David Ball has lived in the shadow of Scituate Light for most of his life, both as a summer and year-round resident of Rebecca Road, named for the War of 1812 “American Army of Two” heroine. He has become Cedar Point’s most recognized historian, author of both To the Point: The Story of Scituate Lighthouse and Cedar Point and Etrusco: From Cradle to Grave, relating the story of Scituate’s most dramatic and memorable shipwreck, which took place in March of 1956. More than just an historian, Ball is a staunch defender of the lighthouse’s past, leading a never-ending search for the validation of stories others regard as mere legends, without taking time to research facts. As president of the Cedar Point Association, he passes by the lighthouse on a daily basis, faithfully watching for any variations in the historic site’s status quo, acting much like the lighthouse keepers of old.
The future of Scituate Light, though, is the topic that fascinates Ball the most. As the President of the Scituate Historical Society, he is charged with ensuring the stability of the town’s most recognizable landmark for the benefit of future generations of Scituate residents and visitors. Ball has been the driving force behind several creative fund raising projects over the past few years for the Society, most notably co-authoring Arcadia Publishing’s most successful title for the year 2000, Images of America: Scituate. Two projects in particular, though, have raised funds specifically for Scituate Lighthouse and its nearly 200-year-old companion structures.
During the summer of 2000, Ball revealed a plan to raise funds for future preservation projects and programs at Scituate Lighthouse through the design and mounting of an exhibit in the lighthouse’s runway, running between the tower and the keeper’s cottage. The runway to that point had been a nondescript staging area where visitors to the lighthouse waited their turn to ascend the tower’s steps. Thirty feet of blank three-dimensional space, a canvas ready top be painted upon, waited patiently for a new raison d’etre.
Seeing the construction of the interior of the runway, with posts interrupting the stark whiteness of the walls approximately every three feet, Ball visualized a series of graphic panels lining either side of the passage. Each panel, he thought, could depict an episode from the lighthouse’s past, from the War of 1812 story of the “American Army of Two” to the 1994 re-lighting of Scituate Light after 134 years of darkness. Each museum quality panel would be costly to produce, and more than twenty-five would be needed to fill the space.
“I figured this project would take at least two years to be completed,” he said, noting that to chase down twenty-five donors willing to pay $250 apiece would take some time, especially with an all-volunteer organization such as the Scituate Historical Society. He pleasantly admits now that he underestimated the attraction of Scituate Light to the public at large, for within two months of announcing the project through the Scituate Historical Society Newsletter, more than enough money had been raised to mount the entire exhibit. A last minute donation even funded the installation of a four-speaker sound system, which itself came in as a donation, complete with an amplifier.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think that it would come together so quickly,” said Ball. “We hadn’t even fully decided upon all of the topics to be covered before the money came in. We then realized we had better start writing some text and gathering and selecting photos.”
Donors to the runway project responded from as close as down the street on Cedar Point and as far away as El Cajon, California. National lighthouse preservation organizations, like The American Lighthouse Foundation, the first donor of them all, joined local citizens donating funds for graphic panels in memory of lost loved ones and civic entities such as the Cedar Point Association wanting to do their part for the betterment of the lighthouse, and therefore the town. The end result is an exhibit bearing the names of more than twenty-five diverse parties, all of whom share the common bond of loving Scituate Light.
But the runway exhibit, while an impressive task to undertake, was not enough for Ball and the Scituate Historical Society. After a chance meeting with the owners of the Creative Company of Lawrenceburg, Indiana at the annual meeting of the New England Museum Association in Portland, Maine during the Fall of 2000, the Society set in motion the production of a full-color guidebook to the lighthouse’s history and grounds.
Again, seeing the potential for collaboration with several local businesses and other outside entities, Ball asked for volunteers within the Society to attempt to raise money to ease the book’s production costs and increase profits to be used for current and future preservation projects. Trustees Susan Phippen and Fred Freitas led the drive to pull together what amounted to half of the printing cost of the guidebook, with $7500 in support coming from ten separate sources, listed on the inside cover of the book. Released on June 22, 2001, the book has spent almost a full year on regional bestseller lists.
To finalize the fund raising plan, Ball and the historical society trustees commissioned the pressing of 500 limited edition Scituate Light suncatchers. With visitors coming from all across the country to see Scituate Lighthouse, the Society is now prepared to meet them with open arms. New historically-accurate windows have been installed in the tower, the flagpole outside the lantern room has been painted for the first time in more than thirty years, and each spring more than 100 of the locals turn out for one full Saturday of volunteer yard and maintenance work to make the lighthouse and its grounds shine. A Scituate Eagle Scout has even built a hooded message board on which the Society can post upcoming events. Ball, who knows the Light’s past as well as anyone, thinks its future looks just as bright.
This story appeared in the
March 2003 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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