News · Preservation · Society Members

Restoration of Halfway Rock Lighthouse Tower Completed

 

Halfway Rock Light Station is located ten miles offshore in Casco Bay, Maine. Recent photo by Dave Wright.
Halfway Rock Lighthouse undergoing preservation work. Photo courtesy of Ford Reiche.

Ford Reiche earned the American Lighthouse Foundation’s Keeper of the Light award in May 2017. The award is “designed to honor those individuals and organizations in the national lighthouse community who have contributed in a significant manner to the preservation of America’s lighthouses and their rich heritage.”

The Society salutes Ford Reiche for not only preserving the lighthouse at Halfway Rock but for also documenting its rich history! Reiche is currently writing a book about the station using the material he has collected from the National Archives and other sources.

Reiche reported that the tower’s restoration has been completed and shared these photos illustrating recent events at the station:

This summer I entertained at Halfway Rock a former keeper who had last been there in 1961, when he been stationed there for a year. Ken Rouleau now lives in Derry, New Hampshire. I had an old photo (of Ken’s) of him standing in front of an RDF tower and the old bell tower in 1960.  This summer I took a new image of the same man standing in same exact spot 57 years later.  See the before and after shots below, plus another old USCG image of the whole facility, to help you get your bearings. Ken has lasted better than the RDF tower and the bell tower. . .

Reiche reported on another enjoyable outing to Halfway Rock (HWR) this summer when he took out retired Dr. Martha Friberg of Cape Elizabeth, Maine:

When Martha’s mother was a young woman she had gone to HWR with Martha’s grandfather in the 1940s. As a gift, the HWR keeper had given her his brass dustpan marked ‘USLHS.’ The woman always felt guilty about having gotten government property as a gift.  She died long ago, but her daughter, Martha, gave it back to me/HWR when she visited me this summer. [See photos below] of Martha and me, and two older pictures of Martha’s mother on her visit to HWR when she was given the dustpan in the 1940s.

Based on emails from Ford Reiche, September 27, 2017

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U.S. Lighthouse Society News is produced by the U.S. Lighthouse Society to support lighthouse preservation, history, education and research. Please join the U.S. Lighthouse Society if you are not already a member. If you have items of interest to the lighthouse community and its supporters, please email them to candace@uslhs.org.

Education · Kate's Corner · Keepers · News

KATE’S CORNER #12

Kate Walker here, tending the light on Robbins Reef at the edge of New York Harbor.

Ship Shoal
This screw-pile structure was built in the Gulf of Mexico between 1857 and 1859 to replace the lightship stationed on Ship Shoal. During the Civil War it was occupied by Confederate forces. Retaken by the Union in 1864, the lighthouse was repaired and refitted. Image courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office

We’ve heard about the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, being contaminated by lead. Light keepers too had problems with their water supply. On September 24, 1866, Acting Engineer Max Bonzano in New Orleans informed the Light-House Board in Washington that “on Ship Shoal [Light Station] every man ever sent there lost his health, which I attribute to the lead paint on the tower and the contamination of rain water with the oxide in lead.”

How could anyone live in an isolated lighthouse several miles off the Louisiana Coast, knowing the water was contaminated?

The solution to the contamination problem was outlined in the 1867 Annual Report of the Light-House Board:

“The continued presence of sickness among the keepers at this station (Ship Shoal) led to the supposition that it was caused by contamination of the drinking water by lead washed into the rain-water tanks from the red lead paint with which the whole structure was painted. The old lead color was scraped and washed off with a solution of caustic potash. This was so perfectly successful that the whole tower looked like new iron which had never been painted.  The potash solution was then rinsed off, and hot coal-tar applied in three successive coats. . . . At the same time the water tanks, and pipes leading to them, were taken down and cleaned with the greatest care, to remove every particle of sediment. The tanks and pipes were then coal-tarred inside and out, so as to envelop in the tar and render harmless any particles of lead salts which might have escaped the cleaning process.  The result of the operation was that the health of the keeper and his assistants at once improved, and there has been no sickness at the place since. The importance of removing the cause of the sickness prevailing at this place cannot well be overestimated. Several persons have been paralyzed, and this fact becoming known was likely to deter anyone from accepting the position of keeper.”

21 Dec 1902 - Times Picayune - Kate Walker copyInformation is taken from National Archives Record Group 26, Entry 5 (NC-63) and several Annual Reports of the Light-House Board.

Submitted October 10, 2017

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U.S. Lighthouse Society News is produced by the U.S. Lighthouse Society to support lighthouse preservation, history, education and research. Please join the U.S. Lighthouse Society if you are not already a member. If you have items of interest to the lighthouse community and its supporters, please email them to candace@uslhs.org.

Poetry · Society Members

Squirrel Island Light by David Gamage

Little River squirrels. Lighthouse Endeavor photo courtesy of David Gamage

Society member David Gamage shared the following:

Squirrel Island Light

by David Gamage

Instructions to Keepers of the Lights of this Nation,
Contain directions for most every situation,
But not one small bit of useful information,
For the keeper to defend against red squirrel invasion.

So try as he might,
It just isn’t right!
No matter his efforts,
They refuse to take flight.

In the house on chairs and on the table,
As for enjoying ones meals, not at all able.
No flag could be flown for distress if inclined,
For one of these beasts had chewed through the line.

Help did arrive, the lighthouse tender.
Lowered the dory at the port side fenders.
But for seeing those squirrels by the boat house door,
The captain decided it best not go ashore.

This keeper now alone, with no comfort, no aid,
Under constant attack by this squirrel brigade.
No rest during day, and awakened at night,
for bad dreams of squirrels. It’s just not right!

The light at night must always be lit.
Though the keeper had no choice but to quit.
The keeper being forced to abandon his station.
With no willing replacement, the only choice– automation.

With such the light will display night after night.
This light station renamed.—Squirrel Island Light

According to Dave, this poem was inspired by actual squirrel challenges at Little River Light. During Tim Harrison’s project Lighthouse Endeavor, a person lived alone at this lighthouse year round.  This live-in keeper thought these critters were cute so he began feeding a couple of them. Soon after, the invasion began when they brought all their many friends.

Little River Light Station, Maine. 2011 photo by Jack Graham

Submitted by David Gamage, September 26, 2017

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U.S. Lighthouse Society News is produced by the U.S. Lighthouse Society to support lighthouse preservation, history, education and research. Please join the U.S. Lighthouse Society if you are not already a member. If you have items of interest to the lighthouse community and its supporters, please email them to candace@uslhs.org.

Education · Kate's Corner · Lighthouse Construction

KATE’S CORNER #11

Kate Walker here, keeping the light on Robbins Reef.

The earlier lighthouse on Robbins Reef was built of stone, but my tower was built of cast-iron plate. Cast iron became a very useful material in the second half of the 19th century because it was lightweight and watertight. A cast-iron tower could be made in sections, easily transported, and assembled at the site. It could also be taken down, moved, and reassembled. When lighthouses constructed of masonry sank or blew over, having no solid footing, they were often replaced with much lighter cast-iron structures.

A cast-iron tower for Cape Canaveral was begun in 1860, delayed until the end of the Civil War and completed in 1868. In 1894 continued erosion prompted the tower to be disassembled and moved a mile further inland to its present location. Courtesy National Archives

During the Civil War the Confederates took down the cast-iron tower at Bolivar Point in Texas plate by plate. When the war ended, the sections of the tower’s one-inch-thick cast-iron skin were never found, probably having been used to make armaments.

The Boca Grande Rear Range Lighthouse in Florida served as the Delaware Breakwater Rear Range until 1918. When the tower was offered to the various lighthouse districts, the 7th district superintendent claimed it and erected it on Gasparilla Island.

A 191-foot cast-iron, skeletal structure, the tallest of its kind [191 feet], was erected at Cape Charles to guide ships into Chesapeake Bay. Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office
The third tower at Cape Charles, Virginia, was built in 1895, while I was at Robbins Reef. According to the 1893 specifications for the metal work at Cape Charles: “It is to be an iron skeleton structure, surmounted by a service room, a watch room with gallery, and a lantern accessible from below by a spiral stairs and an elevator inclosed in a cast-iron cylinder. The skeleton structure will rest upon eight circular foundation disks, which will be anchored to a concrete foundation and the lower belt of the stair cylinder.  It will be composed of columns, sockets, struts, and tension rods, forming a frustum of a regular octagonal pyramid, bounded at the upper end by an architrave, the latter supporting an octagonal service room, a circular watch room, surrounded by an octagonal gallery and a sixteen-sided lantern.” Are some of these terms new to you?

I wondered how they put the huge 1st-order Fresnel lens into such a tall tower. On June 17, 1895, the lens, which had been sent to Baltimore from the general depot on Staten Island, New York, was taken to the station by the tender Jessamine. A hoisting engine was set up, a mast erected on the watch room gallery, with the necessary pulleys and rigging, and the parts of the lens apparatus were hoisted outside the tower into the lantern, where they were properly arranged and bolted together by lampists—men specially trained to assemble and maintain lamps and lenses.

Information from Clifford, Nineteenth-Century Lights, pp. 23, 195; 1895 Annual Report of the U.S. Light-House Board; David Cipra, Lighthouses, Lightships, and the Gulf of Mexico; National Archives Record Group 287, Box T683

Submitted September 28, 2017

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U.S. Lighthouse Society News is produced by the U.S. Lighthouse Society to support lighthouse preservation, history, education and research. Please join the U.S. Lighthouse Society if you are not already a member. If you have items of interest to the lighthouse community and its supporters, please email them to candace@uslhs.org.

 

News · photography · Society Members

2018 Calendar Submission Mosaic

The U.S. Lighthouse Society asked its members to help them put together a 2018 calendar. Seventy-seven responded with an impressive array of images. See <https://uslhs.wordpress.com/photos/> for all the submissions organized by their submission category or theme. If you want to submit feedback on some of the finalists, you can “Like” your favorites on the Society’s Facebook page. We plan to have the calendar available for purchase in the Keeper’s Locker in time for holiday shopping.

Submitted by Candace Clifford September 22, 2017

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U.S. Lighthouse Society News is produced by the U.S. Lighthouse Society to support lighthouse preservation, history, education and research. Please join the U.S. Lighthouse Society if you are not already a member. If you have items of interest to the lighthouse community and its supporters, please email them to candace@uslhs.org.

News

The Digitization of 26-LG

We posted about this fabulous resource earlier but here is the National Archives’ description of their primary collection of lighthouse photography now available online.

The Unwritten Record

Many different factors are considered when selecting a series for digitization. Records that are particularly fragile or have high intrinsic value might be digitized to help preserve the originals by reducing the amount of physical handling each item receives. Records that are of high historical value might be digitized for posterity in order to ensure that the images are easily and perpetually available for generations to come. Records that have exceptionally high research value might be digitized to increase access, ensuring that any and all who wish to interact with our nation’s history are able to do so regardless of their ability to visit us in person here in College Park, MD.

Digitizing for public access is absolutely a priority at NARA. More than anything else, we want the public to have access to the records we work so hard to protect and preserve. These images represent who we are…

View original post 757 more words

Education · Kate's Corner · News · U.S. Coast Guard

KATE’S CORNER #10

Kate Walker here, keeping the light on Robbins Reef. Last week I showed you a photo of USCGC Margaret Norvell. She wasn’t the only female keeper who has a ship bearing her name. I have one too. It warmed my spirit to be remembered almost 80 years after I retired.

The Coast Guard elected to name their new 175-foot coastal buoy tenders after famous personages of the Lighthouse Service, breaking a tradition that spanned more than one hundred years of naming tenders after flora.

Katherine_Walker552_1_sm
The CGC Katherine Walker (WLM 552) breaks ice on the Hudson River.”; Photo No. 000222-N-8023L-003; 22 February 2000; photo by PA3 Robert Lanier.

USCGC Katherine Walker is homeported in Bayonne, New Jersey. Her area of responsibility spans from New Haven, Connecticut, and the north and south shores of Long Island to New York and New Jersey. USCGC Katherine Walker is responsible for a total of 335 aids to navigation. In addition to her primary mission of tending aids to navigation, USCGC Katherine Walker also conducts search and rescue; icebreaking; and ports, waterways, and coastal security.

My spirit was there when they launched her in 1997, overcome with gratitude that the Coast Guard has chosen to honor a small immigrant keeper who had loved her lighthouse and tended it faithfully for 29 years. And since the cutter was launched, when my spirit needs a little refreshment, I slip onto the forward deck and hang on to the rail while the wind blows my hair and puffs up my skirt. The crew is always startled when they bump into me because I make them shiver.

Nor are Maggie and I the only female keepers so honored. Homeported in Newport, Rhode Island, USCGC Ida Lewis’s area of responsibility spans from Long Island Sound, New York to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. USCGC Abbie Burgess is homeported in Rockland, Maine. Her area of responsibility spans the coast of Maine from Boothbay Harbor all the way to the Canadian Border and the St. Croix River, as well as the Penobscot and St. George Rivers. USCGC Kathleen Moore is a Sentinel-class first response cutter homeported in Key West, Florida. USCGC Barbara Mabrity is a buoy tender homeported in Mobile, Alabama.

21 Dec 1902 - Times Picayune - Kate Walker loresInformation is from https://www.uscg.mil/history/webcutters/WLB_Photo_Index.asphttp://www.atlanticarea.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/District-1/District-Cutters/USCGC-Katherine-Walker;
http://www.atlanticarea.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/District-1/District-Cutters/USCGC-Ida-Lewis/; and
http://www.atlanticarea.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/District-1/District-Cutters/USCGC-Abbie-Burgess

Submitted September 15, 2017

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U.S. Lighthouse Society News is produced by the U.S. Lighthouse Society to support lighthouse preservation, history, education and research. Please join the U.S. Lighthouse Society if you are not already a member. If you have items of interest to the lighthouse community and its supporters, please email them to candace@uslhs.org.