Monday, March 24, 2014

Palmer's Island Lighthouse on New Bedford's city seal

The 1849 Palmer's Island Lighthouse appears on the city of seal of New Bedford, Massachusetts. The motto "Lucem Diffundo" means "I Diffuse Light" or "I Spread the Light." It has a triple meaning. 

1) The lighthouse itself served to "spread the light." 

2) New Bedford was a center of the whaling industry and provided the whale oil that fueled our lighthouses and other lights around the country for many years. 

3) New Bedford's city fathers were predominately Quakers. The Quakers referred to themselves as "Children of the Light." Their mission was to spread the "Light of Christ" to the world.

Palmer's Island Lighthouse is owned by the City of New Bedford, and it was restored and relighted back in 1999. It's currently undergoing another refurbishing. At this writing, the lantern has been removed and is undergoing restoration on shore. 

The plans also include repointing of the interior and exterior walls, repair and cleaning of the steel stairs, the installation of new windows and hatches, and the installation of new solar powered lighting apparatus.

Click here for more on the city seal.

Click here for more on Palmer's Island Light.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Save the Bay's Rhode Island Lighthouse Tours 2014

Pomham Rocks Light, East Providence
The schedule has been announced for this year's Rhode Island Lighthouse Tours offered by Save the Bay, leaving from Providence, RI.

This is a great way to get up close to the lighthouses and to learn about their history. Some of the trips include a stop at Rose Island Light in Newport.

Click here for the schedule and more information.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Saving Gay Head Lighthouse

The most endangered lighthouse in New England is Gay Head Light, perched precariously on colorful clay cliffs at the western end of Martha's Vineyard. The 1856 brick tower now stands only about 46 feet from the brink, and erosion of the bluff continues to progress at an alarming rate.

The Town of Aquinnah (formerly Gay Head) has submitted an application to take ownership of the lighthouse under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act. A committee of the National Park Service will review the application. Meanwhile, a town committee is working with the Martha's Vineyard Museum and other concerned parties on the planned relocation of the lighthouse.

As part of the fundraising effort to move the lighthouse, Rosanne Cash will play a benefit concert on Martha's Vineyard this summer. Click here to read more about that.

The Save the Gay Head Lighthouse Committee needs your support to save this iconic lighthouse. Please consider a donation; every dollar helps. You can learn more on these sites:

Gay Head Lighthouse

Save the Gay Head Lighthouse Facebook page

History of Gay Head Lighthouse

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Sperry Light, CT, 1899-1933

This is an early 1900s postcard of the Outer Breakwall Light in New Haven, Connecticut, better known as Sperry Light. It was built in 1899. 

Travel to and from the lighthouse was often difficult, especially in the winter months. To ease the isolation of the keepers, for some years representatives of the Seamen's Bethel in New Haven made regular trips to the lighthouse to deliver newspapers and magazines.

 One day in January 1907, Keeper Samuel Armour left the lighthouse to row ashore for supplies. As he prepared to head back to the station in the early evening, a storm was worsening and the seas were growing rough. A New Haven man suggested that Armour spend the night on shore, but he felt he needed to return because the assistant keeper was in the hospital. Armour set out in his 15-foot rowboat. 

The captain of a British schooner later reported seeing the rowboat overturned near Southwest Ledge Lighthouse, but Armour was never seen again. By 1907, several cracks were found in the foundation and the lighthouse began to tilt. 

The cracks were filled and the tower was righted and reinforced with iron straps, allowing the lighthouse to remain operational until 1933, when it was replaced by an automatic skeleton tower.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Antique lighthouse postcards

I've been collecting antique postcards, especially of lighthouses, for nearly 30 years. Most are from the 1900-1910 period, but some are later. One of my winter projects this year has been to scan more of my collection so I can post them on my site. I now have about 60 postcards in the gallery for the Cape Neddick "Nubble" Light in Maine, and 36 in the gallery for Portland Head Light. If you go through all the lighthouses on my site, you'll see that almost all of them have a postcard gallery.

These cards are often beautiful works of art in
their own right; many are black and white photos that were hand colored by artists. They are also important snapshots of these places at a specific time, thus adding a great deal to the historical records of our light stations.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Fort Point Fog Bell

Fort Point Light in Stockton Springs, Maine, is one of the very few New England lighthouses that still have old fog bell towers. Fort Point's bell is still mounted on the tower, and striking machinery is inside. Although the mechanism can't be wound to automatically strike the bell the way it did many years ago, the bell can be rung manually from inside the tower, as you can see and hear in this video clip I shot in August 2012.

For more on Fort Point Light, click here.

"Highland Light: This Book Tells You All About It"

Highland Light in the late 1800s
Isaac M. Small, whose grandfather was the first keeper of Cape Cod's Highland Light and owned the land the first lighthouse was built on, wrote a booklet in 1891 called "Highland Light: This Book Tells You All About It."

Small wrote about the daily life of the keepers:

"The lives of the keepers are somewhat monotonous, though relieved in a measure during the summer months by visits of many pilgrims to this attractive Mecca.

"The routine of their duties is regular and systematic. Promptly, one half hour before sunset the keeper whose watch it may be at the time repairs to the tower and makes preperations for the lighting of the lamps. At the moment the sun drops below the western horizon the light flashes out over the sea; the little cog wheels begin their revolutions; the tiny pumps force the oil up to the wicks and the night watch has begun. At 8 o'clock the man who has lighted the lamp is relieved by No. 2, who in turn is also relieved at midnight by No. 3, No. 1 again returning to duty at 4 a.m. As the sun shows its first gleam above the edge of the eastern sea the machinery is stopped and the light is allowed to gradually consume the oil remaining in the wicks and go out. This occurs in about fifteen minutes. As night comes on again No. 2 is the man to light the lamp, the watches are changed at 8, 12 and 4, and so go on as before night after night."
A crowd gathers to watch a baseball game at Highland Light in the early 1900s

Small also made a plea on behalf of the keepers:

"It is written somewhere that keepers must not accept tips from people who visit the light, but of course it does not really mean that, but should be understood that keepers should not solicit tips. When you have climbed to the top floor of that winding stair, and then have reached the ground again, and you are pretty nearly out of breath and exclaim, "My, but that was some climb," you would appreciate the feelings and condition of the keeper who had gone up and down some twenty times during the day. No law requires them to do this, but out of courtesy and your enjoyment they make the trips. Think it over and decide whether you would like to change places with them."

For more on the history of Highland Light, click here.