Its location has been a mystery since it was removed from the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse in South Portland, Maine, in the 1950s. For over 50 years, no one knew what had happened to the original fifth-order Fresnel lens. Until now.
Through the efforts of volunteers working with the Spring Point Ledge Light Board of Trustees and a bit of luck in Internet research, the lens has been found in the hands of a private collector in Howell, Michigan. Keith Thompson of Portland-based Free Street Productions, a former Trustee, was doing an exhaustive search of the Internet when he came upon a list of classic Fresnel lenses compiled by the American Lighthouse Coordinating Committee, part of the Optics Work Group of the World Lighthouse Society.
This list included a notation for the Spring Point Light’s Fresnel lens, including the fact that it had been verified, and the tantalizing notation “Howell” beneath the Location column. But Howell where?
With assistance for Spring Point archivist Rusty Nelson, Thompson finally managed to pinpoint the location as Howell, Michigan. The lens is owned by Steve Gronow of the Maritime Exchange Museum. He explains how he came into possession of the lens:
“We obtained it from the widow of the owner of Automatic Signal, which is the company that removed the Lens in the 1950s and converted it to a modernized optic. The Lens was given to him by the Coast Guard official in charge of that area back in those days. Both of them are now long gone, and his widow said that they had the lens for over 50 years before her husband passed away. It was his personal legacy to his career in Navigational Aids and the family treasured it very much.”
The Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse was completed in 1897 and is the only caisson-style lighthouse accessible to the public by land. It was deeded to the Spring Point Ledge Light Trust in 1998 under the auspices of the Maine Lights Program.
This story appeared in the
July 2009 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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