The USLHS web site redesign goes online, with grant program

Originally posted on American Lighthouse Council:

After months of hard work by a U.S. Lighthouse Society design team, the new USLHS web site went live late yesterday. You owe it to yourself to check it out, because it’s as comprehensive a lighthouse site as we’re likely to see. And, it’s important to note, it also rolls out the USLHS preservation grants program.

It’s at http://www.uslhs.org , the same address as the old site design it replaces.

As a board member and one of the beta testers, I had a glimpse of just how much work went into this revamping of the Society’s internet presence. That workload was amazing, and the site reflects that.

The grants program accessed through the site will start out modestly and build as the fund behind it grows and more investment interest is available for distribution. But if you have a project in need of funding this season, check this out —…

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Lighthouses of Northern Florida

Cape San Blas Light Station was moved to its new location in Port St. Joe in July 1914 to avoid encroaching erosion.

Cape San Blas Light Station was moved to its new location in Port St. Joe in July 2014 to avoid encroaching erosion.

Quite a lot has happened in the preservation of lighthouses along the Gulf coast of northern Florida since David Cipra’s Lighthouses, Lightships, and the Gulf of Mexico was published in 1997. (Cipra’s book is a comprehensive history of all the lights on the Gulf coast based on extensive archival research.)

According to Cipra’s book, four masonry towers were erected on Cape San Blas between 1848 and 1885 when a skeletal iron tower was completed. The tower was moved several times back from the eroding shoreline before its most recent move to Port St. Joe. See their website for dramatic images of the 2014 move.

The reconstructed Cape St. George tower with its replica keepers greets you as you arrive on St. George Island.

The reconstructed Cape St. George tower with its replica keeper’s dwelling greets you as you arrive on St. George Island.

Although the final tower at Cape San Blas survived many hurricanes, the tower at Cape St. George did not. Cipra wrote of the 1852 tower being undermined by erosion; however the effects of two subsequent hurricanes and more wave action completely toppled the tower in 2005. The St. George Lighthouse Association salvaged what bricks they could along with pieces of the lantern and reconstructed the tower as the centerpiece of St. George Island. It opened to the public in 2008.

Crooked River Lighthouse was deeded to the City of Carrabelle in 2001.

Crooked River Lighthouse was first lit in 1895. It was approaching it’s 100th birthday when the station was deactivated by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1995. When the Coast Guard declared the lighthouse as surplus to their needs four years later, the Carrabelle Lighthouse Association was formed to preserve the lighthouse. After an extensive and meticulous restoration, it is now open to the public. According to Cipra the tower was given its red and white daymark to distinguish it from the surrounding pine forest.

Crooked River's replica fourth order lens was fabricated by Dan Spinella of Artworks Florida.

Crooked River’s replica fourth order lens was fabricated by Dan Spinella of Artworks Florida.

The Crooked River keeper's dwelling serves as a museum and gift shop.

The Crooked River keeper’s dwelling serves as a museum and gift shop.

The 1842 St. Marks Lighthouse, located in the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge, has survived many hurricanes.

The 1842 St. Marks Lighthouse, located in the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge, has survived many hurricanes.

In 2013 the U.S. Coast Guard transferred the St. Marks Lighthouse to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service who are in the planning phases of restoration.

Located on the Pensacola Naval Air Station, the Pensacola Lighthouse opened for regular visitation in 2010.

The Pensacola Lighthouse opened for regular visitation in 2010.

Stairs at Pensacola Lighthouse

Stairs at Pensacola Lighthouse

The fifth and final lighthouse on the Panhandle is the Pensacola Light Station. The current tower was erected as a coastal light with a first-order Fresnel lens in 1858. (The current lens was installed around 1869 and continues as an active aid to navigation.) Today you can tour the museum in the keepers’ dwelling and climb the 177 steps to the top of the tower and admire the lens and spectacular view.

All photos by Candace Clifford, January 2015.

 

 

 

Lighthouses at the Start of World War II

Scott Prices’s recent post “Pearl Harbor: 5 things you didn’t know about the Coast Guard that day” starting me thinking about what I had in my research files about lighthouses around the beginning of World War II.

Makapuu logbook

The log for the Makapuu Lighthouse, on Oahu not far from Honolulu, shows that watches were increased in the week after the Pearl Harbor attack.

As you all know, the U.S. Coast Guard became part of the U.S. Navy during the war.  On December 12, 1941, a confidential memorandum from U.S. Coast Guard Commandant R.R. Waesche discussed “Coast Guard National Defense Functions”:

While all reports received at Headquarters and the Navy Department have shown that the duties performed by Coast Guard officers and men have been very satisfactory, and in many cases deserving of commendation, I believe it desirable to call attention of our Senior Officers and to Captains of the Port, the following matters:

In addition to the duties being performed by Coast Guard officers and men at sea, there are two National Defense functions of paramount importance now being performed by the Coast Guard organization. I refer to the blacking out of aids to navigation on short notice, and the prevention of sabotage in our ports. . . . No organized plan of sabotage has as yet broken out in our seaports, but it is to be expected any time that such an organized effort may occur.

Senior Coast Guard Officers of the Naval District are also directly responsible to see that adequate and efficient plans are made for quickly extinguishing navigation lights. Some plans received at Headquarters require from two to three hours to black out a harbor. I believe by this time that this period has been greatly reduced.  Among the various measures that may be taken to accomplish the general purpose are the following:

a) Replacing lighted aids with unlighted aids for the duration of the war.

b) Reducing the candle power of various lighted aids to navigation.

c) Removal of all radio beacon buoys.

d) Taking measures to prevent lighted aids to navigation from being seen from the air while still visible from a surface vessel.

e) The feasibility of withdrawing lightships from their stations and replacing them if necessary, with other types of aids to navigation

f) The elimination of radio beacons either on lightships or on shore stations.

g) Limitation or elimination of fog signals

h) Elimination or limitation of lighted aids to navigation.

(Source: National Archives Record Group 26, Entry 82C)

This memo found in National Archives, RG 26, Entry 82c, indicates that an incident such as the Pearl Harbor attack was not unanticipated.

This memo found in National Archives, RG 26, Entry 82c, indicates that an incident such as the Pearl Harbor attack was not unanticipated.

It is interesting to note that a memo regarding “Coastal Lookouts at lighthouse stations, etc.” dated December 5, 1941, was issued before the attack. It begins:

In two districts the matter of establishing coastal lookouts at light stations to be manned by Coast Guard personnel has been considered and is being approved. These are located at prominent salients along the coast where continuous watches from lifeboat stations are not available. In some cases, at least, such lookouts would be provided with search light facilities for signaling or for challenging and communication with passing ships. . . .

(Source: National Archives Record Group 26, Entry 82C)

Makapuu Point Lighthouse. National Archives photo

Makapuu Point Lighthouse. National Archives photo

Letters from the First District Lighthouse Inspector, 1884 – 1885

Letter submitting Marcus Hanna's application for a lifesaving medal.

Letter submitting Marcus Hanna’s application for a lifesaving medal.

Many lighthouse “letterbooks” were damaged in a fire in the basement of the Department of Commerce in 1921. (This same fire destroyed the 1890 census.) I’ve heard that 40% of the lighthouse records that existed at that time were destroyed. Many surviving volumes were damaged and are too fragile to handle. In order to make them accessible to the general public I have started a digitization project to capture the damaged volumes.

The volume of letters from the first district Inspector to the U.S. Light-House Board, 1884 – 1885, was more than 500 pages–too large to create a PDF for web use so for this volume, I have created an image gallery.

Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse Keeper Marcus Hanna.  Image courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard

Cape Elizabeth Keeper Marcus Hanna. Image courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard

Most of the letters are routine but I noticed that this volume covers the January 28, 1885, rescue of crew from the shipwrecked schooner Australia (see p. 188).  Cape Elizabeth lighthouse keeper Marcus Hanna went on to receive a gold lifesaving medal for his role in the rescue. On page 418, you find First District Inspector A.S. Crowninshield’s letter:

I have the honor to forward herewith an application from Mr. Marcus A. Hanna, Principal Keeper of Cape Elizabeth Light Station for a medal of honor for rescuing the lives of two persons from the wreck of the Schooner “Australia” on the morning of Jan. 28th ’85: together with sworn statements from several of the eye witnesses of the circumstances, and others.

In referring this application of Mr. Hanna’s to the Board, I would respectfully state, without hesitation, that Mr. Hanna’s exposure to danger on the occasion in question, was made under great peril to himself; and in my opinion, I believe him entitled to the reward he is now seeking.

The wreck of the Australia drew support for a lifesaving station that was established at Cape Elizabeth in 1888. More on Keeper Hanna can be found in Maine Lighthouses: Documentation of Their Past.

Cape Elizabeth Lifesaving Station, Maine.  Note one of the twin lighthouse towers in the background. Photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard

Cape Elizabeth Lifesaving Station, Maine. Note one of the twin lighthouse towers in the background. Photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard

Support Needed for More Funding for Maritime Preservation

Tim Runyan of the National Maritime Alliance is asking folks in the lighthouse community to support legislation that will restore funding originally allocated to the maritime heritage community.  This includes historic naval ships, maritime museums, tall ships for sail training, lighthouses, maritime historical societies, education, and preservation organizations.

He has drafted a Letter in support of the Storis Act that you can use as a template for your communication.  He especially needs folks from the following districts to show their support:

  • Sen. Carl Levin, D-MI, chair, Senate Armed Services Committee
  • Sen. Angus King, D-ME, member of Senate Armed Services Committee
  • Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, member of Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation
  • Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, member of Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation 
  • Sen. Jack Reed, D-RI, #2 on Senate Armed Services Committee

Letters can be submitted via the Senator’s Contact tab on their web page. After saving the letter, copy/paste it into your message to the senator.  If there is a drop down tab to indicate what it concerns–put Defense or Armed Services.  Please copy your letter to Tim Runyan at <runyant@ecu.edu>

More Money for Lighthouses

lighthousehistory:

The American Lighthouse Council has created a new website with a blog specifically intended for folks working in lighthouse preservation. In this post, Mike Vogel reports on funding efforts for maritime heritage resources and education.

Originally posted on American Lighthouse Council:

There still is federal money available for lighthouse preservation, but there should be more. There’s an effort now under way in Congress to make that happen, and it could use your support.

First, what’s out there: Under a law passed in the 1990s, a portion of the proceeds from scrapping Navy and Coast Guard ships in the “mothball fleet” is supposed to go to maritime preservation and education. After a first round of $650,000 in grants to 39 projects in 1998, the program went dormant as scrap metal prices tanked and environmental concerns added costs to the scrapping. But that’s improved, and recently $7 million was made available to restart the process.

The program is administered by the National Park Service, which will be using its administrative percent to restart its Maritime Heritage Program, itself a good thing. And NPS has decided to stretch that $7 million pot four years…

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