Kaptain's Kolumn · News

The Kaptain’s Kolumn #10

Early 1900s postcard of Fuller Rock Lighthouse, collection of Jeremy D’Entremont

Captain Joshua Card here, down at Portsmouth Harbor Light Station in New Castle, New Hampshire. We’re looking forward to a new paint job for the tower this spring. Thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you about a colorful character who was a contemporary of mine down in Rhode Island, John Mullen—better known as Captain Jack.

Captain Jack was hired in April 1886 to be the keeper of two small lights on the Providence River, Fuller Rock and Sassafras Point. These little structures barely qualified as lighthouses. They were twin hexagonal pyramids, only about 14 feet tall, with small cast-iron lanterns. They were both put into operation in 1872. Fuller Rock was in the middle of the main shipping channel to Providence, while Sassafras Point was about a mile north near the river’s western shore. The lights never had keepers’ houses; instead, the government hired local men who row to the lights to care for them.

A Providence Journal article by Wilfred Stone later described “Captain Jack” as a “character of the old school.” At social gatherings, he was a master of clog dancing, “keeping hop to the pick of the banjo when he was scores of years older than most dancers.”

The article described a harrowing accident that befell Captain Jack while he was a lighthouse keeper in the 1890s. It was brutally cold and windy on New Year’s Eve one year as Mullen sailed in his yawl from one light on the Providence River to the other. Luckily, he was dressed warmly in many layers. “It was tough pulling,” wrote Stone, “but his lights were burning at sunset as his orders called for.”

Early 1900s postcard of Sassafras Point Lighthouse, collection of Jeremy D’Entremont

On his way home after “lighting up,” Mullen’s small boat overturned near Kettle Point on the east side of the river and he found himself “struggling to gain a toehold on the bottom.” Fortunately, nearby resident Ed Grogan saw the keeper’s plight. Grogan launched his own boat and soon rescued the cold and soggy, but no doubt grateful, Captain Jack.

The day after his near-death experience, Mullen had a conversation with a devout female acquaintance. “Surely the Lord was with you when you were in the water,” said the woman. “He certainly was on my side,” replied Jack. When asked if he was thinking of the Lord throughout the experience, Mullen surprised the woman by answering in the negative. “Why, what else could you have been thinking of?” she asked. “How in blazes I was going to get ashore,” said the always-practical Captain Jack.

Sassafras Point Light was removed in 1912. Late in the morning of February 5, 1923, a crew aboard the lighthouse tender Pansy arrived to install new acetylene tanks at Fuller Rock. The men first removed the empty old tanks, and then installed six new ones, each about six feet long and weighing about 300 pounds.

After lunch, the men went back just to make sure everything was in proper order. Just as the crewmen were boarding the pier next to the light, there was a terrific explosion that could be heard a mile away. Five men were sent hurtling through the air onto the sharp rocks below. There were no fatalities, but the men’s injuries ranged from facial burns to broken legs. The lighthouse structure was completely destroyed by the fire that resulted from the blast.



Lighthouse News of the Week

California Lighthouse, Aruba. Courtesy of Monumentsfund Aruba.

Visit the California Lighthouse in Aruba and get your U.S. Lighthouse Society passport stamped!

California Lighthouse owes its name to a steamship that was wrecked in 1891 near the north coast of the Caribbean island of Aruba. The shipwreck was a primary reason for the building of the lighthouse between 1914 and 1916.

California Lighthouse during restoration (Creative Commons photo by Tokmanr)

The lighthouse was transferred to Monumentsfund Aruba in 2015, and a major restoration was carried out in 2015-16.

California Lighthouse is now an official member of the United States Lighthouse Society! You can now visit the lighthouse and receive a California Lighthouse stamp in your USLHS passport. Visitors will be ask for a one dollar contribution for a stamp. Donations will be used to help maintain the lighthouse.

Visitors get to climb to the top of the 180-foot tower for a spectacular view. Anne Witsenburg, director of Monumentsfund Aruba, tells us that more than two million people visit Aruba each year, and 75% of those visitors are American.


If you visit the lighthouse, just ask the Experitours guides at the lighthouse for your USLHS passport stamp!

For more information on California Lighthouse, click here.

For more information on the U.S. Lighthouse Society passport program, click here.

*  *  *

New Tour Guides for Hunting Island Lighthouse

For the past two years, the Friends of Hunting Island have been hosting tours of the Hunting Island Lighthouse and light station at Hunting Island State Park in Beaufort, South Carolina.  The Friends of Hunting Island organization, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, was created by a group of Beaufort residents to support Hunting Island State Park and its lighthouse with its many activities.

Twice a month, Ted Panayotoff, U.S. Lighthouse Society member and Friends of Hunting Island Lighthouse director, hosts a 1.5-hour tour of the lighthouse tower and the several light station buildings.  “Keeper Ted,” upholding the Lighthouse Service tradition of welcoming visitors to the light station, hosts the tours in his reproduction lighthouse keeper’s dress uniform.

Due to the expanding interest in these guided tours, the Friends of Hunting Island are planning to expand the frequency of the tours by growing the pool of available tour guides. To that end, “Keeper Ted” has begun working with three new “recruits” to familiarize them with the history of the lighthouse. This is the second lighthouse on the island and it was moved in 1889 due to beach erosion.  Along with the lighthouse, there are related exhibits in the existing light station buildings.

IMG_4542In the photo at left, the lighthouse history is being discussed at the base of the tower.  The 1873 date refers to its construction at its original location, 1 1/4 miles north of its present site, a location that is now claimed by the Atlantic Ocean.  

A tour up the tower (the only lighthouse in South Carolina regularly available to climb) stops at the eight landings, giving visitors an opportunity to see the exhibits there.  The watch room gallery is the highlight of the climb affording the visitor a panoramic view for miles up and down the coast. The watch room and lantern are not usually open to visitors as Hunting Island Light is an active private aid to navigation using a VLB-44 beacon light.  

The photo at the right shows the prospective tour guides and “Keeper Ted”  gathered on the light IMG_4556station grounds with the tower, the oil house and the station’s fresh water cistern pump house in the background.  Sadly, the wonderful three family keeper’s dwelling, described on the sign they are reading, was lost due to a fire several years after the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1933.  

Still intact, however, are two nearby storage buildings that have been restored and contain exhibits related to the lighthouse.  Below, one of the exhibits in the storage building whose theme is “life at the light station” is being described to the new tour guides.  They are learning about the work life of the keepers at the station; on the other side of this building is an exhibit on the home life of the families at the station.  These exhibits include a station medical chest and a traveling library box. Both were very important at this remote (especially at the time) light station.


Photos courtesy of Ted Panayotoff.

Click here for more details

*  *  *

Split Rock (MN) Lighthouse manager Lee Radzak to retire

Lee Radzak (U.S. Lighthouse Society)

Minnesota’s Split Rock Lighthouse, perched on a rocky, rugged bluff high above Lake Superior, is one of the most iconic lighthouses in the United States. For the past 36 years, the resident site manager at Split Rock has been Lee Radzak. When he took the job in 1982, he and his wife thought they’d give it three years to see how they liked it. Obviously, it worked out pretty well.


Under Radzak’s direction a number of preservation projects have been completed, and he has been recognized with several awards. In 2016 he was given the Ross Holland Award by the American Lighthouse Council for his achievements in lighthouse preservation.

When asked what memories will stay with him the most, Radzak said, “”Just the lake. I could write a book about the storms, the early mornings and evenings and nights.”

Lee Radzak has been a tremendous asset to Split Rock Lighthouse and a great friend to the lighthouse community at large, and we wish him and his wife, Jane, all the best in retirement.

You can read more about this story here.

*  *  *

Lighthouse supply ship converted into hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland

A 1963 lighthouse supply ship, the Fingal — bought in 2014 by Royal Yacht Enterprises — has been converted into a luxurious floating hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland. All the guest rooms are named for Scottish lighthouses, and the restaurant serves local seafood.

Count us in.

Click here for more information.

Official website for the Fingal

*  *  *

Cool Jazz at the National Lighthouse Museum, NY
Celebrate Mardi Gras Light Moments with Cool Jazz at the National Lighthouse Museum, 200 The Promenade at Lighthouse Point, St. George, (adjacent to the Staten Island Ferry) on Saturday, March 2, 2019, 7-10 p.m.
Featuring the smooth, sultry and soulful voice of Donna Cumberbatch. Donna is influenced by such artists as Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Gloria Lynne, and Nancy Wilson, but exhibits her own unique and enchanting style. Tickets – $40. Delectable Edibles by Bayou Restaurant.
For Info/Reservations: info@lighthousemuseum.org lighthousemuseum.org Phone: 718-390-0040
*  *  *

Hibbard Casselberry, Jr.  1923-2019

Hibbard Casselberry, Jr., 96, a man who was well known to Florida lighthouse aficionados and preservationists, died February 5, 2019, at John Knox Village, Pompano Beach, Florida. “Hib” was born on January 2, 1923, in Chicago, Illinois.

At the age of 72, he retired from the City of Fort Lauderdale Architectural Department, and then devoted the rest of his life to historic preservation with an emphasis on lighthouses. He was a founding member and past president of the Hillsboro Lighthouse Preservation Society, a founding board member of the Florida Keys Reef Lights Foundation, and an original member of the Florida Lighthouse Association. He was honored in 2012 by the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution with their Historic Preservation Medal in recognition of his work in historic preservation.

He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Martha, as well as their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Christ United Methodist Church, Fort Lauderdale, FL (www.christchurchfl.org), or the Hillsboro Lighthouse Preservation Society (www.hillsborolighthouse.org).

*  *  *  *  *  *

U.S. Lighthouse Society News is produced by the U.S. Lighthouse Society to support lighthouse preservation, history, education and research. You can receive these posts via email if you click on the “SUBSCRIBE” button in the right-hand column. Please support this electronic newsletter by joining 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 Jeremy at nelights@gmail.com.


Lighthouse News of the Week


Sophie Blackall Wins Caldecott Medal for “Hello Lighthouse”

This year’s winner of the Randolph Caldecott Medal for outstanding illustration of children’s books is Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall.

The New York Times Book Review said of Hello Lighthouse: “I will be surprised if a more exquisite picture book will be published this year…Children will be fascinated…” Kirkus Review praised the “precise, detailed illustrations,” rendered in Chinese ink and watercolor.

This is the second Caldecott for Sophie Blackall, who wrote and illustrated Hello Lighthouse. She won her first Caldecott Medal in 2016 for Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear.

On Twitter, Blackall cited the U.S. Lighthouse Society as an important resource in her research for Hello Lighthouse. When asked to expand on that, she responded: “I am indebted to the USLHS! It was such a fantastic resource when I was researching Hello Lighthouse. From my early investigations into history and architecture, to exploring the comprehensive list of lighthouses and the stories every single one contains, to following links and more links to a true treasure trove of information. My obsession began at your website and ended with this book.”

Thank you, Sophie, and best wishes for continued success!

Hello Lighthouse is available through Amazon, B&N, and other online booksellers.

*  *  *

Special Louisiana license plates to help save lighthouse

The American Press has reported that purchases of Louisiana’s Sabine Pass Lighthouse license plates will help raise money to restore the structure. The plates say “Save the Sabine Pass Lighthouse” and feature an image of the tower on the Gulf Coast.

Sabine Pass Lighthouse (U.S. Coast Guard)

The most important needs are fixing cracks and banding the tower to help prevent water intrusion. The lighthouse is perhaps the oldest brick structure standing in Southwest Louisiana.

Plates are available at the Sulphur, Lake Charles, or Cameron DMV and through expresslane.org

Click here for more details.

*  *  *




Four Florida reef lighthouses now available to new stewards

Under the guidelines of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, four Florida reef lighthouses are being made available to potential new stewards. The lighthouses are American Shoal, Carysfort Reef, Sombrero Key, and Alligator Reef.

Details may be found here.


*  *  *




Relighting celebration for Gasparilla Island Lighthouse (Florida) on February 9

Collection of Jeremy D’Entremont


The Barrier Island Parks Society is hosting a celebration for the newly restored Gasparilla Island Lighthouse on Saturday, February 9, from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. The celebration will include free climbs of the lighthouse, food and drinks, and live music. The lighthouse relighting will be at 6:20 p.m.

After a lengthy approval process involving six federal and state government agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers, the lighthouse has been formally designated a private aid to navigation. The new lens is a replica of the one that was installed in 1927 and will include an amber LED lamp.

The lighthouse is at 220 Gulf Blvd., Boca Grande, Florida. Call BIPS 941-964-0060 for more information.

Click here for an event flyer.

*  *  *


Rondout Lighthouse in 2008. Photo by Jeremy D’Entremont

FEMA funds for Rondout Lighthouse (NY)

$401,736 for repairs at Rondout Lighthouse has become available. The funds had sat dormant for some years after damage from Superstorm Sandy.

The lighthouse, on the Hudson River at the entrance to Rondout Creek, is owned by the City of Kingston, New York.  Kristen Wilson, director of the city’s Office of Grants Management, said that the work to be done included repairs to the electrical system at the lighthouse.

Click here to read more details.

*  *  *  *  *  *

U.S. Lighthouse Society News is produced by the U.S. Lighthouse Society to support lighthouse preservation, history, education and research. You can receive these posts via email if you click on the “SUBSCRIBE” button in the right-hand column. Please support this electronic newsletter by joining 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 Jeremy at nelights@gmail.com.


Guest Column: Guiding Lights: A Story Of America’s Lighthouses By Christian Taber, Age 12

Hilton Head Range Rear SC 2008 Aug. 31st Mike & Carol McKinney copy (1)
Hilton Head Range Rear (Leamington) Lighthouse, SC. Photo Courtesy of Mike & Carol McKinney.

When you hear the word “lighthouse,” you probably think “island,” “beach,” or “vacation.” Lighthouses are more than just tourist attractions or part of your dream vacation. They are structures of America’s past and they tell a story.

Lighthouses were the guiding lights for sailors, warning them of danger and helping them have a safe trip. The light fought through the darkness of a stormy night. Keepers worked 24/7 keeping the lamps burning. Because of new technology, some lighthouses have gone dark. Some lighthouses have been sold; some have become museums, shops, or even parking lots (that’s not good!), and some are subject to neglect and have been left to be eaten away by time (that’s not good, either!).

The United States Lighthouse Society (USLHS) was founded 1984. They are determined to preserve these pieces of American history. I was at the Harbour Town Lighthouse in Hilton Head, South Carolina, where I purchased a USLHS Lighthouse Passport. I have been to this lighthouse many times, but what actually sparked my greater interest in lighthouses is the Leamington Lighthouse in Hilton Head. After exploring this old lighthouse, out of curiosity, I went to the USLHS website and learned about their mission of preserving lighthouses. For my 12th birthday, my parents got me a Keeper level membership. I would like to thank USLHS for rushing my membership card (it arrived on my birthday!) and for including a few other things for my birthday. I am very excited to be a part of the USLHS community.

Christian Taber, USLHS Member


Looking for “keepers” at Burnt Coat Harbor Lighthouse, Maine

WANT TO BE A LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER?  Burnt Coat Harbor Light, Swan’s Island, ME,  is looking for two enthusiastic volunteers to live in the keeper’s house apartment for two weeks (late May/early June, 2019). In return for free use of the apartment, the volunteers would help to get the light station ready for the summer season. Duties would include spring cleaning and light maintenance in the house and tower, landscape improvements and trail grooming.  If interested, respond to: fosil@burntcoatharborlight.com or fran.chetwynd@gmail.com,  including a brief paragraph on what skills you would bring and why you are interested in this opportunity. For more information about the light station and Swan’s Island, see www.burntcoatharborlight.com

*  *  *  *  *  *

U.S. Lighthouse Society News is produced by the U.S. Lighthouse Society to support lighthouse preservation, history, education and research. You can receive these posts via email if you click on the “SUBSCRIBE” button in the right-hand column. Please support this electronic newsletter by joining 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 Jeremy at nelights@gmail.com.


Lighthouse News of the Week

still picture identifier; 26-LG-33-49
St. Marks Lighthouse, Florida. National Archives photo 26-LG-33-49.

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and Lighthouse (FL) Reopen

The St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge — and the lighthouse in the refuge — in Florida reopened this week following the federal government shutdown. While the shutdown was in progress, members of the Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge and other groups held clean ups and answered visitor questions.

The newly renovated keeper’s house is opened to the public on the first Friday and Saturday of each month and for special events. The tower is not open for climbing. For more information, contact the refuge at 850-925-6121.

Click here for more on this story.

*  *  *

Brilliant Minds Work on Weekends at the National Lighthouse Museum (NY)

Your children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews 2-12 years old are invited to join the National Lighthouse Museum on Staten Island, New York, for this course that meets for four Saturdays. The goals are to learn about lighthouses — their purposes, architecture, history, and stories of their keepers through art. You may register for one or more sessions. Individual sessions are $20 each per student or all four sessions for $75 per student.

If you need additional information, please contact the Museum directly at 718-390-0040.


*  *  *

Moonrise over Nubble Lighthouse (Maine)

Not a big news story here, just a fantastic photo of the rising full moon (well, a day after full) behind the famous Cape Neddick “Nubble” Lighthouse in York, Maine, by Manish Mamtani. Click here to check it out!

*  *  *

Eric H. Davis 1961-2019

Courtesy American Lighthouse Foundation

The lighthouse community lost a great friend with the passing of Eric Davis of Owls Head, Maine, on January 24, 2019. Eric, who lost a long and courageous battle with cancer, was chairperson of the Friends of Rockland Harbor Lights from 2010 to 2016, and he was president of the American Lighthouse Foundation from 2012 to 2016.

Bob Trapani Jr., executive director of the American Lighthouse Foundation, said, “His wonderful contributions to ALF were many, and his friendship was even more stellar. . . . The lights along the shore are burning a little dimmer in the wake of this sad news.”

Eric was a life-long musician and his biggest passion was traditional jazz music. He played upright bass for many years in several jazz groups, including the Eric Davis Jazz Trio. Shortly before he died, Eric created and endowed the Eric Davis Jazz Fund, as his legacy to promote and support traditional jazz music performance and education in Midcoast Maine. Per his request, a primary beneficiary will be the Midcoast Music Academy in Rockland.

Eric’s varied life experience included years as an IT professional, as an optician, and as a licensed massage therapist. As accurately stated in his obituary, “During his time with the American Lighthouse Foundation he became known and respected for listening to all sides of issues with his particular brand of objectivity, and then leading the discussion respectfully towards an effective consensus and resolution.”

Eric will be greatly missed. A celebration of his life will be held in the Knox Ballroom at the Samoset Resort in Rockport, Maine, Saturday, Feb. 16, from 1 to 4 p.m.

You can read more about Eric Davis here.

*  *  *  *  *  *

U.S. Lighthouse Society News is produced by the U.S. Lighthouse Society to support lighthouse preservation, history, education and research. You can receive these posts via email if you click on the “SUBSCRIBE” button in the right-hand column. Please support this electronic newsletter by joining 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 Jeremy at nelights@gmail.com.


Lighthouse News of the Week

The new (left) and old Cape Henry Lighthouses, Virginia (U.S. Lighthouse Society archives)

Old Cape Henry Lighthouse (VA) to be stablilized

The Old Cape Henry Lighthouse, located within the Fort Story military base near the northern end of Virginia Beach, was established in 1792. It is the fourth oldest standing lighthouse tower in the U.S. and the first federal construction project authorized by President George Washington after the Revolutionary War. A $1.1 million restoration project for the lighthouse began in September. The landmark is expected to reopen to the public in March.

Here is a Youtube video about the restoration project:

You can read more about this story here.

*  *  *

40-Mile Point Lighthouse (U.S. Lighthouse Society archives)

40-Mile Point Lighthouse (MI) has new family of caretakers

40-Mile Point Lighthouse is in northern Michigan on the western shore of Lake Huron in Rogers Township. On January 10, the Presque Isle County Board of Commissioners chose a family of caretakers to live at the property: Eric Kleon, his wife Lisa, along their three children and his sister, Sabre. The family plans to move into the living quarters of the lighthouse when renovations are complete in the next few weeks. At the moment, they are painting and redoing the wood floors with the assistance of the 40-Mile Point Lighthouse Society.

Eric dresses in period clothing as a lighthouse keeper when greeting the public. “I get asked if I am a train conductor a lot,” he said.

You can read more about this story here.

Visit the home page for the 40-Mile Point Lighthouse here.

*  *  *

Restoration of keeper’s house at St. Augustine Lighthouse (FL)

Preservation of the keeper’s house continues at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. Replacement of the shingles, gutters and wood soffits is currently underway. The house is restored to the year 1888, when two summer kitchens were added.

“We are using photographic evidence from the 1880s to determine that the roof was cedar shake/shingle at the time,” said Kathy Fleming, Executive Director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.


The keeper’s house at St. Augustine Lighthouse. Photo by Viktoriya Sorochuk, Creative Commons license.

You can read more about this story here.

*  *  *

Eilean Glas Lighthouse (Scotland) slated for changes

The Eilean Glas Lighthouse, on the Hebridean island of Scalpay, one of the four oldest lighthouses in Scotland, is slated to receive a number of improvements. Alastair Rae, Northern Lighthouse Board project leader, said: “Our planned works include replacing the lighthouse’s existing sealed beam lamp array with an updated LED optic, in order to achieve more energy efficiency and lower maintenance costs. As well as the lighthouse tower, the adjoining building . . . will be fully refurbished and redecorated both internally and externally.”

Eilean Glas Lighthouse. Photo by Simon Stewart, Creative Commons license.

If approved, the existing operating and monitoring system in the structure will be replaced by an equivalent updated system with LED optic technology.

You can read more about this story here.

*  *  *  *  *  *

U.S. Lighthouse Society News is produced by the U.S. Lighthouse Society to support lighthouse preservation, history, education and research. You can receive these posts via email if you click on the “SUBSCRIBE” button in the right-hand column. Please support this electronic newsletter by joining 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 Jeremy at nelights@gmail.com.