Event · Exhibits · Fresnel lens · News

Destruction Island Lighthouse

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Approaching Destruction Island Light Station off the Washington coast by helicopter in 2004. Photo courtesy Carl Gowler
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Destruction Island lighthouse tower, 2004. Photo courtesy Carl Gowler

Carl Gowler was stationed on Destruction Island Light Station in 1967-1968 and visited the island as a guest as part of the crew securing the station in 2004. He shared these photos taken during that visit stating, “What I find interesting is a majority of lighthouse photos are of pristine lighthouses freshly painted and spruced up by hard working volunteers. I haven’t seen  any with moss on the sides.”

 

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Destruction Island Lighthouse’s lens on display at the Westport Maritime Museum. Photo courtesy of John Shaw, the museum’s director

Although Destruction Island Light Station is inaccessible to the public, its beautiful first-order lens has been restored and placed on exhibit at the Westport Maritime Museum in Grays Harbor, Washington. The magnificent lens was manufactured in France in 1888 by Henry Le Paute. The lens was installed in the lighthouse in 1891 and operated until 1995 when it was removed by the Coast Guard. In 1998 the historic optic was reassembled as the centerpiece of a specially designed lens building.

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On the first Saturday in December, Santa visits Westport Maritime Museum in the annual SANTA BY THE SEA Program. 2016 photo courtesy of John Shaw, Director, Westport Maritime Museum
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Santa and Mrs. Claus greet children beneath the Destruction Island lens. 2016 photo courtesy of John Shaw, Director, Westport Maritime Museum

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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 consider 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 candace@uslhs.org.

Exhibits · News

Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse

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The Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse during Baltimore’s 2012 Tall Ships Festival. Photo by Candace Clifford

The Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse was originally completed in the Chesapeake Bay in 1856 to mark the entrance to the Patapsco River, an important trade route into Baltimore, Maryland. Unlike most screwpile lighthouses, the house was cast iron rather than wood.

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Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse as an active aid to navigation. Photo courtesy USCG

The first screwpile lighthouse was built at Brandywine Shoal, Delaware, in 1850. They soon became a popular construction type in the protected waters of the Chesapeake Bay and Carolina Sounds, often replacing lightships. They worked well where the soft bottom surface could not support a masonry tower and were much less expensive to build.

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The tower was moved to Pier 5 in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in 1988. NPS photo by Candace Clifford, 1989

Unfortunately the screwpile towers, including Seven Foot Knoll, were vulnerable to ice flows and were often damaged in storms. Many were replaced with towers that had more durable caisson foundations.

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This 1990 photo shows the newly restored lighthouse. NPS photo by Candace Clifford

Today the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse is open to the public as a museum managed by the Historic Ships of Baltimore.  It is one of three screwpile lighthouses that have been brought ashore as museums. The others are Drum Point Lighthouse at the Calvert Marine Museum, Solomons, Maryland, and Hooper Straits Lighthouse at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels, Maryland.

The last extant, intact screwpile lighthouse still in its original location is Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse near Annapolis, Maryland. This tower is accessible only by boat; however tours are offered during the warmer months through the U.S. Lighthouse Society.

Submitted by Candace Clifford, December 1, 2016

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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 consider 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 candace@uslhs.org.

Exhibits · News · Shipwrecks

Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association Update

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Beavertail Light Station, RI. Photo by Candace Clifford, 2011

According to their Fall 2016 newsletter, the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association (BLMA) has started a major fundraising campaign to create an endowment to continue the work they have already accomplished in preserving the light station. So far they have restored the foundation of the original lighthouse built in 1749, restored the 1938 fog signal building, restored the existing 1856 light tower, and tripled the size of their museum.

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Beavertail Light Station welcomed a U.S. Lighthouse Society tour in June 2016. This photo dates to 2011

Interpretation of site now includes QR code signs on 21 different subjects installed in various locations throughout Beavertail Park and the light station grounds. According to BLMA’s website, “Each 4 x 6 inch sign scanned by a smart phone or tablet connects to http://www.beavertaillight.org and immediately provides historical or descriptive site information on the subject identified on the sign.”

BLMA had also created an impressive online shipwreck database. The interactive site provides data and stories in connection with 3,018 Rhode Island shipwrecks. You can filter the wrecks according to weather events such as the Portland Gale of 1898 or view their locations on NOAA maps.

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The 1856 granite tower replaced a wooden tower built in 1753.

Beavertail continues as an active aid to navigation. The newsletter mentions that a new drum beacon was being installed by the U.S. Coast Guard. The old light recently failed and the backup light has been in service ever since. Once the old drum light is replaced, the BLMA has requested that it join the old Fresnel lens in the museum to help tell the continuing history of the light station.

When providing the newsletter, Board Member Varoujan Karentz wrote, “As America’s 3rd oldest light, we here at Beavertail take great pride and delight in providing information to our visitors and lighthouse friends. Our organization is 100% volunteer base operating our free admission museum during the summer months. This year 30,000 plus visitors passed through our doors with complimentary accolades for our new exhibits and interactive displays.”

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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 consider 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 candace@uslhs.org.

Exhibits · Fresnel lens

Maine Maritime Museum to Open Immersive Lighthouse Exhibit Summer 2017

Poster for INTO THE LANTERN exhibit courtesy of Maine Maritime Museum
Poster for INTO THE LANTERN exhibit courtesy of Maine Maritime Museum

Bath, Maine – This November, Maine Maritime Museum will break ground on construction of a new gallery space that will house an immersive lighthouse exhibit, Into the Lantern: A Lighthouse Experience. Opening in summer 2017, the exhibit will house the second-order Fresnel lens that that once guided ships into Portland, Maine, from the east Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse tower (formerly known as Two Lights). The lens in the exhibit is the original ca. 1874 Fresnel lens that was in the east lantern until 1991.

Into the Lantern: A Lighthouse Experience will be the first exhibit of its kind to include a 180-degree media projection system with time-lapse videography of the active panorama of the Gulf of Maine, simulating the experience of standing in the lantern (the room at the top of a lighthouse tower where the lens is located) by showcasing changing views of Casco Bay as seen from the tower. The videography is currently being shot from the actual east lantern at Two Lights. The exhibit will be on one level, making it possible for people who are physically unable to negotiate the steps of a real tower to have the visceral experience of going “up into” a lighthouse – with the views from the top, the sounds, and the breezes.

“Imagine standing at the top of the Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse and watching the view changing over 24 hours – from sunrise to sunset with boat traffic going by, the wind blowing, and the seagulls calling. We want to replicate that experience for all the people who know and love this famous lighthouse, but will never otherwise be able to appreciate it in that way,” said Executive Director Amy Lent. “We’ve been offering boat tours of area lighthouses for years and we know how much people love learning about them, so we are excited to create this new experience that will teach the history and science behind these important navigational aids in an entirely new way.”

The lens has been kept in climate-controlled storage at the museum since 2013. It was formerly housed in the lobby at Cape Elizabeth Town Hall.

A capital campaign is underway to raise the $980,000 needed for design, construction, and installation of the permanent exhibit with nearly 80 percent of the goal raised so far.

Submitted by Katie Meyers, Maine Maritime Museum, November 16, 2016

U.S. Lighthouse Society News is produced by the U.S. Lighthouse Society to support lighthouse preservation, history, education and research. Please consider 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 candace@uslhs.org.