Digest>Archives> November 2005

Keeper's Korner

News and Notes from the Tower

By Timothy Harrison


Lighthouse Historian dies

F. Ross Holland, one of America’s foremost lighthouse historians and authors, has passed away at age 78 at his home in Mason, New Hampshire on September 16th. He was one of the first people to thoroughly research, document and write about America’s lighthouse history with books such as America’s Lighthouses: An Illustrated History and Great American Lighthouses. He was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War and held numerous positions with the Department of Interior and National Park Service.

Florence Armstrong’s passing leaves a void in history

One of our favorite lighthouse people, Florence Armstrong, passed away this past September. Born in 1915, she was the second child of Velma and Willie Corbett who tended a number of lighthouses along the Maine coast, including Monhegan Lighthouse, Tenants Harbor Lighthouse and Little River Lighthouse where Corbett served as the last keeper of the United States Lighthouse Service at the station. Over the years, Florence shared many memories and stories with us. She recently told me that she had hoped to return to Little River Lighthouse, but said it would have to be by helicopter, since actually landing at the dangerous boat ramp would be too risky at her age. Unfortunately, we were never able to help her fulfill that dream. In celebration of her life, the pamphlet and cards handed out at her memorial service featured the Little River Lighthouse on them and the old hymn Let the Lower Lights Be Burning, which is the theme song of the American Lighthouse Foundation, was sung at the conclusion of service. She will always be with us in spirit each time we go to the island. Donations in her memory can be sent to Friends of Little River Lighthouse, a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation.

Old Baldy group had a party without us

North Carolina’s Old Baldy Foundation turned 20 years old this past August 6th. The group cares for Bald Head Lighthouse, the oldest in the state. Apparently, they had a big celebration. Unfortunately, they never told any of us at Lighthouse Digest. We would have published the event in our Calendar of Events and would have attended the party had we known. We would have shared a few photos, but the group never sent us any from the event.

Who knows about Point Betsie’s restoration?

Michigan’s Point Betsie Lighthouse had some much-needed restoration work this year. No one from that group bothered to send us either a story or some photos. With our small staff, we can’t be everywhere.

South Manitou painted

Michigan’s South Manitou Island has been painted, thanks to a $69,000 beautification project. For most of the work, painters hung from the 104-foot tall lighthouse on scaffolding doing this dramatic work.

The lighthouse, owned by the National Park Service, is part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.


The above tidbits about Point Betsie Lighthouse, South Manitou Island Lighthouse and Old Baldy are typical information which lighthouse managers or groups around the nation fail to send us.

While we do our best to tell the stories and help promote

lighthouses, many groups or government entities fail to realize the importance of sharing information for the rest of the world to read about. It is difficult for us to be successful in reporting lighthouse stories and helping to save lighthouse history if some of the lighthouse groups don’t share information and photos with us. I have been stating for years that there is too much fragmentation in the lighthouse community. When will they realize that there is strength in numbers?

Gull Rock gets new owners

Michigan’s remote Gull Rock Lighthouse has been turned over to two nonprofits that will operate the lighthouse jointly. The Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy and the Gull Rock Lightkeepers will manage the lighthouse that is located on a small island two miles off the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Lobster Festival helped MLM

Rockland, Maine’s recent Lobster Festival was a boost to the new Maine Lighthouse Museum which is now located on the city’s waterfront. The masses of tourists who visited the area got to see Phase 1 of the new museum firsthand and they were generally impressed. The Maine Lighthouse Museum still needs to raise $500,000 in order to open Phase 2, the final phase of the museum, which they hope to do by next year.

All Hands

Lighthouse Digest is looking for an original copy of the July 1956 issue of the U.S. Navy’s All Hands magazine. If you have one that you’d like to donate, please send to Lighthouse Digest, P.O. Box 250, East Machias, ME 04630.

Application denied

The National Park Service has denied the application for ownership of Maine’s Goose Rocks Lighthouse by Historically Significant Structures. There were no other applicants for ownership of the light. Unfortunately, the lighthouse will now probably go up for public auction. However, this also means that the same organization can now also bid on the lighthouse and possibly still get ownership. Should that be the case, some of the money they could have used for restoration will instead have to be used to buy the lighthouse. What’s wrong with this scenario? It appears the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, as passed into law by Congress, has been harmed by bureaucrats.

Coquille River in need of restoration

Oregon’s Coquille River Lighthouse in Bandon is in need of restoration that could cost anywhere from $700,000 to $1 million, according to local officials and community leaders. The abandoned lighthouse is the only lighthouse to be in this condition on the Oregon Coast. But, public and private officials have no idea where the money will come from.

Granddaddy wants to charge for his time

It looks like more and more officials are leaning toward charging a fee to get into Maine’s Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth where Portland Head Light is located. The granddaddy of all lighthouses, Portland Head Light is one of the most visited and photographed lighthouses in the nation. The park entry fee would be in addition to the admission fee charged to get into the museum. The town also operates a gift shop at the lighthouse, which draws in substantial money, which is used for the maintenance of the lighthouse. However, maintenance of the park grounds is now paid for by the people of the community. This would be a real shame to families and tourists on a limited budget who want to view the lighthouse. But with more and more people visiting the park, it is costing the community more and more to maintain the grounds. Unfortunately, something has to give somewhere. Personally, I’d rather see a voluntary park admission fee.

Cistern bricks for sale for lighthouse

Bricks from the cistern at Maine’s Deer Isle Thorofare Lighthouse on Mark Island in the Penobscot Bay are being sold to raise money for the future care of the lighthouse. The bricks from the old cistern were laying around by the keeper’s house that had been destroyed in 1959. The bricks, available with a small commemorative plaque, are available for $50 each plus $7 for shipping from Island Heritage Trust, 3 Main St., P.O. Box 42, Deer Isle, ME 04627.

Australian site gets Heritage status

The ruins of Australia’s 1910 Point Cloates Lighthouse, has been declared part of a National Heritage Site. The nearby Norwegian and Scandinavian whaling stations are also National Heritage Sites.

Head Harbour changes hands

Canada’s Head Harbour Lighthouse, aka East Quoddy Head Light, on Campobello Island, has been transferred from Canadian government ownership to the nonprofit Friends of Head Harbour Lighthouse. Painting of the light station is the first item on their agenda. Their ten-year plan includes improved access and safety designs that will total $1 million to fully restore the station.

Coast Guard wants old foghorn stopped

The U.S. Coast Guard has asked the city of Duluth, MN to stop using the old refurbished and rebuilt diaphone foghorn as it interferes with and sounds different from the current foghorn that is used by the Coast Guard. However, the old foghorn came to the rescue this summer when the Coast Guard foghorn wasn’t working. The old foghorn has also been used in special occasions for the tourists. For a while, locals were complaining that the old foghorn was too loud. These people have forgotten what foghorns were made for — to save lives. People 50 and 75 years ago never complained about them. There is nothing more soothing than the sound of the foghorn, especially at night or on foggy days.

Photographs donated

We’d like to give special thanks to Anita Romleski for her donation of a large number of original photographs to Lighthouse Digest from the collection of her mother Doris Kilton Sprague, who passed away March 21, 2005, just 19 days short of her 100th birthday. The photographs deal with Doris Sprague’s father, Harold Kilton and his life at a number of Maine lighthouses and her grandfather Charles Kenney, who was also a lighthouse keeper. We would hope Anita’s actions in donating the photographs will encourage others to come forward and donate photographs to help save our lighthouse history in photos for future generations.

Marker confirms site

A new granite marker recently dedicated at Maine’s West Quoddy Head Lighthouse puts it in stone that the site is the easternmost point of land in the United States. The new granite marker was dedicated in a ceremony attended by a number of distinguished personalities including Tim Harrison, editor of Lighthouse Digest and president of the American Lighthouse Foundation. Harrison was one of the speakers at the dedication. To see his remarks, go to www.LighthouseFoundation.org.

Coast Guard again to the rescue

No one can dispute the amazing work the United States Coast Guard has done in the rescue and support efforts following the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Not wishing to get political, however, I wish to remind our readers that in an editorialized story I did a number of years ago, I called the Coast Guard the premier military organization of the United States. I got a lot of flak for that, but now, I guess I have been proven correct. Vice Admiral Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard, who was finally given the authority to take over the efforts, shows what the Coast Guard can do. Now, if we could only convince Congress to appropriate more money for the Coast Guard so they can continue to improve their services.

Portland Head keepers' dates of birth

We are looking for the dates of birth of Joshua F. Strout and Joseph W. Strout. Both men served as keepers at Maine’s Portland Head Lighthouse. If you can help us, please write to Editor, Lighthouse Digest, P.O. Box 250, East Machias, ME 04630 or email editor@LighthouseDigest.com.

Lost photo

We are still looking for a photograph of William H. Larkin Jr. who served as master mechanic for the U.S. Lighthouse Service in Boston, Massachusetts around the late 1890s and early 1900s. It’s amazing how many photographs of people who served in the U.S. Lighthouse Service have disappeared into the pages of time. If you can help with any photographs, please send them or duplicates of them to Editor, Lighthouse Digest, P.O. Box 250, East Machias, ME 04630.

Photo winners

Recently, Coastal Living magazine in partnership with Jeld-Wen, a manufacturer of windows and doors, held a national lighthouse photo contest. They received over 1000 entries. The grand prize winner was the photo of Bass Harbor Lighthouse in Maine, taken by William Hammond of Pennsylvania who won a four-day trip to Bald Head, North Carolina to visit the Old Baldy Lighthouse. Other lighthouses that won in lower categories were the Annisquam Lighthouse in Gloucester, Massachusetts and Point Wilson Lighthouse in Port Townsend, Michigan.

National Museum out?

From all recent media accounts, the proposed National Lighthouse Museum for Staten Island may be a thing of the past. Founders have failed to come through on their $15 million in pledges. The museum has gone through a number of leadership changes with Jerry Roberts now at the helm. Roberts has been serving without pay in a last ditch effort to save the planned museum. We have always stated that the site should be preserved and protected, primarily since it is the most important lighthouse site in the nation. However, we never felt Staten Island was the proper location for a National Lighthouse Museum, plus we and others were kept out of the original decision-making progress by some of the so called “lighthouse super elite.” We felt then as we still do, that the National Lighthouse Museum could have been in conjunction with the original Shore Village Museum, now the Maine Lighthouse Museum, because of the large concentration of old historic lighthouses in the state and the gigantic collection amassed by former Coast Guardsman Ken Black. Another choice could have been in Michigan, a state with many lighthouses that are open to the public and where it would have been at the center of the country, allowing for access by more people. After all, when one thinks of planning a lighthouse vacation, how many people think of Staten Island?

Wheeler retires

Wayne Wheeler, president and founder of the United States Lighthouse Society, has retired. According to his goodbye remarks, he will pursue other avenues in life. Wayne is to be congratulated for being one of the original founders of the lighthouse preservation and awareness movement in this country. He is also one of the foremost authorities on lighthouses and the operation of lighthouses, including lenses and other lighthouse equipment. He created a large archive of lighthouse history, started an informative quarterly journal and personally led lighthouse tours all over the world. He has created a legacy that will live forever.

This story appeared in the November 2005 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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