Digest>Archives> March 2007

Keeper's Korner

Tidbits and Editorial Comments from the Tower

By Timothy Harrison


Eagle Harbor Restored to Full Sweep

We reported in the December issue that it seems no one can leave anything alone these days when more than half of the light’s nine glass windows have been blackened out by being painted over at Michigan’s Eagle Harbor Lighthouse. Many were complaining that by changing the light it has diminished it as a tourist attraction that gave a certain sense of charm to community. But the Coast Guard said it was done for safety reasons. We reported at that time that first it was the foghorn that was discontinued and now the lighthouse is changed. We also asked when are we going to learn to save and protect the charm we once had at lighthouses?

Enough complaints must have come in because the Coast Guard announced that by spring the blackened out windows would have the black paint removed to again allow for the return of the sweep of the beacon from the tower.

Lost Lightships Found

Two of America’s lost lightships have been located, although their fate will probably be the same as many of our nation’s other lightships. The two lightships were found in the nation of Suriname, which is a country in South America that borders French Guianna, Guyana, Brazil and the Atlantic Ocean. The country used to be known as Guiana or Dutch Guiana.

It seems that the LV 106 and the LV 109, both built in Bath, Maine in 1923 are now both abandoned and sinking in the mud in the Suriname River near the city of Paramaribo.

The LV 106 served at the Nantucket Shoals station form 1923-31 and 1934-1936, and it also served as a relief vessel and an examination vessel until 1968 when it was sold to Suriname. The LV 109 was a relief vessel in the 6th district and served at Savannah, Georgia and New Orleans, Louisiana until it was also sold to Suriname in 1968. To make matters even more confusing it seems that some records indicate the lightships were sold to the nation of Uruguay. They are now abandoned in Suriname and will either sit there and rust away or eventually be sold for scrap.

Nevada Lawyer Buys Maryland Lighthouse

Michael Gabriel, an attorney from Carson City, Nevada, has purchased at a government auction Maryland’s Bloody Point Lighthouse in the Chesapeake Bay for $100,000.00. That’s an amazing price for a lighthouse that the government couldn’t give away to any other government agency or a legitimate non-profit. Gabriel said he plans to restore the lighthouse and turn it over to a historical society or local government entity. Restoration of the tilting lighthouse with its burned out interior will probably cost him a lot more than he paid for the lighthouse. One local newspaper editorial, while wishing him luck also mentioned that because the lighthouse is located in a popular fishing area that he should use it as an offshore store to sell bait and beer to the fishermen.

What Happened To Moving Photos

We know it is difficult to locate photographs of lighthouses and keepers in the era when the camera was just becoming available to the average person. But, by 1929 the camera had been around for quite some time and many Americans owned and knew how to use a camera. However, photographs of the removal of Ohio’s Vermilion Lighthouse seem to be non-existent. In 1929 the lighthouse was removed from Vermilion and shipped to Buffalo, New York. In 1935 it was barged to its new location to become the East Charity Shoal Lighthouse six miles south of the St. Lawrence River on Lake Ontario. Someone must have photographed some parts of this historic move. Yet photographs seem to have disappeared. There are many mysteries like this. For example, what happed to the photographs of the first Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in North Carolina? It is amazing how much of our nation’s lighthouse history has been lost. Will it be rediscovered someday? We can only hope.

A Lighthouse Friend Is Lost

We are saddened to report on the passing of Donald L. Nelson, 74, of Jacobsville, Michigan on December 14, 2006. Don had written several articles for Lighthouse Digest over the years. He was a member of numerous lighthouse organizations and was on the Board of Directors of the Marquette Maritime Museum. Don was always quick to share his extensive research, answer questions and mail and was never too busy to lend a hand to this editor. He was a speaker at many functions about Coast Guard and lighthouse history and was a leader in both Cub and Boy Scouts. The lighthouse community has lost one of its true Great Lakes lighthouse historians who can never be replaced. Our condolences go out to his family.

Keepers Faced Wicked Weather

The volunteer keepers and overnight guests at Washington’s New Dungeness Lighthouse this past December experienced a storm like no other and realized what it was like for the real keepers of 100 years ago. After the ferocious storm volunteers soon amassed to help with the clean up. To learn more about the overnight stays at the lighthouse go to www.newdungenesslighthouse.com.

Sturgeon Point To Stay Lit

When the Coast Guard said it was going to turn off the beacon at Michigan’s Sturgeon Point Lighthouse they heard loud and clear the comments against it. So, they agreed to keep the light in the tower shining until the Alcona Historical Society can help with the transfer of the tower to the State of Michigan so it can be operated as a Private Aid to Navigation.

Bureaucrats Running Wild

Why we allow a tiny handful of non-elected government bureaucrats to do away with what was good for us for years and make changes, without any public input, because they feel they know better than the rest of us is beyond me. Did you know that the Civil Defense logo has now been done away with? You remember, the letters CD in a white triangle surrounded by a dark circle. It’s been replaced by the letters EM with some stars for the Emergency Management logo. Officials said the EM logo will continue to represent the serious business of Civil Defense. It reminds me of 1939 when the U.S. Lighthouse Service emblems were ordered to be destroyed. Even in 1939, for a brief time the U.S. Coast Guard continued to use a lighthouse in some of its emblems, but even that didn’t last long as they soon allowed that part of its proud heritage to disappear. This makes me wonder how much longer the Department of Commerce, the only branch of the United States government to still use a lighthouse in its logo emblem will decide to drop the lighthouse because it’s simply too old. While we are trying to preserve the past, because it’s where we came from and how we got here, others want to see it all disappear. Shame on them and shame on us for allowing them to do it.

News From Portsmouth Harbor

Congratulations to Ross Tracy who has been elected as the new co-chair of the Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation. Tracy will serve with Jeremy D’Entremont, who has served as the sole chairman since the chapter was founded. Since all officers of chapters of the American Lighthouse Foundation are unpaid volunteers, this will help ease the workload and help the chapter continue to grow. Tracy is not new to the group and has been a volunteer serving on other committees in the chapter including membership.

Roanoke River Lighthouse To Be Saved?

The endangered Doomsday List Roanoke River Lighthouse, which was moved to the mainland in Edenton, North Carolina in 1955, may yet be saved. For the past two years the Edenton Historical Commission has been trying to buy the lighthouse for $350,000 through state appropriations, but both times the legislation to provide the funding did not pass. Word is that it should pass the state legislature this year. If that happened the decaying lighthouse will be moved to the towns main waterfront where it would be restored as a historical site and tourist attraction. We sincerely hope that happens.

New Dungeness To Celebrate 150th Birthday

Washington’s New Dungeness Lighthouse will celebrate its 150th birthday this year. Although the celebration will take place all year long, big events are planned. On August 5 there will be a big birthday bash at Pioneer Park in Seguim, Washington with food, games for kids, speakers and former lighthouse keepers. The public is invited. Then on December 14, weather permitting; there will be an actual birthday party at the lighthouse.

DeTour Reef In The Light

Michigan’s DeTour Reef Lighthouse has received a grant to replicate the crane that once stood on the deck of the historic of the offshore lighthouse. The interior of the lighthouse was restored and completed in 2004 and the lighthouse is now open for overnight stays. Also, the DeTour Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society recently elected their fourth president, Russell Scott Norris. The first president of the group was the late Bob Jones who was followed by Chuck Feltner and then Dave Bardsley.

North Light Gets Grant

Rhode Island’s 1867 North Light on Block Island has received a $100,000 grant from the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission to be used toward the $846,000 needed to restore the roof and the tower.

Calumet Harbor Lighthouse

It’s amazing how a lighthouse located near a major metropolitan city can have its history seemingly vanish. Such is the case with the Calumet Harbor Lighthouses on the Indiana-Illinois border. If any of our readers can locate stories or keeper memories or photographs of the keepers, we would appreciate hearing from you.

Last St. Augustine Keeper Dies

Henry “Hank” Mears, 77, the last lighthouse keeper of Florida’s St. Augustine Lighthouse passed away this past December. He was in the U.S. Coast Guard for 21 years and also saw service at other lighthouses as far away as Alaska.

Seguin’s Leader Retires

Anne Webster Wallace who as one of the cofounders in 1986 of Maine’s Friends of Seguin Island became its first President has retired. After becoming its first president, a position she held for two years, she then served as vice-president for eight years and then returned as President in 2002 and finally in her 20th year became the group’s first Executive Director. In 1996, she was appointed the director of the Maine Lights Program, which transferred 28 Coast Guard owned lighthouses to nonprofits or other government agencies. The program was so successful it led to the enactment of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000. Anne is to be congratulated for 20 years of dedicated volunteerism to lighthouse preservation. We wish her the best in her retirement, although we’ll bet she will most likely continue as a volunteer from time to time for Seguin Island Lighthouse as well as other lighthouse causes. She is a wonderful example and inspiration to so many in the lighthouse preservation movement and we wish to thank her for all she has done.

Hatteras Lens and Pedestal Reunited

The historic Henry-Lepaute & Co. lens that once lighted the lantern room of North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, America’s tallest lighthouse, has been reunited with the pedestal that it once rested upon at the top of the lighthouse. The story of the lost lens and the amazing recovery and restoration is a story onto itself. The new exhibit is now available for the public to see at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras, NC.

Bob Bolen Is Gone

We are saddened to report on the passing in early January of Bob Bolen who was a lighthouse volunteer in every sense of the word. For many years until his confinement to a Special Care Facility, Bob was an active volunteer on many different projects including the removal and preservation of the First Order Fresnel lens from California’s St. George Reef Lighthouse. He was also a recipient of the American Lighthouse Foundation’s Keeper of the Light Award and we did stories about him in the April 2001 and July 2002 editions of Lighthouse Digest.

Portland Book Gets National Attention

My new book, Portland Head Light, was one of only four history books, to be chosen for the Bowker Bookwire Year in Reviews. The review gave the book extremely high marks ending with, “Harrison’s nearly overwhelming attention to detail ensures that it offers the most to those with an interest in maritime history or historic preservation.” The other history books featured included one on short stories of New Orleans Cajun tradition and lore, one on weather stories of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and one about Gettysburg. The Portland Head Light book can be ordered on-line at www.FogHornPublishing.com or by calling (800) 668-7737.

I Let Them Know

I was shocked when I recently picked up a copy of the Maine Relocation Guide to rentals, real estate and relocation information for people who are considering moving to Maine. The cover of the publication featured Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Oregon. While I love Yaquina Head Lighthouse, it is not in Maine. This is not the first time I’ve seen items like this. Can you imagine how some newcomer moving to Maine tried to figure out where the lighthouse is, only to find out that it is on the other side of the continental United States. Trust me, I let the publishers of this guide know my thoughts!!!

Who was Aug. S. Burgess?

In 1998 I purchased a copy of the book, The Modern Lighthouse Service by Arnold Burgess Johnson, printed by the Government Printing Office in Washington, DC, in 1890. Arnold Burgess Johnson was the Chief Clerk for the United States Lighthouse Board. The book was primarily written as a report to the Congress of the United States as requested by an act of Congress on May 24, 1888 for use of the delegates to the International American Conference. In includes a forward by James G. Blaine who was the Secretary of State at the time. This book is of extreme interest because in the front of the book is a sticker, which states “Notice — This Book is the Property of Aug. S. Burgess.” On the opposite page written in pencil it states, “from library of Edward Rowe Snow.” As many of you know, Edward Rowe Snow was one of New England’s foremost experts on lighthouse history and he wrote numerous books about the subject. He was also the Flying Santa of the Lighthouses. In the days when stations were still manned, he knew many of the Keepers and family members personally. What we would like to know is if Aug. S. Burgess was a keeper and, if so, at which lighthouse.

Or perhaps he was related to Abbie Burgess?

New Exhibit at Ponce De Leon Light

A new exhibit will be opening this April 20th at Florida’s Ponce De Leon Lighthouse that honors the role the lighthouse played in World War II. The exhibit features a re-creation of the stations WWII radio beacon house and generator room, an active weather station and other WWII exhibits.

Lighthouse Medallion Available

The North Bend Chapter of the Chief Petty Officer Association is now offering a limited edition medallion coin with Oregon’s Umpqua River Lighthouse on one side and their logo on the reverse. The coin is the first is an expected series of nine lighthouse coins. The Association exists to help Coast Guard junior enlisted members and their families with such things as holiday gifts, blankets for new babies, cab rides and just about anything else. The coin is a fundraiser to help them in their efforts. To order a coin, send $35.00, which includes shipping to North Bend Chapter CPOA, 2000 Connecticut Ave, North Bend, Oregon, 97459.

Goose Rocks Light Correction

In the last issue in reporting that the government sold Maine’s Goose Rocks Lighthouse for a paltry $27,000 we mentioned that the General Services Administration rejected the application of a legitimate nonprofit in favor of the auction process to a different nonprofit. This was incorrect, it is the Department of the Interior through the National Park Service that rejected the application of the nonprofit; instead deciding to put the lighthouse up for auction to the highest bidder. That decision puts the entire National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000 in jeopardy and, in my opinion, is totally against the intent of the Congress of the United States when they passed the law. We have a real problem in this country when bureaucrats bypass the law with no apparent consequences to them. The United States Attorney Generals office should investigate this, but as we all know, nothing will ever happen.

This story appeared in the March 2007 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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