News · Research

Design of Cape Lookout Lighthouse’s Daymark

Cape Lookout NC Daymark ca 1873 NA RG 26 LB 327 lores
Peter C. Hains’ sketch for the Cape Lookout daymark was found in National Archives Record Group 26, Letterbook 327. (The letterbook was damaged in the 1922 fire at the Commerce Department.)

The above sketch was submitted by Fifth District Lighthouse Engineer Major Peter C. Hains to Major George H. Elliot, Engineering Secretary of the U.S. Light-House Board, to make the Cape Lookout tower distinguishable during the day time from nearby coastal towers that were similar in construction. The following letter, dated February 17, 1873, accompanied the sketch:

Referring to your letter. . . relative to painting Cape Lookout tower to better serve as a daymark, I have to say that this object may be accomplished in a very satisfactory manner by coloring it with black and white diagonal checkers as shown on the enclosed sketch which represents the different views of that system, as it will appear from several points of the compass. In view of the fact, however, that Body’s Island is distant some 85 nautical miles in a direct line and considerably greater distance measured along the meanderings of the coastline, perhaps you would prefer to color it with horizontal rings or bands? The background need not interfere with any arrangement of colors, as it is sky or white sand hills. . . . I would prefer the black-and-white checkers for this tower as it is will render the system of coloring uniform; say, commencing at Body’s Island, black and white horizontal bands; then Hatteras, spiral bands; and Cape Lookout, diagonal checkers. . . .

Major Elliot’s concept was approved by the Board and the towers where given their iconic markings by June of 1873.

1873 NTM
A Notice to Mariners was issued to alert mariners to the change in daymark.
2001 photo by Candace Clifford

The Cape Lookout tower retains its unique daymark to this day although with fewer “checkers” than were in the original sketch.

Submitted by Candace Clifford, April 1, 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 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.

Keepers · News · Research

Growing Vegetables at Point Wilson Light Station

Next week we will be commemorating the 100th anniversary of the United States entering into World War I. On April 6, 1917, the U.S. Coast Guard came under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Navy. The Lighthouse Service was not yet part of the Coast Guard, so President Woodrow Wilson ordered “transfer for temporary use, of certain lighthouse tenders to the War Department and Navy Department.” In December 1918, it was reported that “nearly all of the lighthouse tenders and a number of other units with a total of 1,132 persons, have been serving with the Navy Department, and at the same time continuing the work of maintaining the aids to navigation.” [Source 1918 Annual Report reproduced in the Lighthouse Service Bulletin.]

Although lighthouse keepers did not perform military duties, they were encouraged to cultivate gardens as part of a national effort. Often called “war gardens” (and later during World War II, “victory gardens”), these gardens reduced the pressures the war put on the food supply and were considered a way of supporting the war effort on the home front.

garden article
Article from May 1, 1917, issue of the Lighthouse Service Bulletin urging lighthouse keepers to cultivate gardens.

Keeper William J. Thomas reported on the the vegetables he raised at Point Wilson Light Station near Port Townsend, Washington, in a letter to the 17th District Inspector on October 12, 1917:

Have sent you to day per Parcel Post a sample of some of the vegetables I raised on the Station here. Peas, Potatoes, Carrots, Lettuce, Garlic & Squash do well but Tomatoes, Cabbage, Turnips are a failure. Beans fairly well; after planting four times–have 4 gallons of Beans Salted & 2 Gallons canned. The yield was good but of course small quantity as space was limited. Early Onions & Lettuce was splendid and gave Heather [the lighthouse tender] some for their mess. [Source: National Archives, Record Group 26, Entry 50, “Correspondence of the Bureau of Lighthouses, 1911-39”]

A photo documenting some the vegetables grown in the sand around Point Wilson Light Station by Keeper Thomas was found among the photos of Point Wilson in 26-LG collection at the National Archives.

The photo, taken by 17th District Clerk T.J. Zimmerman, is entitled “Vegetables Grown by Wm. J. Thomas, Keeper” and shows two potatoes, a parsnip, a clove of garlic and a carrot. Photo dated October 16, 1917, from the National Archives.
Point Wilson Light Station in March 2017. The station can be viewed in Fort Worden State Park. Photo by Candace Clilfford
Point Wilson’s siren fog signals in 1923. (There were two in case one failed.) National Archives 26-LG-62-39
The fourth order lens with its three red panels was manufactured by Sattter, Lemonnier et Cie A Paris. When active it was a fixed white characteristic varied by a red flash every 20 seconds. Today the active light is produced by the VRB 25 on the outside railing and has a characteristic of alternating red or white flash every 5 seconds. Photo by Candace Clifford, 2017

William Thomas served as principal keeper at Point Wilson until 1925. He and his assistant maintained a first-class siren fog signal and a fourth-order lens. The lens with its three red panels was manufactured by Sautter, Lemonnier et Cie, Paris, France. [Source: Classical Lenses in the U.S.] During Thomas’s tenure it was a fixed white characteristic varied by a red flash every 20 seconds. Today the lens is a static display and the active light is produced by a modern VRB 25 on the outside railing with a characteristic of alternating red or white flash every 5 seconds. Photo by Candace Clifford, 2017.

Submitted by Candace Clifford, March 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 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.

News

St. Croix’s Hams Bluff Lighthouse: A Study in Neglect

Article and photos by Michael Salvarezza and Christopher P. Weaver
© 2016 Eco-Photo Explorers
Eco-Photo Explorers - Lighthouse Image Collection
The hike to the Hams Bluff Lighthouse is a moderate one. Photo courtesy of authors.

The road seemed almost impassable: deep ruts, numerous potholes, nonexistent markings, very spotty pavement and pools of water were presenting a challenge not only to the suspension on our car but to our spinal cords! We began to question how the local government could even assign a number (route 63) to this road!

We were on the island of St. Croix, a United States territory with a distinctly Caribbean feel. Our destination was the seldom-visited Hams Bluff Lighthouse. After miles of steadily deteriorating road conditions, we arrived at the end of Route 63 and parked in front of the National Guard facility. The rest of the way would be on foot.

Hams Bluff VI ca 1936 HABS LOC 050083pv
Hams Bluff Lighthouse ca. 1936. HABS photo courtesy of Library of Congress

The hike to the Hams Bluff Lighthouse is a moderate one. In the tropical heat and humidity it is important to take water and to take breaks along the way. The trail to the lighthouse is all uphill for about 30 minutes, winding its way through brush, tall grass, and tropical forest. Because the conditions on the trail vary greatly, it’s a good idea to wear sturdy footwear and long pants. Sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses and insect repellent are highly recommended.

Before long, though, the canopy of vegetation gives way to blue sky and this is the sign that you have almost reached the summit of the bluff. Rounding a final turn in the trail, we caught our first glimpse of the Hams Head Lighthouse.

Our hearts dropped.

Eco-Photo Explorers - Lighthouse Image Collection
St. Croix’s Hams Bluff Lighthouse. Photo courtesy of the authors
Eco-Photo Explorers - Lighthouse Image Collection
Rust detail on exterior. Photo courtesy of authors

There before us was the rusting hulk of this once handsome and useful lighthouse. Standing on a cement platform, the 35-foot tower stood in the baking sun atop this bluff overlooking the Caribbean Sea and its deteriorating condition was immediately evident. Huge streaks of rust stains ran down its sides, the rails on the cupola were broken in spots and several areas of the tower had completely decayed through to the inside.

Eco-Photo Explorers - Lighthouse Image Collection
Interior with stairs. Photo courtesy of the authors

The door was ajar and we could make our way inside to a dank, soggy interior. The floor consisted of a crunchy layer of fallen iron and steel flakes, and the walls were all desecrated with thoughtless graffiti. A short ladder led to the second level of the lighthouse, and once upstairs we were reluctant to walk around for fear of falling through the rapidly crumbling floor. We could see from this level, however, the wonderful views of the sea and the bluff, and could easily imagine the usefulness of this lone sentinel when it was in operation.

The Hams Bluff Lighthouse was built in 1915 by the Danish government, who owned this island at the time, and was originally operated by lighthouse keeper A.L.F.L. Madsen.

The lighthouse was constructed with cast iron on a concrete foundation and was originally painted white with a black cupola. It was built atop the Hams Bluff, which rises to a height of about 360 feet above sea level, to help mariners navigate safely around the west end of the island and into Fredericksted Harbor. Shortly after it was built, the Danish West Indies were sold to the United States. St. Croix, along with St. Thomas and St. John, became United States territories and at this point the U.S. Coast Guard took over operation of the lighthouse. In the mid-1990s, the lighthouse was deactivated.

Eco-Photo Explorers - Lighthouse Image Collection
In 2010, a skeleton tower was built alongside the abandoned lighthouse and it currently operates two white flashes every 30 seconds. Photo courtesy of the authors

We stood on the bluff with the cooling breeze coming up over the hills from the water. It felt good after our strenuous and sweaty climb to this point. The views of nearby Annaly Bay and Davis Bay were stunning. But we could not shake the melancholy feeling of sadness over the condition of this poor, once proud lighthouse. Clearly it has been deteriorating for years in the harsh salty environment atop the bluff. With every hour of searing tropical sun we could imagine another flake of iron falling off the side of the tower. Neglected, forgotten, abandoned this lighthouse will soon crumble into the soil of the bluff. There have been some efforts to preserve this remnant of history but so far nothing has really resulted in any progress.

Honestly, we wonder if it’s too far gone anyway at this point.

The area surrounding and including the bluff has another, darker component of history that is also fading away into the recesses of time. Maroon Ridge is the geological feature that the area takes its name from, and during the time of Danish ownership of the island, a community of slaves was known to be here in an area the Danes referred to as Maroonberg. According to historical accounts, a particularly brutal form of slavery was operated on St. Croix, with runaway slaves severely and publically beaten and tortured. Runaways often headed for this remote area and used it as a way to leave for Puerto Rico. Thousands fled the plantations in search of freedom, and many would eventually pass through Maroon Ridge. Many were recaptured by the Danes, but many more committed suicide rather than face recapture. Documents indicate that only 300 brave and desperate slaves ever made it to Puerto Rico and to freedom.

Eco-Photo Explorers - Lighthouse Image Collection
The view from the lantern room. Photo courtesy of authors

We sat in silence, our thoughts wandering through the pages of the past to imagine a time when lighthouse keepers tended to this lighthouse and mariners depended upon its service. We contemplated the desperation of the runaway slaves who passed through here long before this lighthouse had ever been built. And we were struck by the history that lies embedded in these hills and forests, a history that is fading with each passing year.

We then stood up, bid the lighthouse good bye and began our hike down the bluff and back to our car. Along the way, a tear mixed with our sweat and dropped to the forest floor, a token of our concern for this neglected lighthouse on St. Croix and a measure of our respect for the slaves who passed through these hills. As we walked away, we stole one final glance at the lighthouse that still maintains its dignity despite years of neglect. And we wished it well.

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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.

News

Grants for Lighthouse Preservation Now Available

DEADLINE REMINDER: Letters of Intent are due March 24, 2017

U.S. Lighthouse Society News

The 2017 cycle for the U.S. Lighthouse Society’s Lighthouse Preservation Grants Program has begun. Letters of Intent must be received by March 24, 2017. Potential projects can relate to either preservation execution (i.e., “capital” or “bricks and mortar” projects) or preservation planning (i.e., “non-capital” projects); for example, research at National Archives, designs, drawings, assessments, surveys, etc. Grants up to $10,000 are available.

spring-point-ledge-me-2009-chad-kaiser-3-copy In 2016 a $9,000 grant was awarded to the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse Trust in Maine to support replacing the lantern vent ball on the breakwater lighthouse and repairing damage in the lantern caused by water intrusion. 2009 photo by Chad Kaiser.

After an initial review by the Grants Committee, applicants will be informed by May 7, 2017, of their acceptance and will be asked to provide a full application by June 19, 2017. For more information on program guidelines and selection criteria see https://uslhs.org/about/preservation-grants-program-gidelines.

In 2016 a total of…

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Awards · News · Society Members

Ralph Eshelman Receives Ross Holland Award

Mike Vogel presents Ross Holland award to Ralph Eshelman 2017 JCC lores
Ralph Eshelman receives Ross Holland award from Mike Vogel, chair of the American Lighthouse Council, during the recent U.S. Lighthouse Society Board meeting.

Established by the American Lighthouse Council to recognize truly exceptional contributions by an individual or group, the Holland Award is the major national honor bestowed by the lighthouse preservation community. It is named for Francis Ross Holland, Jr., who received the initial Distinguished Service Award that was to henceforth carry his name.

Ralph Eshelman receives Holland award 2017 JCC lores
Ralph Eshelman with Ross Holland award.

Dr. Eshelman was presented the Holland Award during a recent U.S. Lighthouse Society Board meeting. Mike Vogel, chair of the American Lighthouse Council, read the following citation:

Ralph Eshelman got involved in lighthouse preservation in 1975 when, a year after he was appointed the first director of the Calvert Marine Museum, he led the team that moved Maryland’s 1883 Drum Point Lighthouse ashore for an accurate and meticulous three-year restoration and interpretation effort. He has been deeply involved in the movement ever since, making exceptional contributions to a lighthouse community that has benefitted deeply from his expertise, advice and leadership.

A geologist, paleontologist, polar tour and expedition guide, lecturer and the author of five books on the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake Theater, Ralph has served as a trustee of the Maryland Historical Trust and in 1996 wrote that organization’s Lighthouse Preservation and Interpretation Plan. He also authored a context theme study and National Register nomination for 17 light stations in Maryland, and at the national level served as historian on several federal assessment teams that surveyed 31 historic lighthouses throughout the United States, co-authored the Maritime Heritage of the United States National Historic Landmark Theme Context Study for Lighthouses for the National Park Service, and prepared National Landmark nominations for three masonry lighthouses including Cape Hatteras.

Ralph was the historian for the team that wrote the Historic Lighthouse Preservation Handbook for the National Park Service and Coast Guard in 1997, and that year was one of three lighthouse leaders who formed the National Lighthouse Museum Steering Committee. He served as the committee’s president as it developed the national museum concept and also formed the American Lighthouse Coordinating Committee, later renamed the American Lighthouse Council. He remained active in both of those organizations, serving as a vice president of the developing lighthouse museum.

A past president of the Council of American Maritime Museums and founding vice president of the National Maritime Preservation Task Force of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Ralph is an owner of a cultural resource management consultancy firm, a consultant to the National Park Service and the founding principal of a lighthouse preservation firm. A veteran member of the United States Lighthouse Society’s board of directors, he has played a leading role in the development of the Society’s Strategic Plan and grants program, and most recently has led the Society’s assessment of the Alcatraz Lighthouse in California as a step toward preservation and interpretation of that light in cooperation with state and federal agencies. His expertise, invaluable advice and outstanding leadership is recognized by this presentation of the H. Ross Holland Award, the lighthouse preservation movement’s highest lifetime honor.

Ralph Eshelman award at 2017 USLHS Board Mtg JCC lores
U.S. Lighthouse Society Board members Henry Gonzalez, Bill Merlin, Tom Tag, Ralph Eshelman, Mike Vogel, Wayne Wheeler, and Elinor DeWire during the award presentation on March 18, 2017.

Submitted by Candace Clifford with citation provided by Mike Vogel, March 21, 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 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.

Event · News · Overnight Accommodation

First Annual Heceta Head Lightstation Birthday Party Scheduled for March 30

Heceta Head Lightstation is celebrating 123 years of the First Order Fresnel Lens shining its light on the Oregon Coast on March 30th from 4 to 7 pm.

Heceta Head OR photo by Curt Peters of Digital Dunes Photography in Florence, OR lores
Heceta Head Light Station courtesy of Curt Peters of Digital Dunes Photography, Florence, Oregon

Birthday Party sponsors, Travel Lane County, will be providing warm drinks and cupcakes.  Taylor Sausages will be serving hot dogs, and Destination Events has donated a popcorn machine! Local musicians Marty Adams, Sea Strings, and High Tide will perform at the historic Keeper’s House. State Park and U.S. Forest Service interpretive docents will be giving tours of the lighthouse and light keeper’s house, and informative talks about this gorgeous coast line.

Bring your camera to have your photo taken on the front porch with the lighthouse in the background to commemorate this fun community supported family event. The Gift Shop will also be open and newly stocked with amazing souvenirs and informative books and videos. Bring your lighthouse passports to be stamped!

Entry to the Keeper’s House is free but donations are gladly accepted. Parking is available at the Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic View Point, just below the Keeper’s House, and NW Adventures Quest will shuttle visitors from the park right to the front door.  Or enjoy the beautiful spring walk up from the beach to the festivities. Parking at the viewpoint is $5.00 per vehicle.

Heceta Head
Heceta Head Light Station courtesy of Curt Peters of Digital Dunes Photography, Florence, Oregon

You can support the Restoration of the Lightstation and the Birthday Party events by entering the raffle. Win a free night’s stay at the Bed & Breakfast as well as great prizes from local artists and businesses.

If you would like more information please contact the Heceta Lighthouse B&B at (866) 547-3696keepers@hecetalighthouse.com, or visit our website, www.hecetalighthouse.com.

Submitted by Misty Anderson, Inn Manager and Event Coordinator, Heceta Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast, March 13, 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 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.

News · Preservation · Tours

Preservation of Thomas Point Shoal Light Station

thomas_point_shoal-loresThe Chesapeake Chapter of the U.S. Lighthouse Society has done an amazing job restoring both the exterior and interior of Thomas Point Shoal Light Station, the last intact screwpile lighthouse that remains in its original location in the Chesapeake Bay not far from Annapolis. Visitors can enjoy tours of this landmark structure during the summer and fall.

Bob Stevenson, the Chapter’s education coordinator, recently shared these wonderful photos of the restored interior. The kitchen and sitting room reflect the period when the lighthouse was administered by the U.S. Light-House Board around the turn of the 20th century, and the office shows the period after the U.S. Coast Guard took over in 1939.

Thomas Point MD Kitchen 2016 photo by Bob Stevenson loresThomas Point MD Sitting_Room 2016 photo by Bob Stevenson loresCBF_VIP_Tour-23

In 2017, tours of the lighthouse will be offered at 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon on June 10, July 1, July 15, July 29, August 5, August 19, September 2, September 9, September 30, and October 7.

Visitors should contact the U.S. Lighthouse Society for reservations. (Society members get a $10 discount.) These are “adventure tours” requiring agility and safe footwear. A mandatory safety video explains all this. See http://uslhs.org/about/thomas-point-shoal-lighthouse/tours for more information on reserving your tour and to learn more about the history of the light station.

Submitted by Candace Clifford with photos and tour details from Bob Stevenson, March 11, 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 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.