Digest>Archives> Jan/Feb 2006

Keeper's Korner

Tidbits and Editorial Comments from the Tower

By Timothy Harrison


Assateague CG Station In Danger

Virginia’s Tom’s Cove Coast Guard Station on Assateague Island, now in a state of disrepair, is being targeted for restoration. The National Park Service, which owns that dilapidated station, was mandated some time ago to restore the structures and maintain it as a cultural site, but the government did not allocate any money for that purpose. For a while, it was thought that the structure would be turned over to the private sector to be used as a museum, B&B or hunting lodge. But that created a heated response from the so-called local conservation and environmental people. Well, some of those same options are on the table again and it may be that because of a group of small-minded people, the station may simply be lost forever. Time will tell.

Lorain Wants Lens Back

The Port of Lorain Foundation, which owns Ohio’s Lorain Lighthouse, wants the historic Fresnel lens that was once in the tower returned to them as part of its planned $3 million restoration project. The lens was removed from the lighthouse in 1965 and remained first in storage, then in Coast Guard officers’ lounge and finally ended up at the Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse Museum in New York. But, the folks at the Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse Museum may not want to part with the lens, which is one of the many highlights of the museum’s artifacts. Plus, the Port of Lorain Foundation has a long way to go to raise the $3 million for the restoration of the lighthouse.

Missing Lighthouse Keepers

Over the years, so much of our lighthouse history seems to have disappeared. However, we are confident that a lot of the stories and photos are still out there — in attics, family photo albums and family bibles. Even some of the historical societies may have old stories and photographs tucked away in some cabinet. However, as time goes by, it is becoming increasingly more and more difficult to locate the stories and photographs. We need these stories and photographs to publish them. We are the only national publication trying to save and record all the lighthouse information in one archival database for future generations to learn from and use. We have a small staff so we need your help in locating old recorded memories and photographs. We can’t do it alone. We need your help. As much as we would like to have original documents and photographs, with modern technology, this is not necessary. Thanks to modern technology, old photographs and documents can be easily duplicated and sent to us. Please help if you can. Send what you find to: Editor, Lighthouse Digest, P.O. Box 250, East Machias, ME 04630.

Specific Keepers

As we mentioned above, we need your help to locate old photographs of lighthouse keepers. For example, we have a story written by Alfred Elden in 1942 and another story written by Mina Titus in 1940 about Maine lighthouse keeper W. W. Wells. Yet, after years of searching, we are still unable to locate a photograph of Keeper W. W. Wells. We have another story written by Alice M. Howard about life at some of Maine’s lighthouses where her husband was a keeper. However, nowhere in the story does she mention what her husband’s name is or what lighthouses he was stationed at. Again, we need the help of our readers to piece together many parts of our missing lighthouse history.

Historic Photos Lost?

Robert Thayer Sterling, one of Maine’s famous lighthouse keepers wrote a book on the lighthouses of Maine as well as various stories for Maine newspapers. As he traveled the coast interviewing the last of the lighthouse keepers, he also took numerous photographs, some which appeared in his book and many others that appeared in newspapers of the time. Over the years, newspapers have come and gone and many of the archival photos were thrown out or destroyed. One can only assume that Sterling must have kept many of his photos. But, what happened to Robert Thayer Sterling? Are there any of his descendants or relatives around who might have photos that could be shared with us to be saved and protected in the archives of the American Lighthouse Foundation and used for display in the Museum of Lighthouse History? If there are any good detectives, we need your help to try to locate and save this part of lighthouse history as well

as historical photos of any lighthouse keepers. If you locate items, please write to us at Editor, Lighthouse Digest, P.O. Box 250, East Machias, ME 04630. You can also email us at Editor@LighthouseDigest.com.

Wedding at Smeaton’s Tower

Dai Edwards and Jackie Young became the first couple ever to be married at Smeaton’s Eddystone Lighthouse in Plymouth Hoe, England. The 46-year-old groom once worked as a docent at the lighthouse, which is probably the most famous lighthouse tower in the world. Although Edwards is afraid of heights, he wanted to be married in the lantern room of the tower, and his bride obliged him. They planned a honeymoon in Portugal where they would visit Europe’s westernmost lighthouse at Cabo da Roca.

New Lease of Life for Ludington

The Big Sable Point Lighthouse Keepers Association will be taking over Michigan’s Ludington North Pier Head Lighthouse in a 25-year lease from the City of Ludington. Plans call for the group to open the lighthouse to the public. The group also manages the care of Michigan’s Little Point Sable Light.

Hiawatha National Forest Forgot the Lighthouse Community

Michigan’s famous Round Island Lighthouse in the Straits of Mackinac recently received some exterior restoration work. Thanks to the Hiawatha National Forest, which owns the lighthouse. The work was supervised by the East Zone of the Hiawatha National Forest. Unfortunately, they did not bother to share any photos or scope of the work with Lighthouse Digest and the rest of the lighthouse community, which we serve throughout the nation and the world. The photos and information would help us record our nation’s lighthouse history, preserving it as well in a central location for future generations. Hopefully, the Department of the Interior bureaucrats will someday realize that us civilians want to know what they are doing to save lighthouses under their control. It’s also a good PR for them, but apparently they just don’t get it.

Pharos Found

Archeology divers have discovered the foundation of the Pharos Lighthouse of Alexandria, which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The Director of Egypt’s Alexandria National Museum said the lighthouse that was destroyed by earthquakes in the 11th and 14th centuries at the city’s eastern harbor and was 390–450 feet high can and should be rebuilt. The problem is that the estimated cost to rebuild the structure would be $100 million.

Vietnam Lighthouse Now Open

The Vung Tau Lighthouse on top of Nui Nho in Vietnam is now, for the first time ever, accessible to the public. Also known as Tao Phung, the French first built a lighthouse here in the 1860s and it was rebuilt in 1913. Visitors can now climb the tower, walk on the outside lantern room catwalk and view the original, now preserved, clockwork mechanism where the name of the French Engineer Henry Lapaute is engraved. Although the new road to the lighthouse is narrow, steep and winding, you can now drive right up to the lighthouse. The lighthouse is near a statue of Jesus that sits at the top of the mountain, which is also accessible to tourists.

Lighthouse on eBay

New York’s Galloo Island Lighthouse near Hounsfield is up for auction on eBay. In the fall of 2000, the General Services Administration sold the lighthouse to Cara Divnah of Vallejo, California for $87,500. In late 2002, it was put up for sale for $295,000. The lighthouse, which is 12 miles off shore on a 1,900-acre island, only inhabited by a caretaker for the owner of most of the island, is only accessible by boat or helicopter. The buildings are in need of restoration.

Wanted: Photo of Sport, Lighthouse Tender Dog

We are looking for a photograph of Sport, the mascot of the Lighthouse Tender Hyacinth. The dog served on board the Lighthouse Tender from 1914 to 1926. We are also looking for any photographs of crew members of the Hyacinth who served on board the vessel during that time. If any of our readers can help, please send photograph duplicates to Editor, Lighthouse Digest, P.O. Box 250, East Machias, ME 04630 or email high resolution (300 dpi) on JPEG files to Editor@LighthouseDigest.com.

Eagle Island Fire Photos

We are looking for photographs of the burning of Maine’s Eagle Island Light Station. The abandoned station was burned by the Coast Guard in 1963 and was witnessed by many people. The photographs are important part of lighthouse history and we are hoping that someone will come forward with photographs. We don’t even need originals, photos can be duplicated or high-resolution images can be sent to us at Editor, Lighthouse Digest, P.O. Box 68, Wells, ME 04090.

Florence Kern

In the 1970s, Florence Kern was known as the researcher of Coast Guard history. It was reported at that time that she uncovered more early history of the Revenue Cutter Service than anyone. She eventually published ten booklets about the 1790s Revenue Cutters, each of which contained a detailed account of the original cutter and its personnel. If our readers can help us locate a photograph of Florence Kern, the booklets that she published or any stories that she wrote, we’d appreciate hearing from you.

Helping Coast Guard History

Lighthouse history and Coast Guard history is inseparable and often intertwined. Since there is a cross-pollination between the people who are lighthouse history enthusiasts and those who are Coast Guard history enthusiasts, we would like to advise our readers of the Foundation for Coast Guard History. To become a member or learn more, you can visit their website at www.fcgh.org or contact them at Foundation for Coast Guard History, c/o Coast Guard Museum Northwest, 1519 Alaskan Way S., Seattle, WA, 98134.

Yaquina Volunteers Honored

Congratulations to the volunteers at Oregon’s Yaquina Head Light who were honored at an awards ceremony by the Oregon Bureau of Land Management. Certificates of appreciation, time service pins and letters of thanks were presented. If you would like to be a volunteer for the 2006 season, contact the Oregon BLM at (541) 574-3100.

Light Platform Saved

The South Australian Parliament has passed legislation, which will save the 133-year-old Cape Jaffa Lighthouse platform where the lighthouse once stood on. The original lighthouse stood on the platform. The lighthouse was dismantled from its offshore location and reassembled on shore where it now serves as a museum. The platform, which still remained in the water, was scheduled for demolition. However, the new legislation will absolve any future owner from liability claims, hopefully allowing for someone to step forward to save the structure and use it for some type of worthy cause.

This story appeared in the Jan/Feb 2006 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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