Lighthouse lovers from far and near had a rare chance to tour the picturesque lighthouse and keeper's house at Owls Head on Maine's Midcoast last June 19 and 20, 2004. The event, a commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the construction of the present keeper's house, was hosted by the U.S. Coast Guard couple presently living at the station, Chief Warrant Officer Paul Dilger and his wife Mary Ellen, along with family and friends.
Owls Head is one of Maine's most historic and legend-rich lighthouses, complete with ghost stories and a celebrated fogbell-ringing dog. The light was automated in 1989 and the Coast Guard's last official keeper, Malcolm Rouse, moved out. CWO Dilger, a 27-year veteran of the Coast Guard, is the captain of the 175-foot buoy tender Abbie Burgess. The vessel is home ported nearby in Rockland, and the Diggers moved into the house at Owls Head last summer. Since then, CWO Dilger has made many improvements to the property and has worked to gather the history of the 1825 lighthouse. Both Paul and Mary Ellen say they feel privileged to live in such a beautiful and historic setting, and that they feel obligated to give something back to the community.
Cool temperature and showers kept the attendance relatively low on the first day of the event, with about 130 visitors. But on the second day, sun and blue skies moved in, and several hundred toured the station. Mary Ellen showed groups of people through the keeper's house with the help of a friend, while Paul greeted visitors in the lantern room of the lighthouse. The house has been furnished and decorated by the Dilgers, and ship models created by Paul are on display in the living room.
Several ex-Coast Guard keepers as well as descendants of civilian and Coast Guard keepers attended the event, and most of them took part in a ceremonial cake cutting. Barbara St. Clair, whose father George Woodward was keeper in the 1940s, remembered that in those days, her father could keep an eye on the light at night from his bedroom window. George Woodward had a long career during which he served in seven Maine lighthouses.
CWO Dilger spends about half his time at sea aboard the Abbie Burgess, but he is thoroughly enjoying his stay at Owls Head. This marks a return for Paul, who lived in the area in the 1990s while he captained the tender White Lupine. He says the Owls Head foghorn has taken some getting used to, but the cold winds of winter are no problem – after all, he's originally from North Dakota.
This story appeared in the
Aug/Sep 2004 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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