Digest>Archives> Sep/Oct 2011

Monumental Restoration at Goat Island Lighthouse

By Timothy Harrison


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The lighthouse keepers who once served at Goat Island Lighthouse off the coast of Cape Porpoise and Kennebunkport, Maine have been honored with the recent monumental restoration of the historic light station.

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It took years of permit applications and dedicated fund raising before this major undertaking by the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust, the group that owns the lighthouse, could even start. The reported one million dollar project is one of a few extensive restoration undertakings at Maine lighthouses.

The project included the rebuilding the 30-foot tall fog bell tower that the Coast Guard destroyed in 1962. At that time the fog bell was given to the Kennebunkport Historical Society and it was brought to the mainland for display on the grounds of the historical society. As part of the restoration, the historical society agreed to give the bell back to the lighthouse, so it was removed from the mainland and brought back to the island. Interestingly, Mary Bryant, who went to the island in 1962 and formally accepted the bell for the historical society, was again present, this time on the mainland, to officially hand over ownership of the fog bell back to the lighthouse as it was being loaded for its trip back to the island.

Rebuilding the covered walkway from the keeper’s house to the tower that protected the lighthouse keeper during inclement weather was also one of the many projects. The walkway was destroyed in a wind-driven winter storm in February of 1978. Martin Cain, who was the Coast Guard lighthouse keeper at that time, recalled that the covered walkway folded like an accordion shortly before it was literally swept off the island.

The station is being restored to the 1950s time era when there was running water and electricity on the island, which will make life easier for future caretakers. The 1950s era was also chosen because there is more historical documentation to ensure a historically accurate restoration, which includes replacing the red shingles with accurate green shingles and rebuilding a storage building that was torn down by the Coast Guard.

Getting supplies and equipment to the island was also a challenge, but one that the people at the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust had planned for. A large landing craft brought trucks, heavy equipment, and building supplies. It may well have been the first time in history that vehicles were on the island.

Goat Island Lighthouse was first established in 1834 and the current tower dates from 1859. Because of public protests, automation and the removal of its lighthouse keepers did not happen until 1990, making it the last lighthouse in Maine to be automated.

During the presidency of George H.W. Bush, the Goat Island Lighthouse Station served as a base of operations for the United States Secret Service to guard Walker’s Point, the Bush family vacation home.

In 1992 Goat Island Lighthouse was leased to the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust and in 1998 they obtained ownership of the lighthouse under the Maine Lights Program, which transferred a large number of Maine’s lighthouses to various government entities and non profits.

Shown here is a collage of images of the some of the restoration and rebuilding at Goat Island Lighthouse. The people of the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust are to be commended and thanked for all they have done to save this important part of lighthouse history for future generations.

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This story appeared in the Sep/Oct 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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