Enduring Beacons: Documenting America’s Lighthouses

Happy National Lighthouse Day! To celebrate, I’d like to share an exhibit I put together for the Park View Gallery at Glen Echo Park, Maryland. If you live in the D.C. metro area, the show will be up until August 26, 2017. The contemporary images are mine; most of the historic images are from the National Archives. Submitted by Candace Clifford, U.S. Lighthouse Society Historian, August 7, 2017  

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Los Angeles Lighthouses

I recently attended the Council of American Maritime Museums conference hosted by the Los Angeles Maritime Museum. Upon arrival in Los Angeles I went directly from the airport to the Point Fermin Lighthouse, where historic site manager Kristen Heather gave me a delightful tour. The visit was especially meaningful because the first keepers of Point Fermin Light, when it was established in 1874, were sisters Ella and Mary Smith. Although I realize these women had challenges living in such a remote location, I think it would have been a rather plum assignment when compared to many other light stations of that …

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Kate Walker Story to be told at Robbins Reef

The Noble Maritime Collection recently became the new steward of Robbins Reef Lighthouse, a caisson tower off Staten Island in New York Harbor. They plan to restore and interpret the station to how it looked in the early 1900s when Kate Walker was the keeper. We are excited by this development in that we devoted a chapter to Kate in our book Women Who Kept the Lights: An Illustrated History of Female Lighthouse Keepers and later made her part of the cover image of the kid’s version, Mind the Light Kate: The History of Thirty-Three Lighthouse Keepers.   When Kate’s husband John Walker …

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Modern Day Lighthouse Keeper – Bob Trapani

On my recent trip to Maine, I had the pleasure of stopping by Owls Head Lighthouse and catching up with Bob Trapani, president of the American Lighthouse Foundation.  The lighthouse, as you can see from these photos, looks fantastic.  Bob’s hard work has paid off.  Folks can now enter the tower and climb a few steps to enjoy the view and see the beautiful fourth-order Fresnel lens.  The keeper’s dwelling now houses the offices of the American Lighthouse Foundation on the second floor with the first floor devoted to a gift shop and some interpretation.  (And yes I did drop …

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Keeper Job Descriptions

Around 1928 lighthouse keeper salaries were reclassified.  As part of this process, keepers filled out a form that included their job description and the number of years they had served at that station.  These forms are part of National Archives Record Group 26, Entry 111 (NC-31) and are organized by district.  They include other personnel such as those working at lighthouse depots or for the US Airways Division.  Some stations are missing including those in what was then the second district.  The form for Curtis Island Lighthouse Station, Maine, is seen below.  Note that the station was originally called “Negro …

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Cast Iron Tower at Portland Breakwater

I posted a plan and photo of the first tower on the Portland Breakwater a few days ago.  Here is a historic image of the current cast iron tower constructed on the breakwater in 1875.  Note that the building attached to the tower no longer exists.  And the current tower is now painted white rather than a dark color. Below is a Historic American Building Survey (HABS) drawing of the current tower.  Note the classical columns.  You can download high-resolution HABS/HAER/HAL drawings and photos from the Built in America section of the Library of Congress website.

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Pemaquid Point at Sunset

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse is a popular spot for photographers at sunset. During a recent visit, we all took turns capturing the lighthouse in the reflection.  My best shot was this cell phone image.  Makes me wonder why I bother with the regular camera! Here is a far older image of the same tower taken circa 1859 before the two fog signals were added.  The configuration of the tower and keeper’s dwelling is remarkably similar. The current tower dates to 1835.  It replaced an earlier tower built by Jeremiah Berry in 1827.

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