Maine Preservation recently announced that they have declared Maine’s Halfway Rock Lighthouse as one of state’s “2004 Ten Most Endangered Historic Properties.”
Halfway Rock Lighthouse, located on an outcropping 10 miles out from Portland Head Light, was automated in 1975 when its last keepers were removed. Subsequent storms destroyed the buildings on the island and today, only the 1869 tower remains.
Although the lighthouse is still used as an active aid to navigation, the Coast Guard only maintains the modern optic in the lantern room and not the tower itself. The Coast Guard, which must devote its resources to law enforcement, search and rescue, environmental concerns and Homeland Security, does not have the funds to maintain and restore historic lighthouses.
Judy Barrington, a trustee of Maine Preservation said Halfway Rock Lighthouse was nominated to the most endangered list because of its inaccessibility and because no one came forward to be its steward under the Maine Lights Program, which turned over a number of Maine lighthouses to nonprofits, communities and other government entities.
At a press conference hosted by Maine Preservation, and held at the old Newcastle-Damariscotta Railroad Station, in Damariscotta, Maine, which has also been declared one of Maine’s ten most endangered properties, the American Lighthouse Foundation displayed an exhibit showing the deteriorating condition of Halfway Rock Lighthouse. Although the photographs showed that the exterior of the lighthouse appears to be in good condition, the interior photos clearly show the tower is in a severe state of deterioration.
Tim Harrison, president of the Wells-based nonprofit American Lighthouse Foundation, said, “The reason no one adopted the lighthouse under the Maine Lights Program is because of its remote location, which makes restoration difficult, expensive and dangerous.”
Harrison went on to say, “Having a distinguished organization as Maine Preservation declare Halfway Rock Lighthouse as one of our state’s most endangered historic properties adds a lot of creditability to our efforts to draw public attention to the plight of our lighthouses. Most people see them or hear about them and perhaps visit the restored ones that are tourist attractions but, very few people are aware that many of Maine’s lighthouses are in serious danger of being lost forever. We constantly need as much help as possible to draw this to the attention of the general public, which we hope, in turn, will generate donations. Without financial support, we will not be able to save these lighthouses.”
Maine Preservation’s “Most Endangered Historic Properties” program has grown to include 64 sites since 1996, including six statewide thematic categories of Downtowns, Historic Neighborhood Schools, Grange Halls, Barns and, as of this year, Steeples and Towers. Several years ago Maine Preservation declared Little River Lighthouse in Cutler as one of the state’s most endangered properties. Shortly afterwards, the American Lighthouse Foundation was awarded ownership of the Little River Lighthouse under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act and restoration is now one-third complete. However, the restoration project has slowed because of a shortfall in donations.
Unfortunately, “Endangered” status does not ensure the protection of a site or provide funding but does help raise awareness that often leads to rescue.
The Coast Guard has now licensed Halfway Lighthouse to the American Lighthouse Foundation, which has included the structure in its $1.2 million campaign to save and restore nine of Maine’s lighthouses. These include Little River Light Station in Cutler, Prospect Harbor Light in Prospect Harbor, Boon Island Light in York, Rockland Breakwater Light Station in Rockland, the tower at Pemaquid Point Lighthouse in Bristol, the east tower at Cape Elizabeth Light in Cape Elizabeth, Perkins Island Light on the Kennebec River, and Wood Island Light Station in Biddeford Pool.
Harrison said, “Volunteers can only do so much, however, it takes a financial commitment of concerned people to actually save lighthouses. After all, lighthouses were built for one purpose only, to save lives. Now, it’s our turn to save the lighthouses.”
This story appeared in the
Aug/Sep 2004 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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