CREDITS: I would like to thank Jeremy D'Entremont for providing much of the history one can find on this site. He is a speaker, author, historian, and tour guide who is widely recognized as the foremost authority on the lighthouses of New England. For a story on Jeremy or to visit his site (New England Lighthouses: A Virtual Guide), use the corresponding link in the right hand information bar under "Related Links".

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I have set up this site as a means to share my photographs of lighthouses. Since retiring and finding more time to study photography, my interests have expanded a little. For some of my work other than lighthouses please enjoy my Facebook page at, John Shaw Photography. Come visit, enjoy, and 'LIKE' if you wish.

Also, for your enjoyment, I have provided a slideshow of our journey. To view it please use the link on the right under 'Site Navigation Tools'.

I sincerely hope you enjoy my efforts and use my site not only for information and education but also to provide directions for many enjoyable, inspirational visits to the beacons along our beautiful coas.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Burnt Coat Harbor (Hockamock Head) Lighthouse - Swan's Island

     First lit on August 15, 1872, Burnt Coat Light Station on Hockamock Head was transferred to the Town of Swan’s Island from the Coast Guard in 1994. Without a resident caretaker, the boarded-up station, which included a keeper’s house, light tower, and bell house, soon fell into disrepair, but a restoration of the property began in 2006, with funding provided by the town and grants. The town is diligently working to restore the station to its 1930s appearance, but more than that, they are striving to assemble its oral history, replete with stories and photos from the keepers and their descendants. It is worth a visit to their website to see the maps, photos, and personal information they have collected.

    The logbook kept by the light's first keeper, Frederick Alexander Allen, is now in the National Archives and affords a glimpse at life at Burt Coat Harbor Lighthouse. Appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant in January 1872, Keeper Allen received the logbook in April 1874 and only made entries when he felt something was noteworthy. Many of the notes in his fine hand are about weather, repairs, and whitewashing or painting the station, inside and out. As Burnt Coat had two towers that served as range lights, Keeper Allen did have more to whitewash and paint than most keepers. The harbor at Swan’s Island was an important refuge in storms, as the nearest place of safe anchorage along the coast was thirty-six miles distant.

     The winter of 1874-5 was so cold that Allen repeatedly had to heat the lard oil for the lights on his stove before carrying it to the top of the towers to power the lights. The tendency of lard oil to congeal in cold weather led to the adoption of kerosene in 1877.

     On February 10, 1875, Keeper Allen recorded that the area was frozen solid, and it was possible to walk five miles to the town of Brooklin - a normal wintertime occurrence. Luckily, the 1.5-story, wood-frame keeper’s house was spacious and comfortable, and the nearby coal shed was loaded with an ample six to seven tons of coal brought up from the shore by the keeper. And spacious it needed to be, for Keeper Allen had nine children. The house was connected to the rear thirty-two-foot-tall tower that shone its light seventy-five feet above sea level. In 1881, a covered walkway, eighty feet long and four feet wide, was erected between the rear tower and the smaller front tower, which beamed its light at a focal plane of forty-two feet. Both of the square brick towers shone white lights through Fresnel lenses — a fourth-order lens in the rear and a fifth-order in the front. 

     Instead of guiding mariners into the harbor, the range lights confused seagoers who sometimes ran aground while trying to make the harbor for its aid. Thus, on August 1, 1883, the rear side of the front tower was jacked up and the tower tipped into the ocean. That same year a new, 3,500-gallon rainwater cistern was provided, which saved the keeper many hours of rowing across the harbor for water. In 1885, a fourteen by twenty-foot boat house was added, complete with boat hoisting gear. Another much appreciated addition must have been the sewer pipe, installed in 1900.

     The British schooner Prohibition ran aground near the station on the evening of New Years Day, 1902. Nettie, wife of the keeper, remembered that the night was pleasant, but cold and windy. The schooner attempted to weather the gale off Harbor Island, but its anchor parted. Her husband Orin and two seamen found six crew members safe on Scrag Island and bought them to the light. Nettie said, “They’d have had to stay there all night at two below zero if the dory hadn’t brought them home to warm beds. My, but they were grateful!”

    Nettie, Swan’s Island’s newspaper correspondent and president of Ladies Aid for thirty-five years, said she hated gossip. “There’s so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it behooves none of us to speak ill of the rest of us.”

     Frank, son of Nettie and Orin, would proudly announce that he was the only person conceived in one lighthouse and born in another – he was born seven months after his parents arrived at Burnt Coat Lighthouse. In 1974, he wrote about life on Swan’s Island and hoped others would do the same. He related that he frequently had to wind the bell tower’s striking mechanism. “This tower had to be quite high so that they would have room to hoist the weights that would cause the bell to ring. As the weights would come down they would cause the striker to hit the bell, which would continue for over five hours. I have wound them up a good many times, and you can take my word that it wasn’t easy.”

     When Frank was 3½ years old, he saw the doctor going upstairs carrying his black bag in hand. When a short time later he heard the cries of his sister, Urla, Frank was convinced that the “the doctor produced Urla from that little black bag.”

     Once when Frank was five or six years old, his parents were frantic when they discovered that both he and his little sister were nowhere to be found. Suddenly someone noticed Frank out at the harbor’s entrance rowing the dory home with Urla sitting in the bow. Somehow he’d managed to take the boat from where it was moored and row ½ mile to Harbor Island to visit “Aunt” Sue Hardy.

     Frank also discovered that it was a great adventure to grease the ways of the long, steep boat slip, remove the dory’s hook, and quickly slide into the water with a great splash. He would repeat the process anytime his father was away, despite the hard work of pulling the dory back up with the hand winch. When the tide was low, the dory would bounce off a few rocks on its slide into the water. Every time the men on the lighthouse tender would bring a new dory, they would wonder out loud how his father could go through so many dories. “Of course, I never volunteered any information on the subject,” said Frank.

       Roscoe Chandler, keeper from 1932 to the early part of World War II, chose a lighthouse career so he could stay closer to home. He sired nine children and took in two of his sister’s following her death. His grandson, Joseph Kelley visited the light several times. One of the family’s favorite stories was about the fearsome lighthouse inspector, who “wore white gloves and checked over door lintels, behind pictures, and so forth.”

     “In this particular instance,” Kelley related, “a dozen or more of the family were visiting, creating some disorder, when a ship that looked like the tender was spotted coming into the bay. The cry went up and the cleanup started. Roland, the oldest son, had just come in from fishing and removed a pair of hip boots. Anything questionable was quickly tossed into one of the boots. At that point a rat, disturbed by the ‘to do,’ ran out and was spotted by the Irish setter, Jack. The rat ran into the boot for refuge, closely pursued by Jack, who wedged his head and neck into the boot. Jack ran around the house, wreaking havoc with the boot flopping ahead of him as he continued to try to catch the rat. Fortunately, it was a false alarm and no inspector arrived to survey the shambles.”

      Due to the war, the Coast Guard asked Roscoe’s wife, Mary, to vacate the station, making way for four or five young Coast Guardsmen, who were supposed to assist the keeper. “Without Mary to cook for him, and with four or five unruly teenagers to supervise,” Kelley said, “Roscoe’s ulcers forced him into retirement.”

      The Coast Guard remained at the station until the light was automated in 1975. In 1977, the fourth-order Fresnel lens was removed and replaced by an automatic light on a nearby skeleton tower. The Coast Guard intended to tear down the station, but letters, phone calls, and personal visits to the Coast Guard station in Southwest Harbor prevented it. The new light wasn’t as bright as the old one, and after a public meeting, an automatic 250-mm optic light was placed in the lighthouse on December 18, 1978.

     Once the town has finished repairs to the station, the downstairs of the keeper’s dwelling will be available for such events as weddings, meetings, exhibits, performances, and family gatherings. The upstairs will retain its historic floor plan and be used as an apartment for an on-site caretaker and docent.

     The light station grounds are now owned by the town of Swan’s Island.  The island is accessible by ferry from Bass Harbor with the lighthouse about four miles from the ferry landing.  The Lighthouse may also be viewed from the water on cruises from various towns along the coast.

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Great Duck Island Lighthouse

     Great Duck Island is located due south of Mount Desert Island. Although the Great Duck Island Lighthouse wasn’t built until 1890, its necessity had been noted as early as 1842. In that year, lighthouse inspector I.W.P. Lewis recorded the following about Great Duck Island: “A light here would show the entrance to Mount Desert harbor as well as Bass harbor. It would prevent wrecks upon the reefs of Long island, and be a safe point of departure for all the coasting trade.” From 1885 to 1888, the Lighthouse Board’s annual report repeated the need for a light and fog signal on Great Duck Island, citing the increasing popularity of Mount Desert Island as a summer resort.

     The Lighthouse Board initially requested $10,000, but two years later the amount increased to $30,000, a sum which Congress appropriated in 1889. Eleven acres on the southern end of the island were acquired along with an acre on the east side of the island for a landing and a right-of-way across the island. When work commenced in May 1890, the first task was to build a double boat slip and boathouse at the landing, a 2,251-foot-long road across the island, and a barn, twenty by thirty feet in plan, to house the workers. A thirty-two-foot-square fog signal house was erected for a ten-inch steam whistle, along with a 25,000-gallon cistern fed by a rain-shed that measured 130 by 30 feet. The lighthouse consisted of a forty-two-foot, cylindrical brick tower, topped by an octagonal lantern. Three, six-room dwellings were built for the head keeper and two assistants.

     The light was placed in operation on December 31, 1890, using a fifth-order lens that produced a red flash every ten seconds. The tower’s daymark was red, until May 20, 1900, when it was painted white. The intensity of the light was increased in 1902 with the installation of a fourth-order, Barbier, Benard & Turenne lens, but the light’s characteristic remained the same.

     While some light stations didn’t have a fresh water source, Maine’s intense summertime fog made fresh water absolutely indispensable at Great Duck Island —a steam fog whistle couldn’t run without fresh water, or at least not for long. An arrangement for supplying the boilers with salt water in case of emergency was added in 1902, along with an additional cistern to prevent such emergencies. A 1,200-pound fog bell was rung by hand while steam for the whistle was building and in case the foghorn became inoperative.

     Many notes in the Lighthouse Board’s annual report for Great Duck Island refer to its fog signal. The number of hours the whistle sounded and the amount of coal used were meticulously noted and varied from a low in 1900 of 1,071 hours and 47 tons to a high in 1897 of 1,542 hours and 60 tons. The station’s first keeper, William Stanley, told a reporter that the foghorn had once sounded for thirteen days straight. Given that all those tons of coal had to be hauled by wheelbarrow from a boat dock to the fog signal, the addition of a coal tramway in 1902, and the installation of a little railway in 1906, must have been dreams come true. A diaphone fog signal replaced the steam whistle around 1930.

     Another dream come true for assistant keeper Nathan Adam “Ad” Reed was the opening of a school at Great Duck Island. Ad gave up his position as a ship captain to be with his wife, Emma, and their sixteen children. Getting approval for the school was difficult, but he fought to keep his family together. At one point, Renay Reed, one of the Reed girls, became the school’s teacher after earning her teaching certificate in Castine. A room was built and outfitted with a wood stove, homemade desks and chairs, and blackboards for eighteen students—fourteen Reed children, two from another keeper, and two from the north end of the island. The Reed family was likely the largest ever known in the Lighthouse Service.

     In an interview with a high school magazine, Dalton Reed related that he moved to Great Duck in 1902 at the age of seven and stayed there for ten years until his father was transferred. When Dalton saw a steamer coming, he knew it was likely the lighthouse inspector. Inspectors, usually retired navy commanders, came “once or twice a year to check the lighthouse….They would wear white gloves. They would wipe their hands on the white walls to see if there was any dirt. Everything in the whistle house had to be polished for inspection because it was all brass. They would also come in and check out our house to see if it was neat and clean.”

     For fun, Dalton would play checkers or other games. One winter, Dalton and his brother were playing hide and seek in the kitchen in the dark when they heard a strange noise “and looked out the window and saw three white forms.” The boys ran and told their father “that something white was coming through the gate and it was making an awful noise…. About the time he got to the door, three ghosts rapped at the door.” A boat had broken down and two fishermen had been forced to row a long time through flying spray and vapor. “They were nothing but a solid bed of ice. We took them in and got their clothes off them. The noise we had heard was them walking with frozen oil skins.”

     In a 1938 interview, Gray said that he began as a keeper before there were telephones, radios, and regular mail deliveries, and those on the island could long be isolated due to storms. Keeper Gray started as an assistant at Great Duck before becoming head keeper three years later in 1905. “I remained 18 years at this station and enjoyed every minute of the time I spent there,” said Captain Gray. “We planted a garden every spring, and there were plenty of berries for canning on the island. When I first went there we used a sail boat, but later a motor boat was assigned to the station. During the World War, eight navy boys were stationed on the island to look out for enemy submarines and we boarded the men at the lighthouse. These lads sighted no subs but they certainly had a happy, carefree life while they remained on the island.”

     On September 15, 1931, the fishing schooner Rita A. Viator struck rocks near the station with a heavy sea running. As the vessel was being pounded to pieces, Keeper Andrew H. Kennedy and his two assistants, Earle E. Benson and Leverett S. Stanley, sprang into action and rescued the schooner’s captain and crew. Secretary of Commerce Robert P. Lamont sent special letters of commendation recognizing the keepers’ adherence “to the traditions of the Lighthouse Service.”

     On February 6, 1955, just two days after arriving at Great Duck Light, and five days after arriving in Maine, Judy Schwarz, wife of Coast Guard keeper Richard Schwartz went into early labor. When bad weather required the rescue tug to dock on the opposite side of the island, she and her husband were forced to slog through deep snow for 1½ hours to reach it. When she ultimately reached the hospital, Judy gave birth to a baby boy.

      Great Duck Island is estimated to support a whopping twenty percent of Maine’s seabird population; the island earned its appellation in the 1700s from its pond that attracted numerous ducks. The island’s avian life has shaped its history and managed to live in harmony with the light station and its keepers.

   When it was recognized in the late 1800s that the hat trade’s use of feathers and the eating of birds and their eggs were driving some species to extinction, the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU), sought to protect the birds by passing legislation and deputizing lighthouse keepers. The April 1900 issue of the Union’s The Auk noted: “The Union has always found the U.S. Lighthouse Board very heartily in sympathy with the work of bird protection….” The same issue mentioned that “the U.S. Lighthouse Board has issued special orders to the light keeper [William F. Stanley] at the Great Duck Island Light Station, Maine to prevent the destruction of the colony of Herring Gulls that live on that lighthouse reservation.” In another issue of The Auk, Keeper Stanley told a writer that Indian hunters “claimed to have killed, on the two Duck Islands, during the year 1899, at least twenty-eight hundred gulls.”

       In 1984, the Maine Chapter of the Nature Conservancy purchased most of Great Duck Island. Around the time that Great Duck Island Light was automated in 1986, the Coast Guard destroyed all but one of the keeper’s houses, as well as most of the outbuildings.

      In 1998, the roughly twelve acres encompassing Great Duck Island Lighthouse became the property of Bar Harbor’s College of the Atlantic (COA) under the Maine Lights Program. Today, Great Duck Island serves as a biology, ecology, and wildlife study center for COA. Fortunately for the birds and unfortunately for lighthouse lovers, the island is closed to visitors from spring to mid-fall. COA has been a good steward of the station, having spent over $120,000 for restoration and maintenance. The remaining keeper’s dwelling is staffed by CAO faculty students for much of the year.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

      Bass Harbor, a picturesque village of the municipality of Tremont, is at the southwestern tip of Mount Desert Island in an area known to locals as “the quiet side.” This pretty lighthouse in its rugged setting is visited by tens of thousands of tourists each year, and it easily ranks as one of the most-photographed lighthouses in all New England.

      The 1855 annual report of the Lighthouse Board stated, “There is a very good harbor about four miles west of Mount Desert Harbor, called Bass Harbor. A light is necessary to assist vessels entering it.”

     Congress soon appropriated a sum of $5,000, and title to the needed land was secured in 1857. A 32-foot-tall lighthouse was built at rocky Bass Harbor Head in 1858. The cylindrical brick lighthouse tower is attached to the one-and-one-half-story, wood-frame keeper’s house by a covered walkway.     A 32-foot-tall lighthouse was built at rocky Bass Harbor Head in 1858. The cylindrical brick lighthouse tower is attached to the one-and-one-half-story, wood-frame keeper’s house by a covered walkway. 

     A fixed red light went into service on September 1, 1858. It served to warn mariners of the Bass Harbor Bar at the eastern entrance to Bass Harbor, and also to mark the southeast entrance to Blue Hill Bay. Throughout its history as a staffed light station, Bass Harbor Head was home to a single keeper and his family.

     The light was converted to electric operation in 1949. After automation in 1974, the station was retained as housing for a Coast Guard family. Several commanders of Coast Guard Group Southwest Harbor have lived in the keeper’s house.

     Bass Harbor today is a secluded fishing village and the location of a ferry to Swan’s Island. There is a large parking area near the lighthouse that often fills up in summer. A path leads down to the granite boulders neighboring the light station. To get a good view of the lighthouse it is necessary to climb a distance over the rocks; extreme caution should be taken.

     Directions:  Follow Route 3 from Ellsworth to ME 198, turn south onto ME 102 and continue through Bass Harbor to the Coast Guard Bass Harbor Head Station entrance.  There are trails east of the parking area which head down to large granite boulders at the shore; best views and photographs of the light from land are taken from these rocks.

View From Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse
     For photos from the water, follow “Swans Island Ferry” signs through Bass Harbor , turn right onto Swans Island Road and the ferry landing.  The ferry is easily incorporated into custom boat charter routes.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bear Island Lighthouse

     Bear Island Lighthouse sits on eleven-acre Bear Island situated at the entrance to Northeast and Southwest Harbors on Mount Desert Island in Maine.  It is one of an island group known as the Cranberry Islands.  It is thought that the island was originally called “Bare” due to the then lack of trees, and most likely has never been the home to any bears.  The area was was part of a French-Canadian land grant dating to 1688, which was upheld by the General Court of Massachusetts in 1787. Later the area, which would become the Cranberry Isles (named for the cranberries that grew there), was transferred from Massachusetts to Maine.

    In 1837, Captain Joseph Smith of the U.S. Navy sailed along the coast of Maine examining sites for proposed lighthouses. After visiting Mount Desert Island and conversing with experience sea captains, he concluded, “there is no place where there is a light so much required, on or about the island of Mount Desert, as on a small island, called Bear isle, at the entrance of Northeast and Southwest harbors; these harbors are much frequented by vessels employed in foreign and domestic trade; I have frequently seen from three to four hundred sail of vessels at a time in these harbors.”

     Captain Smith learned that the owner of the island, William Moore, demanded $500 for the eleven-acre island or $50 for two acres on its western side, even though he had purchased the island for $101.17 just a few months earlier.

     Following President Martin Van Buren’s approval, the light was built in 1839, using a $3,000 appropriation granted on July 7, 1838. Spurling Point on Great Cranberry Island had originally been examined and rejected for the light.

     Bear Island was from the beginning a family station with a single keeper. The original lighthouse consisted of a wooden tower set atop the southern gable of a granite rubblestone keeper’s house. The dwelling had three rooms on the first floor, two chambers in an attic, and a cellar beneath it that held two wooden rainwater cisterns. The tower’s octagonal lantern room housed seven lamps and thirteen-inch reflectors, which produced a fixed white light at a focal plane of ninety-eight feet above the surrounding water.

     Bear Island Lighthouse was severely damaged by fire in 1852 and rebuilt in 1853. Experience proved that the original design put too much stress on the dwelling, thus, the new construction featured a thirty-one-foot-tall, cylindrical brick tower painted white, placed at the southern end of the dwelling. A few years later, in 1856, the station’s old lighting apparatus was replaced with a fifth-order Fresnel lens.

    Additions to the station include a 170-foot crib wharf in 1885, and, in 1887, a bell tower and a thirty by sixty-foot coal-shed, with a capacity of 390 tons, which served as a coal supply depot for the area’s buoy tenders. The coal depot remained until it was relocated from Bear Island in 1934. A 1,000-pound bell, struck by machinery, was housed in the bell tower. Terry Stanley, a Coast Guard keeper from the 1950s, said the apparatus “worked like a Swiss clock. You cranked weights up to the top of the tower and it would ring the bell every so many minutes.”

     By 1888, the keeper’s stone dwelling was in such a poor state that it was determined erecting a new one-and-a-half-story wooden dwelling would be less expensive than repairs. Everything at the station—other than the new fog bell tower, coal-shed, and wharf—was torn down and rebuilt. On September 1, 1889, a light with the same characteristics as the old one, was exhibited from a temporary skeleton tower placed about twenty feet south-southeasterly from old tower. This light served until the current brick tower and attached frame dwelling were completed later that year at a cost of $3,750.

     Bear Island Lighthouse passed to the U.S. Coast Guard in 1939 but remained a family light. Steve Loiver, one of the last Coast Guard keepers, was concerned about the move to automate the light. Said he, “I just hope that in the need to economize we don’t destroy the things that give flavor and uniqueness to life.” Besides, an automated light can’t save or assist people as Keeper Heber G. Sawyer did. In 1914, 1916, 1918, and 1921, he used his personal boat to rescue people aboard disabled craft.

     In the early 1980s, Bear Island Light slowly began to deteriorate after it was replaced by a lighted bell buoy offshore. The lighthouse was resurrected by the Friends of Acadia and relit in 1989 as a private aid to navigation, exhibiting a white flash every five seconds. The light station is owned by the National Park Service, which leases it to a private individual as a residence.

     Martin Morad, a professor of pharmacology and medicine at Georgetown University who first saw Bear Island Lighthouse in 1971 and had subsequently tried to purchase or lease the property, was the first lucky private citizen to call the lighthouse home. Morad and his wife Fabiola Martens, a lawyer turned interior designer, spent a few years and a lot of money restoring the lighthouse before using it as a summer vacation cottage.

     ”The house had been boarded up for so many years that the humidity from the water in the cisterns permeated the entire place,” Martens recalls. “At every inspection the lighthouse keepers added another layer of paint, without ever removing any of the old paint. Over the years the dampness caused the eleven layers to crumble and form stalactites and stalagmites. It was as if one was entering a grotto!” The station’s water problem was solved by running an underwater pipeline to Northeast Harbor. Later, electricity was brought in, and a sewer system was installed.

     The couple found little need to hang paintings in the house, as the views from each window offered an ever-changing picture. “Our primary goal,” Martens remembers, “was to respect the essential simplicity of the lighthouse.”

     Bear Island Lighthouse is not open to the public. It is best seen from the water, with cruises past the island being offered most days during the summer.

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Baker Island Lighthouse

     The Baker Island Lighthouse is very hard to see from the water as pne trees have grown up around it, blocking it in many directions.  Acadia National Park officials say budgetary restrictions prevent them from taking any action, as great swathes of trees would have to be topped or felled. The lighthouse tower was offered to non-profit and government groups in 2008 as part of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, and it is believed that it will be awarded to the Park Service. Unless priorities change, Baker Island Light soon will no longer be visible from the water, and the tower, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008, may be endangered due to lack of repairs.  The following photo is all we could see on our cruise.

     In 1812, William and Hannah Gilley moved with their three children to 123-acre Baker Island, situated four miles off Mount Desert Island. With a rocky coastline that often made landings impossible, Baker Island was unclaimed and unoccupied, so, according to Charles W. Elliot, author of John Gilley – One of the Forgotten Millions, the family “simply took possession of it.” Baker Island is the outermost of the five Cranberry Isles, located at the entrance to Southwest Harbor and named for the bright red berries found over much of the islands in the fall. The names of the other four isles are: Great Cranberry, Little Cranberry, Sutton, and Bear.
     With backbreaking labor, William Gilley cleared the land, ferried timber to a sawmill and back, and built a home for his family, which steadily grew to include twelve children, six boys and six girls. When the government needed a keeper in 1828 for its recently finished lighthouse on Baker Island, Gilley was the obvious choice.

     Built of rubblestone, the twenty-six-foot-tall tower was topped by an octagonal lantern, with a wrought iron frame and copper dome, that housed tens lamps, backed by fifteen-inch reflectors and arranged in two rows, one above the other. The tower and keeper’s dwelling cost $3,800.
     Gilley was provided a salary of $350 a year, free housing, and all the sperm whale oil his household could use— but after a few years he received an official letter stating that he was using too much oil and had to economize. The government’s lighthouse tenders supplied lighthouse families with just the barest essentials, such as flour and pickled food stuffs in barrels. Thus, land permitting, keepers constructed outbuildings and barns, often using their own funds, for raising animals. The Gilleys kept pigs, sheep, ducks, chickens, and cows in their barns and sheds, and fortunately, other food sources were abundant on Baker Island. Traps weren’t necessary to capture lobsters; they could simply be plucked from between rocks located just offshore. Fish, such as mackerel, were easy to catch, and the eggs of seabirds could be gathered. During the winter the Gilleys killed a “beef-critter” or two as the family increased in number.

     On the island’s ten acres of arable land, they grew fruits, vegetables, and lots of potatoes, which they stored in a root cellar under the house. They planted flax for linen and spun wool from their sheep for clothing and blankets. The children went barefoot much of the year, and an older son learned the shoemaker’s trade to keep them in winter boots. On the mainland, the Gilleys would sell their butter, smoked herring, and other products so they could purchase needed supplies. Hannah Gilley loved to read and made sure her children could read and “scribe.”

     The Gilley family was religious, independent, and had a hard, but generally happy life. But that is not to say that everything on Baker Island was idyllic. An 1842 inspection report by I. W. P. Lewis noted that the walls of the tower and dwelling were cracked and that the kitchen, built just five years earlier, had started to separate from the dwelling. The tower’s soapstone roof was loose and leaky, and the interior of the tower an its stairs coated with ice during the winter. Crammed in a cold, four-room, rubblestone house, the Gilleys had no fresh water well, no cistern, and were not provided a government boat, despite being cut off from the mainland. Lewis’ report strongly recommended rebuilding the tower and dwelling, but this would not be undertaken for thirteen more years, after Keeper Gilley had left the island.

      I. W. P. Lewis felt that instead of Baker Island, the government should have erected the lighthouse on Great Duck Island, located seven miles to the south. As it was, vessels were likely to run aground on Great Duck Island or Long Island Reef before seeing Baker Island Light. 

    Despite their tribulations, the Gilleys treasured the beauty of the sea and shore at Baker Island until William Gilley was yanked from his position in 1848 for not backing the Whig Party—in those days lighthouse positions were plum presidential appointments. Even though his $350 salary was a fortune to coastal families in Maine, when given the opportunity to switch parties, Gilley replied, with some expletives, that he “would not change his political connection for all the lighthouses in the United States.” 

     Aged sixty-three-years, William Gilley left the island and lived mostly alone (Hannah was too infirm to join him) on the more remote Duck Island, which he had purchased earlier for $300, intending to raise cattle there. Back on Baker Island, his two older boys, asserting their ownership rights, badgered, bedeviled, and threatened two subsequent keepers until the government threatened to evict the young men from the island. One angry keeper wanted the Gilleys’ house destroyed and a revenue cutter sent in “to have the business thoroughly done.” The matter was eventually taken to court, and the U.S. government was awarded nineteen acres around the lighthouse and a right-of-way to the boat landing, while the Gilleys retained the rest of the island.

     A report in 1853 noted that the tower on Baker was “entirely worthless,” while the keeper’s dwelling was “so old and leaky” that it was unhealthy. Two years later, the dwelling and tower were rebuilt for $4,963 on the island’s highest point of land, far from the sea, and a modern fourth-order Fresnel lens was installed in the lantern room. Until the station was automated in 1966, each twilight the keeper would mount the forty-three spiraling wrought-iron stairs steps to activate the and return in the morning to extinguish it. The Fresnel lens is now in the Fisherman’s Museum at Pemaquid Point Lighthouse.

     From 1888 to 1892, Captain Howard P. Robbins served as keeper. One of his children would go on to marry one of the children of Captain Vurney King, who would serve as keeper at Baker Island from 1915 to 1928. Some modern conveniences did eventually make it to the island. King managed to transport a car to the island to make it easier to get around, and a telephone line, paid for by the national defense budget, connected the station with Northeast Harbor, Maine, in 1898. A brick oil house was built at the station in 1895, and a fuel house was added in 1905. The tower was reinforced with an external four-inch brick wall in 1903.

     The lives of Keeper Joseph Muise and his wife were tied to the water surrounding Baker Island in the most joyous and grievous ways. As a powerful storm blew in November 1932, Muise’s wife went into labor. Unable to leave his post because his assistant was on leave, Muise rang the Coast Guard. A lifeboat with a five-man crew picked up Mrs. Muise and set off for the mainland, but the baby refused to wait, and a healthy girl came into the world about two miles offshore. After the drowning of his oldest son at Baker Island, Muise was transferred to Moose Peak Lighthouse, and then spent fifteen years at Burnt Island Lighthouse, before retiring in 1951.

     The government’s original nineteen acres of land and the keeper’s dwelling were transferred to the National Park Service in the 1950s, leaving the Coast Guard with just the lighthouse tower and a one-foot-wide strip of land around it. In 1991 and again in 1997, the Coast Guard announced its intention to discontinue the light, but feedback from fishermen and other boaters convinced them that the light was still needed.

     Pine trees have grown up around the light, blocking it in many directions, but Acadia National Park officials say budgetary restrictions prevent them from taking any action, as great swathes of trees would have to be topped or felled. The lighthouse tower was offered to non-profit and government groups in 2008 as part of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, and it is believed that it will be awarded to the Park Service. Unless priorities change, Baker Island Light soon will no longer be visible from the water, and the tower, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008, may be endangered due to lack of repairs.

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Egg Rock Lighthouse

      Egg Rock, a tiny island in Frenchman Bay, was first mentioned by that name in the American Neptune before the American Revolution. The rocky outpost, which was also known for a time as Gull Island, was named for the proliferation of seabirds’ nests and eggs found there.

     Because of the growing seasonal ferry traffic to Bar Harbor, Congress appropriated $15,000 for a light station on Egg Rock in June 1874. The lighthouse went into service on November 1, 1875.

     On March 25, 1876, a great gale flooded the dwelling and smashed its windows, moved the fog bell tower 30 feet, and swept away a fuel shed. After similar damage in a December 1887 storm, a new skeletal bell tower was securely bolted to the rock.

     The dwelling was altered around 1900, when a second story was added and the original roof was replaced by the present roof.  A new compressed-air fog horn was established in 1904, partly in response to the grounding of the battleship Massachusetts the previous year.  The horn was operated for 348 hours in the month of July 1906 alone. It was in operation for 1,813 hours in 1907, the equivalent of 75 full days.

     Another fierce storm on February 1, 1908, broke through the shutters and flooded the house. Rocks weighing up to 30 tons were moved by the gale. Heber Sawyer entered a familiar phrase in the station’s log: “Everything moveable was washed away.”

     Keepers at Egg Rock generally rowed to Bar Harbor, four miles away, for supplies. The trip could be treacherous in times of bad weather and rough seas.  The Coast Guard keepers were removed and the light was automated in 1976. 

     Today a boathouse, oil house, and generator house still stand along with the lighthouse. Egg Rock Light is passed by many tour boats and whale watches leaving Bar Harbor. It can also be seen distantly from high points on Mount Desert Island.

     In the fall of 2009, a group of volunteers performed some renovation of the lighthouse. The crews were transported by Bar Harbor Whale Watch, which donated its services. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided materials for the work, which included staining and repairs. The generator building was re-roofed. 

     Directions The Loop Road in Acadia National park offers distant views of this light from several scenic overlooks on the eastern side of the park.  The best light for photographs from there is in the afternoon.  The above photo was taken on a whale watching trip out of Bar Harbor which pass this light.  Morning light is best for photos taken on one of these trips.

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Winter Harbor (Mark Island) Lighthouse

     Winter Harbor, on the west side of the Schoodic Peninsula, near the entrance to Frenchman Bay, was long a favorite safe harbor for mariners seeking shelter from storms. 

     After a congressional appropriation of $4,500 in August 1854, a lighthouse was built on the southern point of little (about four acres, depending on the tide) Mark Island to guide vessels into the harbor and to warn of dangerous ledges nearby. 

     The lighthouse went into service on January 1, 1857. Attached to the tower was a wood-frame, one-and-one-half-story keeper’s dwelling, painted brown. For many years, the station also had a fog bell with automatic striking machinery.

     The Lighthouse Board reported that the station was “in good repair” in 1869, but just seven years later it was announced that the dwelling was “decayed past repair.”
A new wood-frame, one-and-one-half-story house was constructed in 1876, just north of the original dwelling. A boathouse, 12 by 20 feet, was added built in 1878, and an oil house was added to the station in 1905.

     In August 1933, the light was discontinued and replaced by a lighted buoy to the southeast. The last keeper was Lester Leighton. In 1934, George Harmon of Bar Harbor bought the property at auction for $552. Three years later, Bernice Richmond, a writer and musician, and her husband, sociologist Reginald Robinson, a sociologist, bought the island from Harmon for $2,000.

     In the 1950s, the island was bought by Rene RenĂˆ Prud’hommeaux, an author of children’s novels, including The Sunken Forest and The Port of Missing Men. Prud’hommeaux’s wife, Patricia, wrote a children’s book about Mark Island called The Light in the Tower, published in 1957 under the name Joan Howard. The book tells the story of a lighthouse much like the Winter Winter HarborHarbor Light, but in the book the lighthouse is relighted as an aid to navigation thanks to a caring young boy.

     After the Prud’hommeauxs, the island was owned for a time by the playwright Gerald Kean. William C. Holden III, a financial consultant, writer, and artist, bought the property in 1995, after it had been unused for about a decade. “Panes were out in the tower,” he said later, “there were birds living inside, and the roof leaked.”

Two Eagles

     Click on the Photo to enlarge it and you should be able to see the two eagles in the dead tree behind the keeper's house.

     Directions From U.S. Route 1, turn south onto ME. 186 at West Gouldsboro, toward Schoodic Point.  Turn off ME 186 at the marked road leading to Acadia National Park, Schoodic Peninsula (between Birch Harbor and Winter Harbor).  The park's perimeter road is a one-way loop and the lighthouse / island can be seen from that road.  Tour boats from Bar Harbor offer closed views for better photography.  The light is best for photos from land in the morning.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Prospect Harbor Point Lighthouse

     The small village of Prospect Harbor developed a substantial fishing fleet in the nineteenth century. The first lighthouse to mark the east side of the harbor entrance was built in 1850. The light was deactivated between 1859 and 1870, because "the harbor is not used as a harbor of refuge, and the village near which it is situated had only a small coasting trade." Evidently, the use of the harbor increased, as in 1870 the Lighthouse Board announced that the light was reactivated on May 15 "to serve as a guide to the harbor of refuge which it marks."

     The original granite lighthouse attached to the keeper's house was replaced in 1891 by the present 38-foot wood lighthouse and a new 1 1/2 story farmhouse-style keeper's house. The house and tower were at first attached by a covered passageway, but the passageway was later removed. A stone oil house was added in 1905, and for a time the station had an active fog bell.

     The light was automated in 1934, but a keeper (John Workman) remained at the station until 1953. It remains an active aid to navigation today, while the surrounding grounds and buildings belong to the U.S. Navy. The keeper's house, known as "Gull Cottage", is also available for overnight stays for active and retired military families.

     According to guests at the keeper's house in recent years, there has been ghostly activity in the building. A statue of a sea captain seems to change positions by itself, and some guests claim to have seen or heard a ghost at night.

     The tower suffered from water leakage for some time. In August 2004, ALF had the lantern removed by crane and moved to a nearby boatyard. The lead paint was removed and the lantern was repainted.

     At the same time, the lantern deck was rebuilt and the windows were removed and replaced. The Cape Cod Chapter of ALF contributed $30,000 toward this project from funds generated from the overnight stays at Cape Cod's Race Point Lighthouse.

     This attractive lighthouse can be seen across the harbor from Route 186 in Prospect Harbor. You can also drive to the entrance of the Navy installation for a good view of the light station. The grounds around the lighthouse are off limits because of security concerns at the Navy installation.

     Directions:  From U.S. Route 1, take either ME 186 or 195 to Prospect Harbor.  Turn at the sign to Corea at the intersection of these two routes.  FR 605 (Lighthouse Point Road) is about 0.2 miles.  The light is easily photographed from  the shoreline, from the grounds of the Stinson Canning Company (on ME 186 entering Prospect Harbor or from a turnout on the shoulder of ME 186, just north of the canning company.  The best light is in shooting is in the afternoon.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Little River Lighthouse

      In 2001, the American Lighthouse Foundation, in partnership with the United States Coast Guard, restored the light tower, the boat ramp, and the wooden walkway on the island.  This allowed for a light to again be installed in the tower, which had been dark since 1975.

      In October of 2001, the Little River Lighthouse was re-lit as a Beacon of Freedom to the World.   The relighting ceremony, reported to be the largest gathering in Cutler’s history. It was a dual ceremony honoring those who lost their lives in the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 as well as honoring the memory of the people of the United States Lighthouse Service and the United States Coast Guard who served at the Little River Lighthouse.

     The first lighthouse at Little River was built in 1847.  Both the tower and the keeper’s house which were attached were built of granite and stone.  It was a near twin to the Prospect Harbor Point Lighthouse.

The Boat House
      In 1876 the stone tower was replaced by one constructed with bricks, encased by steel, which still stands today.  At one time it was painted red with a black lantern room.  In 1881 the old boathouse was demolished and replaced by the one that is now there. The old stone and granite keeper’s house was replaced in 1888 by the present two story wooden Victorian style house. 

The Oil House
     In 1905, for safety reasons, the government built an oil house at the site.  It was built using some of the leftover granite from the original tower.  It is identical to many oil houses that were built at most lighthouses in New England.  When electricity came to the island and whale oil or kerosene was no longer needed the building was then named “The Paint Locker”.

Jack and Tobi Graham, Caretakers

     There have been two different fog bell towers at the Little River Lighthouse.  Unfortunately, both have been destroyed.  The original bell is now on display in the Cutler Town Circle.

     In 1939 the United States Lighthouse Service was abolished and its duties were merged into the Coast Guard.  Willie W. Corbett who served at other Maine lighthouses, Served here from 1921 to 1939.  He had the distinction of being the last keeper of the United States Lighthouse Service to be at the Little River Lighthouse, officially ending the era of family lighthouse keeping in Cutler.

     The tower originally had a fifth order Fresnel Lens.  In 1975 it was removed and replaced by modern optic on a skeleton tower near where the foghorn and solar panels now sit.  The whereabouts of the Fresnel lens remains a mystery to this day.

     The tower originally had a fifth order Fresnel Lens.  In 1975 it was removed and replaced by modern optic on a skeleton tower near where the foghorn and solar panels now sit.  The whereabouts of the Fresnel lens remains a mystery to this day.

     In the fall of 1998 Maine Historic Preservation declared the Little River Lighthouse Station as one of the Ten Most Endangered Historic Properties in the state. 

     In 2000, when it was evident that the lighthouse could eventually be declared excess property and could be sold to the highest bidder, the American Lighthouse Foundation stepped forward and was granted an historic preservation license and lease fro the Coast Guard.  In 2002 ownership of the entire island and all the buildings, including the tower, were transferred to the American Lighthouse Foundation.It was the first lighthouse in New England to have its ownership transferred to a nonprofit group under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000.

Panoramic View From Light Tower (Click to Enlarge)

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