52 Slices
Medium 9780892725854

Franklin Island Light

Caldwell, Bill Down East Books ePub

Franklin Island Light deserves lots of respect as the third-oldest workhorse light in Maine—but Franklin gets little love or admiration.

Franklin was built by order of President Thomas Jefferson, almost Two hundred years ago. Started in 1803, the light has been flashing across Muscongus Bay since it was finished in 1807. Only Portland Head Light (1791) and Seguin (1795) are older than Franklin. It is a testimony of how important the shipping trade that sailed through the general area of Monhegan, Friendship, Port Clyde, and Pemaquid was to our young nation.

The light at Monhegan was not built until 1824, and the light at Pemaquid was not started until 1827. Two other Maine lights, the nearby light at Whitehead (1804) and the light at West Quoddy Head, close to the border with Canada (1808), are of the same vintage as Franklin Light. And in 1855, when Franklin Pierce—the Bowdoin graduate—was president, Franklin Light was improved and rebuilt.

TWenty-seven of Maine’s lights were not built until after Franklin had been rebuilt. These facts indicate how busy coastal shipping was in this part of midcoast Maine, and how great a danger were the myriad ledges around Franklin. For these reasons, Franklin merits respect. Keepers manned this light for 160 years, until it was automated in 1967.

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Petit Manan Light

Caldwell, Bill Down East Books ePub

Petit Manan is shortened in speech to “Titmanan,” and sometimes Anglo-Saxonized and abbreviated further to “Titman.” Petit Manan Light is beautiful and graceful, and the tallest lighthouse in Maine after Boon Island. From high-water mark to the top of the lantern is 123 feet. (Boon Island Light is 137 feet high.)

The light, authorized by President James Monroe, was first built in 1817. There is little available information about the light and its keepers in its earliest years; but by the time it was fourteen, it was in real trouble.

The auditor of the Treasury in charge of lighthouses was Stephen Pleasonton, and in 1831 he wrote an upbraiding letter to John Chandler, superintendent of lights for Maine:

Petit Manan … is stated to be in “Very Bad Condition” indeed—built of worse materials than Desert Light—the lantern is in good working order, but otherwise the place is positively dirty; dwelling house much out of repair and leaking badly; the keeper has gone off, being tired of his state of independence and left his wife in charge of the whole concern …You will cause the necessary repairs to be made: and if the keeper has actually left the establishment to his wife, another appointment will be recommended.”

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Portland Head Light

Caldwell, Bill Down East Books ePub

The light at Portland Head is the best-known, most visited, and most photographed light in Maine. And for good reasons.

First, Portland Head Light is historic—one of the oldest lighthouses in the nation. It was begun in 1787 by order of President George Washington. The man who paid the bill was Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury. Second, the views from the tower are spectacular. All the myriad islands of Casco Bay and beyond are spread in a wondrous panorama: twelve other lighthouses can be seen, their beacons flashing through the night. Third, the light is very easy to get to from Portland, Maine’s largest city, and visitors are welcome.

Fourth, this light is famed in American literature. Henry Longfellow walked here often, wrote about it frequently in his poetry, and often took a sunbath on the adjacent rocks. Elijah Kellogg in his once popular series of boys’ books, the “Ellis Island” series, wrote about islands that could be seen from here; Harriet Beecher Stowe (of Uncle Tom’s Cabin fame) wrote The Pearl of Orr’s Island, and poet Edna St. Vincent Millay lived on Ragged Island, also in easy view from Portland Head Light.

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Portland Lightships

Caldwell, Bill Down East Books ePub

Once there were 122 lightships in the United States. Today there are none. The era of stalwart lightships is gone forever. Yet the memory, the nostalgia, and the love of lightships live on.

Lightships live in the long memories of old immigrants heading from Europe to a new life in the New World. The first foretaste of their new world was the lightship that signaled they were at long last coming to their American harbor. Lightships live in the memories of mariners, to whom these special marks signaled the safe end of a long voyage. And lightships live in the memories—not always fond ones—of the men who served aboard these bouncing tethered sentinels of our coast.

Portland had a series of four lightships for seventy-two years, from 1903 until 1975, when the last Portland lightship was replaced by an automated, crewless, large navigational buoy.

Portland’s first lightship came on station March 7, 1903, anchored in seabed selected by divers six miles east-southeast of Cape Elizabeth. This lightship, Number 74 in the annals of the Lighthouse Service, was three years late in reporting for duty. This delay was due, first, to delays in the shipyard that built her, the Parkersburg Iron Works in Virginia, and second, because no sooner had she been launched than she went hard aground in the James River.

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Wood Island Light

Caldwell, Bill Down East Books ePub

The biggest, most popular beach in Maine is at Old Orchard. Standing out from Old Orchard Beach, eyed by tens of thousands of summer swimmers and sunbathers here, and at the army of summer trailers at Camp Ellis, stands the Wood Island Light. A few miles to the west, marking the entrance to Cape Porpoise Harbor, is Goat Island Light, built in 1833, by order of President Andrew Jackson. These are tourist meccas now—but once it was mackerel that schooled in Old Orchard Bay and Biddeford Pool. Fleets of seine boats chased them and waited for them. A few miles offshore lies Wood Island and at its eastern end, marking the south entrance to Wood Island Harbor, stands the light, ordered built by President Thomas Jefferson in 1808.

The tower was conical, made from granite blocks. As shipping multiplied, a better aid to navigation than the conical tower was needed, and under President James Buchanan the light was improved. Today it is further improved. The light sends out two 500,000-candlepower flashes every six seconds, stands seventy-one feet above the sea, and was one of the few island light stations along the Maine coast that was still manned, until its automation in 1986.

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