Digest>Archives> June 1997

Keepers Korner

By Timothy Harrison


Automation has bypassed the Bahamas Elbow Reef Lighthouse. The 325,000 candlepower kerosene lamp and hand-wound mechanism that turns Fresnel lens is a rich relic from the maritime past. The Bahamas' Port Department has automated five of the island's nine lighthouses and it now appears that the Elbow Reef Light will not be automated and kept as a monument to the past. We will keep our fingers crossed.

The Canadian government assured mariners safe passage with the automation of its lighthouses saying that automation was just as reliable as keepers. However, the light off the coast of Souris which has been shining its light since 1886 was dark for five days before the Canadian Coast Guard realized it. Now it turns out that the Canadian Coast Guard is no longer monitoring many of its lights, since the monitoring systems were taken out for financial reasons and they said a lot of them didn't work anyway. This sound like a good reason to keep the rest of Canada's manned lights staffed with keepers.

Point Pinos Light, Ca. is again open to the public. The light was closed for repairs in April while Asbestos tile was removed.

Many thanks to the Betty Burkert of the Holland Evening Sentinel in Holland, Michigan for the nice story on "yours truly". Since I was born in Holland the story titled "Holland native makes lighthouse history his business" told how Lighthouse Digest and Lighthouse Depot got started and briefly covered lighthouse preservation.

Tanyia Johnson has won a check for $100.00 for her design of the lighthouse logo for Washington States Westport Marine Museums "Lighthouse 98" project. The "Lighthouse 98" project is a three phase project; The first is to provide a home for the 17 foot high 100 year old Destruction Island Lighthouse lens on the grounds of the museum. The second is to open cooperative exhibits and interpretive tours at the lighthouse in time for its centennial celebration by the summer of 1998. The third is a bike-pedestrian link between the lens exhibit and the Grays Harbor Lighthouse via the ocean front dune trail.

The new Florida Lighthouse Association is going strong. If you are interested in joining you can write to them at, 4931 S. Peninsula Drive, Ponce Inlet, FL 32127.

A person walking along the beach at Oregon's Bullards Beach State Park found an unexploded sonar buoy that had washed up on the beach near the Coquille River Lighthouse. U. S. Army explosive experts were called in to de-arm the device. They said that the device should have detonated itself in the ocean. Sonar buoys are dropped from airplanes to track submarines in the ocean and are supposed to denote themselves after use.

The Portland Observatory, in Portland, Maine, one of the last of its kind in the nation will dismantled. The structure which has stood for 190 years has become infested with beetles. The structure will be repaired in a warehouse, and then reassemble and put back in place. The total cost is expected to be close to one million dollars. The observatory, which closely resembles a lighthouse, was built as a signal tower and has been open to the public for years.

The volunteer effort to refurbish Washington states Mukilteo Lighthouse keepers quarters has hit a snag. It was discovered that the interior paint was more than 13% lead when it was being readied to be stripped. The level is so high that it must now be considered hazardous waste. The problem is who pays for the removal, the city which leases the station or the Federal Government that owns it.

Oregon's Cape Blanco Lighthouse has had a facelift. The American Lighthouse Restoration Company has completely re-painted the 126 year old lighthouse. The company has also re-glazed the windows, and reopened a ventilation system that no longer worked.

U.S. Congressman, Jim Barcia of Bay City Michigan has announced that through his request the U.S. Coast Guard will hold public hearings this summer to listen to residents affected by the possible closure of Great Lakes Lighthouses. Congressman Barcia said, "I'm very concerned about the safety of recreational boaters who rely upon lighthouses to guide them at night and during bad weather. And I an also concerned about maintenance of the lighthouses once the Coast Guard relinquishes responsibility for them. These lighthouses are historical treasures and should be preserved for their beauty and tradition."

Oregon's Cape Meares Lighthouse has new paving stones around it thanks to Bob Reed and crew. It is a great improvement to the appearance of the lighthouse.

In an article in the Telegram-Tribune Newspaper of San Luis Obispo, CA, editor John Moore wrote about how the lighthouse illuminates a bit of history. At the end of his article he wrote and we quote, "All over the country, individuals and groups work quietly (usually) to maintain missions, our adobes, our trails, our castles, our history. Without their effort, our past-the fabric of who we are in this country and why we are here-would be limited to the words of our ancestors and not open to the imaginations of our children who can visit and try to experience our days gone by." Here! Here!

Delaware officials have decided to seek ownership of the Harbour of Refuge Lighthouse, also known as the Breakwater Lighthouse, off Lewes Deleware.. It may become part of the Cape Henlopen State Park.

The "Save the Light" Cape St. George Lighthouse (Florida) Project has been awarded a $40 thousand matching grant-in-aid from the Florida Historic Preservation Trust Fund. The Cape St. George Light is on the Lighthouse Digest Doomsday List of endangered lighthouses and could collapse at any moment. Hopefully the group trying desperately to save the lighthouse in a last ditch effort will succeed.

One of New England's last standing grand old hotels, Wentworth By The Sea in New Castle, NH, has been saved from the wreckers ball. The company that owned the grand old hotel had scheduled to demolish the abandoned structure which had been heavily damaged over the years by the elements and vandalism. History buffs and preservationists, over the last several years, had successfully blocked the owners attempts for a demolition permit. The new owners (Ocean Properties which owns numerous hotels in New England) plan to spend millions of dollars to restore Wentworth and expect it to open within two years. The hotel was the site of the peace talks that led to the Russian-Japanese peace treaty in 1905. The hotel offers a stunning view of five area lighthouses.

The Lighthouse Stamp Society now has a web page. You can find them at -http://www.nyx.net/'dathomas.

Two souvenir cards issued by the American Stamp Dealers Association that feature the either the first set of lighthouse postage stamps or the Great Lakes lighthouse stamps are still available. The cards are $4.50 each and can be purchased from ASDA, 3 School Street, Glen Cove, NY 11542.

We would like to find for our archives file some photos of the Shot Tower just south of South Street near the Delaware River in Queen Village, Philadelphia, PA. The tower one of the oldest of its type constructed was recently declared a historical landmark. The 142 foot tall tower was built by Thomas Sparks and John Bishop and was designed to built shot for hunters after President Thomas Jefferson banned the importing of shot from other countries. To make the shot, hot metal was poured from the towers top through different sized sleves. Gravity turned the lead pieces into spheres as they fell down the towers length, finally landing in vats of cold water, where they would harden. When the War of 1812 began, Bishop sold his share of the tower to Sparks for $15,000 because he didn't want to be involved in making ammunition for warfare. The Sparks family continued to make shot in the tower for three generations-churning it out in large quantities during the Civil War and until 1903 when the company went out of business. In 1913 the tower and buildings were turned into a playground which it has been ever since. If anyone can send us a picture of the tower we would appreciate it.

What happened to the weathervane that once sat atop the 1930 Coast Guard Station at St. Simons Island, Georgia! That's what the folks at the Coastal Landmark Preservation Society want to know. As part of their renovation project they would like to have it back. Any one with information is asked to contact Pat Morris at the Coastal Georgia Historical Society, P.O. Box 21136, St. Simons Island, GA or call Pat at 912-638-4666.

Proving that lighthouses are becoming ever more popular is a fact at Cape May Point Lighthouse in New Jersey. In 1994 the lighthouse had 70,000 visitors. Within only two years that figure jumped a whopping 35,000 for a total of 105,000 people visiting the lighthouse last year.

The New Jersey Lighthouse Society has a new web page. You can find it at NJLHS.burlco.org

Rhode Island's Rose Island Lighthouse will be open for public tours beginning July 16 through Labor Day. Round Trip fare on the Jamestown-Newport Ferry is $12.00 per person and $6.00 per child, plus a landing fee of $1.00 per person. Tours are available only if a guide is on duty. For additional information contact the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation, P.O. Box 1419, Newport, RI 02840 or call 401-847-4242 or by fax at 401-849-3540.

The Lightship Nantucket I ported in Quincy, MA is in serious trouble. The owners MDC are ready to give it up to any agency that wants it. The MDC said they are willing to repair the ship before it is turned over to another group. The Friends of the Lightship Nantucket are trying to keep it there and donations are greatly needed. They can be sent to 333 Victory Road, Suite 11-1, North Quincy, MA 02171. Letters of concern can be sent direct to David Balfour, Commisioner, MDC, 20 Somerset St., Boston, MA 02108.

The Oregon Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society has elected new officers, they are: Caroline Wilkins, president; Rudy Mauch, vice president; Bev Jordan, secretary. For more information or if you would like to join the group write to them at P.O. Box 600, Lakeside, OR 97449.

Congratulations to Harbour Lights. They just won a Collectors Editions Award of Excellence for Thomas Point Lighthouse for Architecture under $100. They also won the Collectors Jubilee Collectors Choice Award for Bill Younger as Artist of the Year. If that wasn't enough they also won the Collectors Jubilee Choice Award for the best unlighted buildings.

Congratulations to the New England Lighthouse Foundation Winners: 1st prize: Nancy McAvoy of Princeton Jct., New Jersey, 2nd prize: Shirley Strand of Oshkosh, Wisconsin and 3rd prize: Outermost Graphics of Edgartown, Massachusetts.

This story appeared in the June 1997 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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