Legendary Lighthouses: In the Shadow of the Lighthouse-Maine
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lighthouse Legendary Lighthouses  In the Shadow of the Lighthouse: Maine PBS Online
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Lighthouses of Maine
In the Shadow of the Lighthouse

Flying Santa

Maine Lights Program

Jamie Wyeth and Southern Island

Shore Village Museum

Lighthouse Digest/Depot

Lobster Festival at Rockland

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Flying Santa

The tradition of the Flying Santa Over the Lighthouses was begun by Bill Wincapaw, an aviator who felt he owed his life to the beam of a lighthouse. Returning to an airfield one night, he got disoriented, but found his way after recognizing Dice Head Light. In gratitude, he dropped a package to the family there the day after Christmas. He then conceived the idea of thanking the many benevolent families at lighthouses over Christmas. The tradition was continued for 50 years by Edward Rowe Snowe, New England Historian, who expanded his gift giving as far as the Gulf of Mexico, the great Lakes and the West Coast. In the 1930’s, Mrs. Edward Hopkins, wife of the keeper at Ten Pound Lighthouse in Massachusetts, gave him a present by writing out "Merry Christmas" with newspapers in the snow. Snowe took a picture from the plane, and it became front page news on a Boston newspaper. Now traveling by helicopter, George Morgan, the present Flying Santa, distributes gifts at more than 30 Maine lighthouses each December -- sporting his own flowing white beard. (See Bibliography: DeWire p. 166-169)

Maine Lights Program

Peter Ralston of the Island Institute conceived of the Maine Lights Program -- a mass Congressional transfer of lighthouses -- as he was working with the Coast Guard on the transfer of ownership of Heron Neck Lighthouse. Ralston, US. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and former US Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell eventually drafted legislation signed by President Clinton on October 16, 1996, that would transfer 36 lighthouses to public and private nonprofit organizations that could ensure upkeep and public access.

The legislation basically works as follows:

The Coast Guard will maintain the aids to navigation in each structure -- light and radio beacons and fog horns.

Ownership of the land and the rest of each lighthouse complex will be transferred to a public or nonprofit organization that can demonstrate the financial resources to maintain the property and can guarantee public access.

The Island Institute receives applications and names are forwarded to an independent selection committee made up of Maine residents representing diverse interests. They will designate new ownership, and deeds will be conveyed by the state transportation secretary. The entire process must be completed by October 1998.

The Maine Historic Preservation Commission will monitor the progress of new owners.

At this point, distribution of lighthouses is as follows: 4 to United States Fish and Wildlife Agency; 2 to state agencies; 6 to municipalities; 20-25 to non-profit groups.

The Maine Lights Program is a pilot program which has already aroused great interest in the Great Lakes, Alaska and Chesapeake regions.

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Jamie Wyeth and Southern Island

Southern Island and its lighthouse are the subject of dozens of paintings by both Andew and son Jamie Wyeth. Southern Island is a tiny 22-acre expanse of rock, grasses and a few spruce trees, with a sweeping view of the Atlantic. The Southern Island Lighthouse was built in 1857, extinguished in 1934 and restored by Betsy James Wyeth in the 1970s as a private retreat for Andrew Wyeth. After they moved further out to sea in 1990, Jamie took over Southern Island Light as his principal studio and residence. An excellent article in ISLAND JOURNAL by Christopher Crosman, director of the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, illustrates these and interprets many of their paintings. The museum has established a special Wyeth Collection Center to exhibit both Wyeths’ paintings from Andrew and Betsy Wyeth’s personal collection.

Shore Village Museum

This small museum, brainchild of former Coast Guardsman Ken Black, is housed in the Grand Army Building in Rockland Maine. It is reputed to have the largest collection of lighthouse artifacts anywhere in the nation. The foghorns, bells, and lenses on display are all in excellent working order, including an impressive second-order Fresnel lens, which was built for Petit Manon Light. There are hundreds of items on display including lifesaving equipment, nautical instruments, photographs, etc. Ken Black often says, "Lighthouses are like people. They come in all sizes, shapes and colors. Unfortunately, some are brighter than others."

Lighthouse Depot and Lighthouse Digest

Operating out of their house and garage, Tim Harrison and wife Kathleen Finger started a small business selling lighthouse collectibles and memorabilia in 1991. Additionally they solicited subscription funds for a lighthouse magazine. When they received only 30 subscriptions, they sent the money back feeling that it wasn’t sufficient to cover start-up expenses. All of the subscribers returned the money, asking him to use it to start a magazine. It is an informative monthly publication, with news, announcements and stories about lighthouses and related events. The store, which still operates out of a small dwelling in Wells, Maine, contains thousands of items. Yet, this represents 10% of the Harrisons’ business, which is mostly catalog sales. They mail 6 million catalogs a year and have a regular mailing list of 75,000 names. Lighthouse Depot is an underwriter of the PBS series of Legendary Lighthouses.

Lobster Festival in Rockland Maine

Rockland is a busy fishing community, whose harbor supports hundreds of lobster boats, a commercial fishing fleet, windjammers, yachts, ferries, etc. Stated to be the lobster capital of the world. It is the home of the Maine Lobster Festival every August.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Portland is the home to the WADSWORTH-LONGFELLOW HOUSE, open June to October.

Talking of a fog bell.....

The Wreck of the Hesperus

"O father! I hear the church bells ring

O say what may it be?"

’Tis a fog bell on a rock-bound coast!

And he steered for the open sea.

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