After being dark for 32 years, Rhode Island's historic Pomham Rock's Lighthouse was relit in a gala ceremony, which was extremely well attended by federal, state and local dignitaries as well a large contingent of lighthouse aficionados.
The re-lighting ceremony was the result of the completion, at a cost of nearly $320,000 of Phase One of the restoration project undertaken by the Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse, a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation.
Just about every notable Rhode Island politician attended the ceremony, which took place on the mainland overlooking the nearby island lighthouse.
United States Senator Lincoln Chaffee, speaking to the audience, congratulated the volunteers for their efforts in raising money to restore such a historic lighthouse as he explained his family's history of commitment to lighthouse preservation.
Rhode Island's Lt. Governor Charles Fogarty and Joseph Larisa, Mayor of the City of East Providence read the proclamations. The Mayor also announced that the City Council had voted unanimously to request a transfer of a $100,000 Rhode Island Department of Transportation Grant to be used for Phase II of the interior restoration of the lighthouse. However, he admitted the request still needs to be approved by state officials.
Chief Herman Hause of the USCG in Bristol expressed the Coast Guard's appreciation to the volunteers who made it possible for the Coast Guard to allow a beacon to be returned to the tower. He talked about the vital role the Coast Guard plays in providing aids to navigation and its commitment to helping with community preservation projects such as this that help keep the Coast Guard's heritage alive.
Although Congressman Patrick Kennedy was unable to attend the evenat, he sent a Congressional Proclamation that was read by Tim Harrison, president of the American Lighthouse Foundation.
The biggest surprise of the night came when Dennis Houston, executive vice-president of ExxonMobil Refining and Supply Company announced a $75,000 contribution toward the $320,000 project. ExxonMobil had previously given the group $50,000 when the lighthouse restoration project was announced in a small ceremony held on the island in 2004.
Tim Harrison, president of the American Lighthouse Foundation commented that he hopes other major business firms in the nation will follow ExxonMobil’s lead in coming forward to help the group with its many other lighthouse preservation projects.
Governor Carcieri drew the most attention when he jokingly mentioned he “must have” a red Pomham Lighthouse volunteer hat that so many were wearing, Naturally, he was immediately with one, which he most of the evening’s festivities. Don Doucette, President of the Friends of Pomham Rock’s Lighthouse then presented Governor Carcieri with a framed color photograph of the restored lighthouse and a lifetime membership in the Friends group.
As the festivities drew to a close and darkness closed in. Governor Carcieri led the countdown to the official re-lighting and he threw the switch on the lighthouse replica as everyone watched across the bay as the red beacon in the real lighthouse came on followed by special lighting shining upon the keeper’s house and boaters honked their horns and the cameras flashed.
A long goal by a dedicated group of volunteers had reached its highlight and everyone felt a true sense of accomplishment, while still realizing that the fund raising for Phase II to restore the interior of the light would now be their next step.
This story appeared in the
October 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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