Digest>Archives> October 2004

Help Needed To Preserve Maine's Lighthouse Museum

By Wanda Curtis


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The Shore Village Museum in Rockland, Maine displayed an extraordinary collection of lighthouse lenses and artifacts for the past 25 years. Now, the museum building has been sold and the collection must be moved from its present location. Former Coast Guardsman Ken Black, who is known in many circles as Mr. Lighthouse, founded the museum. In fact, he is largely credited for helping start the lighthouse preservation movement in this country.

A group of government, private, and nonprofit individuals has secured another building, located on the Rockland waterfront, through the generous cooperation of MBNA, one of the largest credit card companies in America. Plans are to open the new Maine Lighthouse Museum inside that building and display the collection there. However, the Maine Lighthouse Museum's campaign director, Laura Zylstra, recently stated that more funds are still needed to complete the project.

Zylstra said in August that funds are necessary not only to move the collection but also to renovate the new building and display the collection there. Zylstra reported that as far as fundraising is concerned, the halfway mark has been reached.

The Museum: Part of a Bigger Picture

Bob Hastings, the executive director of the Rockland-Thomaston Chamber of Commerce, is the managing director of the Maine Lighthouse Museum. He recently explained that the waterfront building where the museum will be housed has been named the “Gateway Center” because of its location on Penobscot Bay, which has sometimes been referred to as the “gateway to the Atlantic.” Hastings added that the Gateway Center will not only house the Maine Lighthouse Museum but will also house the Rockland-Thomaston Chamber of Commerce, a gift shop, an exhibit hall, and year-round conference rooms. He was pleased that plans are in the works for an outside observation deck on the east side of the building, too.

Hastings noted that the location is a perfect spot for the lighthouse museum because it's the first place coming up Route One into Rockland where the Atlantic Ocean can be seen in all its glory. He said that it will be a secure location because the Rockland Police Department recently moved into the basement of that building.

Collection to be Moved Includes Valuable Fresnel Lenses

The Maine Lighthouse Museum's board has described the collection of lighthouse lights and artifacts to be moved as the most significant of its kind in the nation. Some of the items contained within the collection are a large second order Fresnel lens and several third, fourth, and fifth order lenses. A very rare sixth order lens (the smallest) is a part of the collection, too. According to Shore Village curator Bob Davis, the collection of Fresnel lenses has been appraised at $10-11 million with the sixth order lens being one of the most valuable because it's so rare. “The sixth order lens, alone, has been appraised at $1 million,” said Davis. “It's very rare.”

Who Will Rescue the Collection?

For years, lighthouses have helped to serve and save the public. The question now being asked by some who recognize the significance of America's lighthouse heritage is, “Who will come to the rescue of this valuable collection and help preserve this country's lighthouse heritage and history?”

The Collection Must be Moved:

Time Is of the Essence.

According to Zylstra, artist Jamie Wyeth has donated 500 signed and numbered prints of his painting, Lighthouse Iris, to benefit the museum. Unframed prints can be purchased for $1,500. These may be obtained through the Archipelago in Rockland, the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, the Rockland-Thomaston Chamber of Commerce, or the Samoset Resort Gift Shop in Rockport.

Zylstra says donations may be sent to the Maine Lighthouse Museum, One Park Drive P.O. Box F, Rockland 04841. For more information, call (207) 594-3301.

This story appeared in the October 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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