Digest>Archives> December 2009

Keeper's Korner

Tidbits and Editorial Comments from the Tower

By Timothy Harrison



Rumor has it that actor Richard Dreyfuss will be nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of a lighthouse keeper in the movie The Lightkeepers that was filmed at Race Point Lighthouse on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The full story about the making of the movie, with photos, appeared in our September edition. The movie is scheduled to be released first in California and then nationally.

Buoy Tender Sold

When the Coast Guard Cutter Sundew was retired from duty in May 2004 it was donated to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center in Duluth, Minnesota. The Sundew was famous on the Great Lakes where it served as a buoy tender and ice breaker. It seems the vessel was simply too expensive to maintain. It was sold for $100,000 to Minnesota businessman Jeff Foster of Jeff Foster Trucking. Foster said he plans to put the vessel "back in action," and has been offered lots of support from former crew members.

Maine Life Saving Station to Be Demolished

It's now official. Town officials in Kittery, Maine have voted to demolish the historic Wood Island Life Saving Station. They claim it would cost $900,000 to restore it and they don't have the money. We've been writing about this historic structure since we began publishing Lighthouse Digest in 1992.

Over the years two different lighthouse groups said the station could be saved and vowed to lead the battle. A local group was formed, but what happened to the money they raised is unknown.

As recently as March of this year at the Transfer of Ownership Ceremony of the nearby Whaleback Lighthouse to the American Lighthouse Foundation, in his remarks to the audience, Jon Carter, Kittery Town Manager, said that restoration efforts of the 1908 lifesaving station had run into obstacles, but town officials were still hopeful. Apparently, they were not that hopeful, or that was just a politically correct statement to make at the time. They now say the station will be demolished by Christmas.

For the past 25 years the Town of Kittery Maine, which owns the historic Life Saving Station, has been talking about saving the station. Can you imagine what could have been done if they had started restoration 20, 15, or even 10-years ago? Do you think it might have been restored by now? This is just another example of government bureaucracy got amuck as well as no public oversight of the nonprofit that was formed to save it.

The Wood Island Life Saving Station was built to replace the Jerry's Point Life Saving Station, which also no longer stands. Wood Island Life Saving Station was eventually replaced by the Portsmouth Harbor Life Boat Station, which is now the Portsmouth Coast Guard Station. A PDF file report can be viewed on-line at www.kitterypolice.com/woodisland.pdf.

Wood Island Life Saving Station can best be viewed and photographed from the grounds of Fort Foster in Kittery, Maine. But if you want a photograph of it, you better hurry. It won't be there much longer.

Cuts at Port Huron

The Port Huron Museum in Port Huron Michigan, which operates the Coast Guard Cutter Bramble, the Huron Lightship and the Thomas Edison Depot has enacted layoffs and will be selling off some of its assets to meet expenses. Unfortunately, three years ago the museum laid off its director of 27 years, Steve Williams who had brought phenomenal growth to the museum. They claimed they could not afford to pay him any longer. Perhaps they should have kept him on.

Canada's De-staffing Put On Hold

The de-staffing of Canada's British Columbia lighthouses has been put on hold, thanks in part to the protests by local government agencies. However, in the meantime, the Canadian federal government has requested further review of the other duties the lighthouse keepers perform before a final decision will be reached. But for now, the jobs of the last 27 British Columbia lighthouses with keepers have been saved.


On page 33 of the October issue the photo captions for Ohio's Conneaut Harbor West Breakwater Lighthouse and the Cleveland East Breakwater were reversed. Most of you were probably aware of the obvious error, but others might not have caught it. We apologize for the error. In that same story we reported that Gary Zaremba was the new owner of the Conneaut Harbor West Breakwater Lighthouse. Although he did win the auction he later declined the ownership when he was unable to obtain the required bottom land lease from the state of Ohio. So, now the lighthouse will go up for auction, again.

Honking Tree to Become Lighthouse

Minnesota's famous "Honking Tree" that once stood as the only tree in the median on the 21-mile stretch on Highway 61 between Two Harbors and Duluth, Minnesota will soon be turned into a lighthouse. It has been the only tree to stand in the median since the highway was constructed in the 1960s and it grew from a small tree into a large tree. For years as cars passed the tree and people would honk their car horns at the tree as a salute, the same way ships at sea used to do when passing a lighthouse, when they would blow their horn or ring their bell. Suddenly one day the tree was gone, cut down; some say by vandals, others say by an over zealous highway employee who thought the tree was becoming a hazard. Now, the mayor of Two Harbors, Minnesota, has announced that a lighthouse will be carved from the Honking Tree and put on permanent display on Seventh Ave in Two Harbors along side Highway 61 to remember the historic tree that everyone loved so much.

Reilly and Gowdy Remembered

The late Carole Reilly and the late Jim Gowdy were remembered at the October 25th meeting of the Delaware Bay Lighthouse Keepers and Friends Association. Kim Ruth and Ingrid Gowdy led the remembrance of the two lighthouse leaders. Reilly was the founder of the group and Gowdy was a noted historian and author. They were both great people and have been missed by many.

Old Barney's Lens Shows Off

New Jersey's Barnegat Lighthouse was open for climbing during the Full Moon Campfire night at the lighthouse this past October 30th. It was the first time that visitors who climbed the tower could view the new Fresnel lens in operation.

Flag Disgrace

A recent story in The World newspaper asked what happened to the Coast Guard and United States flags that used to be flown at the U.S. Coast Guard Exchange Building in Coos Bay, Oregon. It seems they no longer fly them because of the harsh Oregon weather. Coast Guard Exchange manager Ava Moore was quoted in the article as saying, "The wind and rain destroy the flags." She went on to explain that after continuously having to replace the weathered flags, it was decided to take them down for good. "It's more of a sign of respect. Not an insult," she said. Wow! What and lame excuse. I find it hard to believe that the United States Coast Guard in Oregon can't afford flags. What's next? Will the government stop flying our Stars and Stripes in every place where there is harsh weather? You can't tell me that the weather is harsher in Oregon than it is on the rock bound coast of Maine or Alaska? Personally, I think it's an insult to not fly the flag of the United States of America, even more so at government buildings, regardless of the weather. Plus, I personally know of some lighthouses and have heard of others in windy and harsh environments that put up new flags on a regular basis, and that my friends, is a sign of true respect.

Vandals Strike Michigan Lights

Michigan's Holland Harbor Lighthouse, known affectionately as "Big Red" has been struck by mindless vandals. They used a ladder to break into a second story window, then tipped over displays and smeared red and white paint everywhere. Getting to the lighthouse is no easy task and requires a fairly long walk. Many of the vandals stepped in the paint left a trail. The sheriff’s office said someone should know who has red and white paint on their shoes. And at the South Haven Pierhead Lighthouse they covered the base of the tower with graffiti and were even so bold as to write their names on their work. Vandalism is a hard crime to prove and obtain convictions; and when the culprits are caught the punishment generally is not sufficient. Plus, most police departments don’t have the resources to effectively investigate these types of crimes.

Crossed the Bar

We are saddened to report on the passing of Donald Ross, president of the Crisp Point Lighthouse Society. Don, along with his late wife, Nellie, founded the group, shortly before the lighthouse in a remote part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, was declared the most endangered lighthouse in the United States. They led a miraculous effort that saved the lighthouse from toppling. They worked diligently to build a strong organization that can carry on into the future. Over the years we have done numerous stories about the efforts and restoration work done by the group; most recently in our August 2008 issue. Don was a true lighthouse leader who made many friends and will be truly missed. The family has requested that memorial donations can be made in his name and sent to the Crisp Point Lighthouse Society, c/o Rick Brockway, 450 W. Marr Road, Howell, Michigan 48855.

Squirrel Point Moves Forward

The Citizens for Squirrel Point Lighthouse have a new web site at www.SquirrelPoint.org. The group has been work diligently on the lighthouse site on Maine’s Kennebec River ever since the federal government seized the lighthouse back from another group. In the very near future they expect to have the deed to the property. It’s been a long haul for the group and they are to be commended for their persistence.

This story appeared in the December 2009 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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