Digest>Archives> Jan/Feb 2011

The Doomsday List

America’s Most Endangered Lighthouses

By Timothy Harrison


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The Doomsday List was created by Lighthouse Digest in 1993 in an effort to draw public attention to lighthouses that were endangered of being lost forever. Unfortunately, since that list was created, some lighthouses, such as the West Rigolets Lighthouse in Louisiana, the Galveston Jetty Lighthouse in Texas, the Chandeleur Island Lighthouse in Louisiana, the Cedar Point Lighthouse in Maryland, the Sabine Bank Lighthouse in Louisiana, and the Kauhola Point Lighthouse in Hawaii, all of which were on Doomsday List, were indeed destroyed and are now lost forever. However, in the case of Sabine Bank Lighthouse, the lantern room was saved.

We have also removed Green Island Lighthouse in Wisconsin and Green Island Lighthouse in Ohio from the Doomsday List. Both structures are so far gone and remote that to bring them back would require a total rebuilding, which is highly unlikely to ever happen, especially at Green Island Lighthouse in Ohio where access by humans is restricted.

Other lighthouses that were on the Doomsday List and were also destroyed, such as the Cape St. George Lighthouse in Florida and the Mispillion Lighthouse in Delaware, were rebuilt; however they are not entirely made of the original materials and were not rebuilt at their original locations. However, the accomplishment made in the rebuilding of Cape St. George Lighthouse is nothing short of a miracle. Additionally, thanks to some very dedicated people, Round Island Lighthouse in Mississippi, which was toppled by a hurricane, will now be rebuilt at a new location

Since we first started the Doomsday List, there have also been some great success stories of lighthouses that have been saved and removed from the Doomsday List, such as Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in North Carolina; Southeast Lighthouse on Block Island, Rhode Island; Nauset Lighthouse on Cape Cod, Massachusetts; and Sankaty Lighthouse on Nantucket Island, which all faced a threat of collapse due to erosion. Thankfully, they were all saved when they were moved to safer locations.

Other success stories of lighthouses once on the Doomsday List include Avery Point Lighthouse in Connecticut, Little River Lighthouse in Maine, Crisp Point Lighthouse in Michigan, Prospect Harbor Lighthouse in Maine, Isles of Shoals in New Hampshire, Dutch Island Lighthouse in Rhode Island, Point (Punta) Figuras Lighthouse in Puerto Rico, Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse in Michigan, and Clark's Point in Massachusetts, which have all been saved thanks to the efforts of dedicated volunteers who not only raised most of the money, but also did large portions of the restoration work.

On the other hand Raspberry Island Lighthouse in the Apostle Islands of Wisconsin was saved from erosion by federal funds and additional federal money is also being used to now restore the other lighthouses of the Apostle Islands, as well as Monomoy Point Lighthouse in Massachusetts and the famous Bodie Island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Some endangered lighthouses that were on the Doomsday List, such as Gull Rock Lighthouse and Manitou Island Lighthouses, both in Michigan, and Plum Island Lighthouse and Pilot Island lighthouses in Wisconsin, have seen significant help in recent years and are in the process of being saved by dedicated volunteers and although there is much to still be done, we decided to no longer include them on the list.

However, there are still a number of lighthouses in the United States that are on the Doomsday List, all for a variety of different reasons. Some of the lighthouses on the Doomsday List are so remote or so far gone, that short of a miracle, they may never be saved.

In many cases lighthouses have been lost or will soon be lost because of outright government interference. This includes some lighthouses located in wildlife preserves or refuges such as Green Island Lighthouse in Ohio, where humans are not allowed, or where the government believes that restoration would disturb wildlife. Other examples of that could include West Sister Island Lighthouse in Ohio and Destruction Island Lighthouse in Washington, where, without the proper maintenance, these lighthouses will soon deteriorate. In other cases, historic preservation restoration guidelines are so off base and beyond reality that it would make restoration beyond the financial capabilities of most, other than perhaps the wealthiest people in the world.

There are some who may claim that a lighthouse being considered endangered is actually nothing more than one's personal opinion and others would say that some lighthouses, in fair condition and now being restored, should also be on the endangered list until they are fully saved. There is also some question whether Florida's Reef Lighthouse should be added to the list, especially Florida's Sand Key Lighthouse, but for the time being we have not included them. Naturally, we welcome all comments and suggestions about the Doomsday List and we will update and modify it as conditions change or when new and updated information is received.

However, a lighthouse can only be saved when people are made aware of the problem and then get involved. But, in nearly each and every situation, it will take one or two people to take the lead to get others motivated, while also understanding that lighthouse restoration is a long and arduous task. Plus, once a lighthouse is saved, it still needs the help of people to maintain the structure so that it will never again be on the brink of being lost.

Over the years, Lighthouse Digest has played a significant role in various ways in helping to save many of these lighthouses, such as through stories in the pages of this magazine that have drawn public attention to their plight, which in turn inspired others to become involved, either as a volunteer or through donations.

But much of this would not have happened without the loyal support of our many subscribers, whose paid subscriptions allow us to continue to draw public attention to saving the actual lighthouses themselves, and, just as importantly, saving and recording the history associated with them and all other lighthouses, especially those without a preservation group.

Click here for brief descriptions and photos of some of the Doomsday List of Endangered Lighthouses

This story appeared in the Jan/Feb 2011 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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