Friday, May 20, 2011

"Legacy of the Light" by Todd Gipstein

 Todd Gipstein has been working as a photographer, writer, producer and lecturer for almost 40 years. He's currently the chairman of the New London Ledge Lighthouse Foundation, a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation. You can read more about Todd's impressive credentials here.

Todd has published a new novel, Legacy of the Light, a thriller that tells the story of two generations of keepers at Race Rock Lighthouse off the shore of New London, Connecticut.

The tale spans two generations, from the early 1900s to the worst hurricane in New England history on September 21, 1938.

Click here to learn how you can get a copy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Joshua K. Card Day - June 25, 2011

Saturday, June 25, 4 p.m., Riverside Cemetery (174 Route 1B), New Castle, NH:

You're invited to join Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses (FPHL) for a commemorative gathering marking the 100th anniversary of the death of Joshua Kenney Card, longtime keeper (1874-1909) of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse in New Castle.

At the time of Card's death at the age of 88, a local newspaper reported, "The captain’s fidelity to duty cannot too highly be praised. Punctual to the minute, he literally stayed at his post year after year without a break. . . No man stood higher in the estimation of the Lighthouse Board, at Washington, than the keeper of Portsmouth Light." When he retired as a lighthouse keeper at the age of 86, he was believed to be the oldest keeper in the United States.

The memorial gathering will include readings about Joshua Card's life, as well as a special performance of the song "Lighthouse Keeper" by Neptune's Car. The folk duo will be performing a concert later that evening at Captain and Patty's restaurant as part of a weekend-long celebration of the tenth anniversary of the founding of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses as a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation in June 2001.

Admission to the memorial gathering is free. For more information on the weekend's events, see

Monday, May 16, 2011

Trapped in the ice near Green's Ledge, CT

Life at offshore lighthouses was a challenge for many reasons. Isolated lighthouses were often difficult to access in the warm months, but even more so in the winter if ice surrounded the structure. Green's Ledge Light, a caisson lighthouse built at the entrance to Norwalk Harbor, Connecticut, in 1899, was no exception.

Sarah DeMaria has provided the following story involving her grandfather, Andrew J. Simso II, who was one of the Coast Guard keepers at Green's Ledge 1945-47:

He and another Coast Guardsman went ashore to get supplies in February. They docked about 6 or 7 p.m., retrieved the needed supplies and began home. In their efforts to return to the lighthouse, they attempted to follow a channel cut through the ice by another ship. Unfortunately, this was futile; the ship had passed too long prior and my grandfather and his fellow sailor became trapped as the ice surrounded their small boat, leaving them stranded.

In the pitch dark the men yelled for help but no one heard. They decided to try to walk back to shore on the frozen ice, but both men fell through into the frigid waters. The men managed to pull themselves out of the water and get back to the boat. The two -- shivering and freezing wet -- continued to yelled for help. This time people ashore, hearing their calls, contacted the authorities. The two men, on the verge of hypothermia, were rescued. 

For more history of Green's Ledge Light, click here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Penfield Reef Lighthouse (CT) reverting to the federal government

Penfield Reef Lighthouse, in Long Island Sound very close to the border between the towns of Fairfield and Bridgeport, Connecticut, is a handsome structure with history and legends to spare. Back in April 2007, it was announced that the lighthouse would be available to a suitable new owner under the guidelines of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000. 

On July 29, 2008, Beacon Preservation, Inc., of Ansonia, Connecticut, received notice that the organization had submitted a "superior" application and had been recommended as the new owners.

Since then, the stewardship of the lighthouse has been obscured by a legal battle concerning the bottomlands under the structure. Beacon Preservation claimed that the federal government owned the bottomlands, while the State of CT claimed it did.

State legislation was passed allowing Beacon Preservation to occupy the submerged lands. But Beacon filed a suit in federal court seeking the right to administer the lighthouse and the lands beneath it “without first executing a lease with the State of Connecticut or the Town of Fairfield pertaining to the submerged lands on which Penfield Reef is situated” and to affirm Beacon’s “rights to all rights, title and interest” to the property.

A judge had yet to rule on the suit, but now Beacon Preservation has withdrawn the matter. According to the General Services Administration, this means the lighthouse will now be put up for public auction.

With the lighthouse reverting to the federal government,  I don't understand why the whole process under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHLPA) won't simply begin again, with the lighthouse being offered to a suitable applicant, such as a qualified nonprofit group or a government agency. It seems like the GSA is skipping a step; usually a lighthouse is auctioned to the public under the NHLPA only if there are no suitable applicants.

You can read more about this story here.

Orleans Trio Benefit Concert for Plum Beach Lighthouse (RI) on June 11

Tickets are now available for the Orleans Trio Benefit Concert for the Plum Beach Lighthouse, June 11, 2011, at the Newport Yachting Center.  
Orleans Trio is comprised of the founding members of Orleans, the national recording band from the 70s and 80s who created hits such as "Still the One" and "Dance with Me."  Tickets will be $65 per person and include Hors d'oeuvres  and cocktails.  Doors will open at 630pm with the band slated to begin around 8.  Plum Beach Lighthouse items and tee shirts will be available as well as CDs and items from Orleans and Orleans Trio.

The event will also honor the PBL Lighthouse License Plate as the first runner-up in the national contest for "Best Plate in America" by the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association.  Officials from the association will be on hand to present the RI DMV and the Friends the award.

Tickets are now on sale at the Newport Yachting Center Box Office, 401-846-1600 ext 2 or through their

See for more on Plum Beach Lighthouse.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Goat Island Light (Maine) Goes Back in Time

Circa early 1900s postcard of Goat Island
Maine's Goat Island Light was established in 1833 to help guide mariners into the sheltered harbor at Cape Porpoise, a busy fishing center for many years. In 1859, the tower and house were rebuilt.

In 1992, Goat Island was leased to the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust. In 1998, under the Maine Lights Program, the lighthouse officially became the property of the trust, which since its founding in 1969 has protected hundreds of acres of town land from development.

There's a very exciting project now beginning at Goat Island. The  following is taken by permission from the spring 2011 newsletter of the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust.

Goat Island Light (Maine) Goes Back in Time

This postcard shows Goat Island Light Station circa 1950s
With much excitement, the Trust is thrilled to announce that contracts have been signed for the restoration of the Goat Island Light Station in Cape Porpoise with the construction beginning in early May.

This is the culmination of five years of planning, permitting, negotiating and fund raising by Mike Weston and Scott Dombrowski, the co-project managers.

The restoration work, awarded to Bartlett Builders of Kennebunkport via a competitive bidding process, will include the rebuilding of the bell tower that was torn down in 1962, the covered walkway from the keeper’s quarters to the light tower damaged by the blizzard of 1978 and the original fuel storage building. The cost of this phase of the restoration will be in the neighborhood of $380,000.

The period chosen for the restoration is the decade of the 1950s. Significant photographic evidence exists for that period and that is the period when all of the structures scheduled to be rebuilt were in place and water and electricity were available.

The process to secure the final approvals for construction included work to obtain permits from the DEP, Army Corps of Engineers, Inland Fish and Wildlife, Indian Tribes of Maine, the Town of Kennebunkport and the Maine Historical Preservation Society.

Also required was a change to the Kennebunkport Land Use Ordinance for the island to be designated a Contract Zone and the voters of Kennebunkport overwhelmingly approved that change 2 years ago.

Because of the historical nature of the Goat Island Light Station, two archaeological digs were required to assure that no buried artifacts would be destroyed during the rebuilding phase. During this process, some of the original foundations and pilings were uncovered allowing rebuilding in more historically accurate locations. Crane and Morrison completed the dig and analysis that provided the Trust with a treasure trove of historical documentation. Goat Island Light was first lit on August 15, 1833 so historical accuracy would have been difficult to assure without the results from the dig.
Goat Island today

Harvey Wells, a Kennebunk architect, first provided a scale model of the project and volunteered hundreds of hours to complete it. Mr. Wells was chosen to provide all of the detailed plans for the rebuilding and restoration based on the photographic evidence and old historical articles to assure historical accuracy. Dustin Roma, an engineer with Sebago Technics of Westbrook, completed all of the site work, permit applications and technical detail. Engineering expertise for the foundations and structural specifications were provided by Group Design of Saco. The bell tower has been designed to withstand high winds and flooding---without compromising the historical integrity of the building exterior.

Construction is scheduled to be completed by September 1st this year with dedication ceremonies to be held shortly after Labor Day.

Coming later this spring, you will be able follow the construction by visiting our website at and selecting the Goat Island web-cam. Stay tuned!

Reenergizing a Light gone Dark at Avery Point

Avery Point Light is on the campus of the Univ. of CT
On April 15, 2011, the University of Connecticut notified the Avery Point Lighthouse Society that the tower’s beacon, located on the University’s Groton Campus, was extinguished.

From that point forward, a team effort to relight the optic went into full swing.

Click here to read the full story.

Right: Avery Point's beacon is ready to go (L to R) Robert Zadroga, James Streeter and Ben Roccapriore (Photo courtesy of James Streeter).