Photo of the Day: Four rowboats

For a change of pace, I decided to post something other than a lighthouse photo today. This photo was taken a couple of years at Star Island in the Isles of Shoals, NH. I like the simplicity of it.

Happy New Year!

Lighthouse of the Week - Warwick Light, Rhode Island

Vessels passing through the West Passage of Narragansett Bay, an increasingly busy waterway in the early 1800s, had to contend with a narrow channel between Warwick Neck and the northern extremity of Patience Island, less than a mile to the southeast. It’s believed that a privately operated beacon was in use at the end of Warwick Neck in Colonial times.

Congress appropriated $3,000 in 1825 and 1826 for a proper lighthouse at the point. The first lighthouse on Warwick Neck was small and unusual, consisting of a 30-foot tower atop a tiny stone dwelling with only two rooms, each about 11 feet square. The tower was square at its base, but the corners toward the top were cut back to form an octagonal shape.

The first keeper to live at the station, Elisha Case, was provided insufficient living space for himself and his family, and the house was exceedingly damp. Case was replaced by Daniel Waite in 1831, but only after Case was granted the right to harvest crops he had planted at the lighthouse. After Waite’s death late in 1832, his widow, Abby Waite, became the next keeper. A wood-frame extension with three rooms added in 1833 improved the living conditions, but there were still bothersome leaks at the junction between the addition and the original structure.

A fog bell and striking machinery were added to the station in 1882. Five years later, the keeper’s dwelling was described as “very old and dilapidated.” Funds were appropriated and a new house, further back from the edge of the bluff, was constructed in 1889. The wood-frame, Gothic Revival house was similar to many keepers’ houses built in New England in the 1870s and 1880s. It survives today with only minor changes. The 1833 addition to the original dwelling was moved onto a new foundation in 1892 and remodeled into a barn.

A powerful new siren succeeded the station’s fog bell in 1900. With the added duties of maintaining the fog signal equipment, an assistant keeper was assigned to the station for some years starting in the early part of the century.

A long battle against erosion has been waged to the south of the lighthouse. A concrete retaining wall was added in 1924, but the 1826 lighthouse was getting precariously close to the edge. Finally, the Bureau of Lighthouses determined a new lighthouse tower was called for. In many locations by this time, lights on utilitarian steel skeletal towers were replacing lighthouses. Thankfully, at Warwick, a more traditional-style conical cast-iron tower was erected, the last of its kind to be established in New England. A new electrically powered foghorn was also installed.

The new 43-foot tower was erected close to the 1889 keeper’s house. Unlike many similar lighthouses, this one has no brick lining. Its iron spiral stairway is steeper than most, leading from the base right up to the lantern room. Ten floor lights in the lantern room lend sunlight to the interior below, and there are also five portholes around the upper part of the tower, just below the lantern.

Jorgen Bakken, who had been keeper since 1912, was ill at the time the new lighthouse was erected. His assistant (the final assistant keeper at the station) was Edward Murphy, previously at Block Island Southeast Light in Rhode Island and Stamford Harbor Light in Connecticut. Murphy took over as the head keeper later in 1932, and was in charge when the great hurricane of September 21, 1938, walloped the area. Warwick sustained more property damage than any community in Rhode Island during the epic storm, with 700 permanent homes and hundreds of summer cottages destroyed.

The great storm ate an enormous amount of earth out of the bluff, undermining the lighthouse’s foundation and leaving it practically teetering on the brink of falling into the bay. Electric power was lost, and for almost two weeks Keeper Murphy had to operate the light using a portable generator. Another severe storm might have finished it off, but the fates were kind and the tower was moved back to safer ground about a year after the hurricane. In September 1939, workers lifted the tower using heavy jacks and logs, and it was rolled along planking to its new home about 50 feet inland.

Harry A. Wilbur became keeper in 1953. The Coast Guard took over the operation of the nation’s lighthouses in 1939, and the civilian Lighthouse Service keepers were given the option of joining the Coast Guard or not. Wilbur, who had been a Lighthouse Service keeper in Massachusetts going back to 1937, chose to remain a civilian. He spent a decade at Warwick Light, retiring in 1963.

Alan Penney was the Coast Guard lightkeeper from 1978 to 1982. His daughter was born at the station. “We never had so many friends and family visit us as we did when we lived there,” he says. “We even had our cousins from Germany come, and they said in their broken English ‘You live like a millionaire!’” After 24 years in the Coast Guard, Penney and his wife ultimately moved back to Rhode Island because of their love for the area and the many friends they had made.

The light’s automation was completed in the late summer of 1985, but the Coast Guard retained the station for family housing. The Coast Guard has opened the grounds on occasion. At other times, the public has to be content with the view from the gate at the end of Warwick Neck Avenue.

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