Monday, August 17, 2015

Maine's Wood Island Lighthouse gets major donation for restoration

August 12, 2015

Wood Island Lighthouse, situated off the coast of Biddeford Pool, Maine, has a major new benefactor for its ongoing restoration work.  Today, Judith Klement, a resident of Savannah, Georgia, and the Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse (FOWIL) jointly announced a significant donation from Ms. Klement for the interior restoration of the lighthouse keeper’s house, beginning with an initial increment of $50,000 for work to be done this summer.

“My longtime interest in historic preservation and my fascination with Wood Island Lighthouse from my many summers at our family home in Saco, prompted me to write.” Ms. Klement said.  “Then, two trips to the island to learn about the restoration progress and to meet the FOWIL people reinforced my instinct to help advance the excellent work they are doing,” she added.

Brad Coupe, chair of FOWIL’s executive committee, said, “We are ecstatic and most grateful for Judy’s very generous commitment. With this first piece, we have been able to mobilize and start work on the project, and, with Judy’s further help, it should be possible to complete this phase in approximately a year’s time.”

Much will remain after the interior work is finished to achieve the full restoration of the light station, according to Mr. Coupe, but this phase will largely finish the restoration of the keeper’s house and the light tower.

The first stage of the interior project is the removal of badly degraded plaster ceilings in all nine rooms of the keeper’s house, to be followed by re-wiring of the house and restoration of the plaster walls. The whole interior project is estimated to cost $218,000 and Ms. Klement’s total contribution is expected to fund most of that work.

FOWIL plans to restore the house to its look in 1906, when the current  configuration was created. President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the  lighthouse in 1808.  It has undergone dramatic changes over the years, but the 1906 transformation, when the gambrel roof and columned open porch were added, is regarded by FOWIL to be its most pleasing architectural appearance.

FOWIL is obligated to perform work pursuant to National Park Service restoration guidelines as administered by the Maine State Historic Preservation Commission and the U. S. Coast Guard.  “It is exacting work with rigorous standards, but the results are rewarding and authentic,” Mr. Coupe said. “We have been at this since 2003, doing the work as we could raise the funds to pay for it. Judy’s donation, in the end, may turn out to be the largest we have had from any source and it will take us a long way toward realizing our complete restoration goal.  Her confidence in us is a source of great satisfaction and reward to all our volunteers who have devoted countless hours for more than a decade to the work of preserving this historic landmark.”

In addition to its restoration work, FOWIL operates a summer tour schedule taking vacationers out to experience the lighthouse. The group also makes educational presentations to school children and adult groups on the history of this lighthouse and its significance to the maritime commerce in the Saco Bay area. FOWIL is a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation, based in Owls Head, Maine.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Tours to Baker's Island Lighthouse

One of the most exciting developments in the New England lighthouse world this summer is the launch of tours to Baker's Island Lighthouse in Salem, Massachusetts, run by the new owners, the Essex National Heritage Commission (ENHC).

The tours last about 2 hours, leaving from the Salem Ferry dock at 10 Blaney Street. The trip to the island is aboard the Naumkeag, a specially designed craft that allows passengers to disembark on the beach near the lighthouse.

The knowledgable resident caretaker leads the tour on the island, along with the boat crew. This is a very historic light station, dating back to 1798. For many years there were two lighthouses on the island; one of them was demolished in 1926. Click here to read more history.

The 59-foot rubblestone tower that stands today was built in 1820. It was recently refurbished by the ENHC, and it's in pristine condition.

Visitors are not allowed up the stairs inside the lighthouse, but they are allowed to look inside at the stone stairs.

This is a wonderful opportunity to tour a nineteenth century light station. The trips run until early September. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

International Year of Light

It was my pleasure to contribute an essay -- What is it About Lighthouses? -- to UNESCO's "International Year of Light" blog.

You can read it by following this link:

What is it About Lighthouses?