Friday, July 30, 2010

The Thacher Island Association needs a better boat, and you can help!

Located a short boat ride from Rockport, Massachusetts, the twin lights of Thacher Island -- a national historic landmark -- are a tremendous attraction for lighthouse buffs and other visitors to Cape Ann each summer. The small launch being used by the Thacher Island Association to transport visitors to the island is now more than 30 years old, and a new one is sorely needed. There are plans to have a new boat built at a cost of $158,000.

Pierce Sears, owner of Twin Lights Beverages of Rockport, has stepped forward to help. His company has developed a line of Twin Lights apparel, featuring a variety of vintage soda bottle labels from Twin Lights Beverages' 103-year history.

Twin Lights apparel can be found at several local shops, including John Tarr's (Rockport), Willow Rest (Gloucester) and Alexandra's Bread (Gloucester), and on Thacher Island in the boathouse store.

To contribute to the boat campaign, send a check to the Thacher Island Association, Box 73, Rockport, MA 01966.

To read more, click here.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Keeper's house at Five Mile Point Lighthouse might go solar

Five Mile Point Lighthouse is a familiar landmark to the thousands of people who visit Lighthouse Point Park in New Haven, Connecticut each summer. The 1847 lighthouse's neighbors include one of New England's most beautiful carousels. You can read all about the park and its offerings by clicking here.

The former keeper's house has long served as a residence for New Haven city workers. The city’s Office of Sustainability and the Board of Parks Commissioners want to add 20 solar panels to the house; you can read more here.

Parks Director Bob Levine points out, “The lighthouse is an icon of New Haven, so having it lit by solar energy would be a symbol of our commitment [to sustainable energy use].”


Friday, July 23, 2010

Welcome to Rose Island Lighthouse!

Rose Island Lighthouse in Newport Harbor, Rhode Island, is one of the jewels of New England lighthouses. Whether you choose to visit for an hour or to spend a week as the "keeper," I guarantee you'll love this place. You can read all about what Rose Island has to offer on the website of the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation.

When I visited the island two days ago, I took this video of Dave McCurdy, director of the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation, at the top of the tower.

Plum Beach Lighthouse License Plate

The Friends of Plum Beach Lighthouse, owners of the historic lighthouse located under the Jamestown Bridge on Narragansett Bay in North Kingstown, RI, remind everyone that their Rhode Island Lighthouse license plate program begins in earnest this weekend.

More than 1600 lighthouse license plates have been ordered through the Friends as a fund-raiser to repaint the lighthouse.  The "Plate Event" will be held in retail space at the Quonset Gateway Shopping Center in North Kingstown on Saturday and Sunday, July 24 & 25, from 9-5 each day.

The space the group is using was donated to the nonprofit group by owners New Boston Fund.  It is located at the corner of Post Road and Rt. 403 in North Kingstown.On hand at the event will be several North Kingstown merchants from the shopping center along with others from the town to promote the area.  One quarter of the plate applicants are from North Kingstown and Saunderstown, where the lighthouse is located, but applicants from 38 of 39 Rhode Island towns will be coming to collect their new plates.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Whaleback exhibit continues

The exhibit, "Rescuing Whaleback Lighthouse: A Wave-swept Sentinel," continues at the Discover Portsmouth Center in Portsmouth, NH, through September 11.

Above, Debbie Thomas, a volunteer of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, views part of the exhibit.

Left: Visitors filter into the exhibit area during the opening reception on July 1.

Left, Don Perkins and Jim Pope stand next to Don's model of Whaleback Lighthouse, which stands on a ledge offshore from Kittery, Maine. Jim was one of the last Coast Guard keepers at Whaleback in the early 1960s.

This buoy lens and lantern, found underwater near Whaleback Ledge by Jim Austin of Kittery, is one of the centerpieces of the exhibit.

L to R: Jeremy D'Entremont, president of the American Lighthouse Foundation; Ross Tracy, chair of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse; and Bob Trapani, executive director of the American Lighthouse Foundation, at the reception.

For more on the exhibit, click here.

Photos 1, 3, and 5 by Jennifer Kearns. Photos 2 and 4 by Robert Kearns.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Open Houses at Scituate Light

The lighthouse in Scituate, Massachusetts, is notable for a number of reasons, including the following:

• The 1811 lighthouse and keeper's house are the oldest lighthouse/dwelling combination in the U.S. 

• The lighthouse is the scene of a famous War of 1812 story -- the "Scituate Army of Two," when two daughters of the keeper turned away invading British forces.

• The lighthouse was rescued from ruin by the Scituate Historical Society, after years of abandonment.

• In March 1956, the Italian freighter Etrusco ran aground right next to the lighthouse.

• In 1994, the lighthouse was reactivated as an aid to navigation, following 134 years in darkness.

In early 2009, schoolteacher Bob Gallagher was chosen by the Scituate Historical Society to be the new resident caretaker. Bob lives with his family in the keeper's house. You can follow his adventures on his blog

Scituate Lighthouse will be open on five remaining open house dates in 2010: July 18, August 7 & 8, August 22, and October 17. All are 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Visiting this lighthouse during an open house is a treat. Not only do you get to climb into the lantern room, but you can also explore the covered passageway between the house and tower where display panels tell about the lighthouse and other aspects of local history.

For more on Scituate Light, visit here and here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happy Birthday, Bob Shanklin!

On their wedding trip in 1987, Bob and Sandra Shanklin visited a few lighthouses in Maine. The "lighthouse bug" took serious hold, and they soon developed an obsession to visit every lighthouse in the United States. They eventually succeeded in that quest. The Shanklins have truly earned the nickname, "The Lighthouse People."

They've not only photographed every lighthouse in the continental U.S., but also every one in Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico. In 2009, they photographed every lighthouse in Prince Edward Island, Canada. Their travels have also taken them to British Columbia and Cuba.

Recently, the Shanklins embarked on a mission to digitally scan thousands of photos at the Coast Guard Historian's Office, so that the scans can be shared with lighthouse researchers everywhere. You can read about that project here.

They've accomplished a great deal and they've inspired lighthouse buffs to follow in their footsteps. Most importantly, Bob and Sandra are genuinely nice people.

Bob turns 85 on Friday, July 16. You can wish him a happy birthday via email -- the address is

Photo: Bob and Sandra Shanklin at Wings Neck Lighthouse on Cape Cod in 2004.

Restoration of Owls Head Light nearing completion

The restoration of Maine's Owls Head Lighthouse will soon be complete and the tower open once again to the visiting public. In preparation for this exciting moment, you might say work crews were busy during the month of June preparing a “red carpet” welcome inside the lighthouse for future visitors.

Click here to read the whole story by Bob Trapani of the American Lighthouse Foundation.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Moose Peak Light in search of an owner

One of the lighthouses currently being offered to a suitable new steward under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act is Moose Peak Light, offshore from Jonesport, Maine. You read the Notice of Availability (PDF file) by clicking here.

Like so many offshore lighthouses, Moose Peak Light took a beating in bad weather. In a storm in 1839, the high seas had washed away the footbridge to the tower and nearly destroyed the lighthouse. Keeper Alexander Milliken reported, “The lantern vibrates and trembles, and also leaks somewhat under the eaves. The distance at which the dwelling-house stands from the light-house renders it dangerous during winter to get from one to the other.”

The present lighthouse tower was built in 1851. In 1901, the walls of the tower were covered with an eight-inch-thick layer of brick masonry.

In 1898, Keeper Charles Dobbins and his son rendered “gallant assistance” to the crew of the Nova Scotia schooner Ashton. The keeper was awarded a gold watch by the Canadian government. Dobbins couldn’t accept the gift until he was authorized to do so by an act of Congress.

Moose Peak Light was automated in 1972 and the Coast Guard keepers were removed. In 1982, a military team blew up the keeper’s house as a training exercise.

USCG lightkeeping traditions shine bright during lighthouse challenge

The 2010 Midcoast Maine Lighthouse Challenge, which occurred on June 26 & 27, offered the public a unique opportunity to not only visit and tour some of the region’s most popular lighthouses, but also the chance to view and learn how the United States Coast Guard works today to keep the lights shining bright.

Click here to read the rest of this story on the American Lighthouse Foundation site.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Wanna buy a lighthouse?

Under the provisions of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, if no suitable applicant -- such as a nonprofit group or a community -- is found for a historic lighthouse after it has been excessed by the Coast Guard, the property is sold by the GSA to the general public via an online auction. At least a dozen lighthouses have now been auctioned, including several in the Chesapeake Bay region.

Currently, there are four offshore lighthouses up for auction -- click here to see the list and current bids. The four are Borden Flats Light in Fall River, Massachusetts (see stories below); Latimer Reef Light in Fishers Island Sound, New York; Old Orchard Shoal Light and West Bank Light in New York Harbor, NY; and Ram Island Ledge Light off Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Latimer Reef has gotten a $15,000 bid, and Ram Island Ledge has a $10,000 bid. There have been no bids to date on the others.

All I can hope is that the parties who buy these priceless historic buildings realize their value to the nation as a whole, and that they give them the care they deserve. What will happen when the buyers eventually die? Will succeeding heirs possess the passion needed to care for these structures, which are extremely expensive to maintain over time? All we can do is hope for the best.

Photo: Old Orchard Shoal Light, New York.

2010 Open Houses at Plum Island Light, Newburyport, Mass.

This year's open houses at Plum Island Lighthouse, an 1898 wooden lighthouse at the northern tip of Plum Island in Newburyport, Massachusetts, will be on these dates:

July 25, Aug. 29, Sept. 26 and Oct. 10

There is a short ladder to climb to the top, so sneakers are required. Children must be at least 5 years old and meet a height requirement to travel to the top. Tours are free, but donations to support the Friends of Plum Island Light, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and restoring the lighthouse, are appreciated.

Borden Flats story not over

Click here to see the current list of online auctions being held by the GSA -- you'll see that Borden Flats Lighthouse in Fall River, Massachusetts, is one of the properties. I reported here a couple of weeks ago that the lighthouse would be re-auctioned after the 2008 buyer, Michael Gabriel, had reportedly defaulted on the property.

Mr. Gabriel says it isn't that simple. and he said in late June that he planned to go to court to stop the GSA from re-selling the lighthouse. “I want to buy the lighthouse, but they don’t want to sell it to me,” he said.

You can read all the details in the Fall River Herald News by clicking here.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Public invited to visit historic lighthouse off Cutler, Maine

Friends of Little River Lighthouse, a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation, will host an open house on July 20, 2010, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The lighthouse is located on Little River Island, off the coast of Cutler, near Machias.

The friends group will provide free boat rides to the 15-acre island, departing from the town landing in Cutler. Refreshments will be served.


Portsmouth Harbor Light on the Fouth of July

I hope everyone had a happy 4th! Yesterday, a first ever Fourth of July open house was held at Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse in New Castle, NH. The lighthouse was appropriately decorated, as you can see in these photos by William Marshall.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse photos by Michael Leonard

These very cool photos were taken at the top of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, NH, by Michael Leonard, using a fisheye lens, during a recent visit of the Seacoast Camera Club and the Portland Camera Club.

Thanks, Michael, for sharing these unique and beautiful images!