AUGUSTA, Maine – Twenty-two light stations plan to participate in the fourth annual Maine Open Lighthouse Day, happening rain or shine on Sept. 15. Coastal, island and river lighthouses will welcome the public for tours and special activities.
The event is the largest of its kind in the country, and is coordinated by the U.S. Coast Guard, in partnership with the Maine Office of Tourism and the American Lighthouse Foundation.
Most lights will be open to visitors from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for guided or self-guided tours of keeper’s houses and light towers. Some light stations will have limited accessibility or special restrictions. The event website www.lighthouseday.com has details about visitor hours, fees, activities and transportation to each participating lighthouse. People can also contact the friends group of an individual light for more information.
South Coast: Wood Island Lighthouse off the coast of Biddeford Pool.
Greater Portland: Portland Breakwater Lighthouse (Bug Light), South Portland; Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse, South Portland; Portland Head Lighthouse, Cape Elizabeth.
Midcoast: Browns Head Lighthouse on Vinalhaven Island, Burnt Island Lighthouse, Boothbay Harbor; Curtis Island Lighthouse, Camden; Doubling Point Lighthouse, Arrowsic; Fort Point Lighthouse, Stockton Springs; Grindle Point Lighthouse, Islesboro; Kennebec River Range Lights (two towers), Arrowsic; Marshall Point Lighthouse, Port Clyde; Monhegan Island Lighthouse, Monhegan Island; Owls Head Lighthouse, Owls Head; Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, Bristol; Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse, Rockland; Seguin Island Lighthouse, off Popham Beach; Whitehead Lighthouse; Whitehead Island.
Downeast: Burnt Coat Harbor Lighthouse, Swan’s Island; Dyce Head Lighthouse, Castine; Little River Lighthouse, Cutler; West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, Lubec.
Looking Like New
Visitors will notice recent improvements at several lighthouses completed by historic preservation firms or local volunteers, and ranging from new paint to windows, roofs and siding. The keeper’s house at Wood Island received a complete exterior overhaul in 2011, which included the construction of an open air front porch to match the design of the house in 1906. The large keeper’s house (one keeper and his wife had 11 children) on Swan’s Island has received a new roof, new clapboards, restored windows and exterior paint in recent years.
The Owls Head Lighthouse staircase, landing and ladder, and its lantern room window panes were rehabilitated during a 2010 project, as was the exterior of the 30-foot sentinel. The newest addition to the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse is a late 1800s wooden peapod on display in the boathouse. The boat was rowed to the lighthouse recently after being restored by a traditional boat building school in Rockland. Visitors will also see newly restored wood floors in the keeper’s house.
Rare Fresnel Lenses
The Fresnel lens, named after its French inventor, was a state-of-the-art advancement for lighthouses in the 1820s. The glass lenses focus light through an array of thin, concentric sections which each act as a prism. The design allows a beam of light to be seen from as far as 20 miles away. Only 84 Fresnel lenses remain in working U.S. lighthouses according to the United States Lighthouse Society, and six of Maine’s eight working Fresnel lenses can be viewed during Open Lighthouse Day.
Fresnel lenses are sized by “orders.” A first-order lens is the largest with a focal length of 36″ and an optical area of eight and a half feet – large enough for a keeper to step inside. The smallest sixth-order lens has a focal length just under six inches and an optical area of 17″. The 1857 first-order lens at Seguin Island Light has an estimated value of $8 million, and is one of only 11 first-order lenses still in use in the U.S. Other participating lights with a Fresnel lens are Browns Head, Fort Point, Owls Head, Pemaquid Point and West Quoddy.
Midcoast Cruise and Lighthouse Trail
The American Lighthouse Foundation and Friends of Rockland Harbor Lights will kick-off the event with a Lighthouse Sunset Cruise http://www.lighthousefoundation.org/events/lh_cruise_2012sept14.htm on Sept. 14. The cruise aboard the Monhegan Boat Line vessel “Elizabeth Ann” from Port Clyde will provide up-close water views of five lights including Marshall Point and Tenants Harbor where artist Jamie Wyeth lives.
Document your visits to another set of Midcoast lights during the Deer Isle Lighthouse Trail Weekend http://www.deerisle.com/the-deer-isle-lighthouse-trail/ Sept. 14-16. See eight lights by boat, plane or self-driven tour, and collect passport stamps for each island light at nearby stamp locations.
United States Coast Guard
First District Public Affairs
On behalf of the Maine Office of Tourism
Bob Trapani, Executive Director
American Lighthouse Foundation