The Kennebec River in Maine has long been associated with a rich maritime history. Settlers first came to the area during the early 1600's. By the 1700's the lower segment of the Kennebec had become renown for shipbuilding. Like many big rivers, the Kennebec served as a highway, bringing people and supplies to Bath and Augusta, and from there, to much of Maine.
In 1892, the Annual Report of the lighthouse Board reported that 3,137 vessels had arrived at the rivers various ports. It stated that the steamers Kennebec and Sagadahoc had made ninety-six round trips each from Gardner to Boston. In addition to the tremendous volume of traffic, the Kennebec could be tricky to navigate, especially at night. The Annual Report further stated that, "On dark nights, it is sometimes impossible to tell where the water ends and the shore begins." Clearly ships could not travel safely on this river unaided.
For years the Kennebec Steamboat Company and local area towing companies united to keep lanterns burning on posts at various points along the river, but more was needed.
An Act of Congress approved on March 2, 1895, appropriated $17,000 to build aids to navigation on the Kennebec River. The Lighthouse Board decided to build four lights below Bath, Maine, they were Perkins Island Light, Squirrel Point Light, the Doubling Point Range Lights and Doubling Point Light. On March 30, 1898, the four new lighthouses were completed.
The land for the Doubling Point Light Station was purchased from Samuel S. Freeman on the west shore of Arrowsic at a point of land forming one of two dangerous right angle bends made more treacherous by rapid currents and eddies. The first keeper of the Doubling Point Light Station was Merritt Pinkham.
As time passed the government decided that it would be more efficient to run the Doubling Point Light Station from the nearby Range Lights. On August 13, 1935, the Doubling Point Light Station, with the exception of the light tower itself, walkway and one acre of salt marsh and shoreline was sold to a private individual for $2,200.
In the mid 1970's the Fresnel lens was removed from the tower and put on display at the Shore Village Museum in Rockland, Maine. In August 1980, the fog bell was removed by the Coast Guard and its whereabouts is unknown.
In 1998, under the Maine Lights Program, The Friends of Doubling Point Light, a non-profit corporation was granted stewardship of the lighthouse. Although the United States Coast Guard still maintains the beacon in the tower, as is the case with most lighthouses across the country, but they will not maintain or restore the tower. That responsibility lies with the Friends of Doubling Point.
Tower in danger of being lost forever
The very existence of Doubling Point Lighthouse is now threatened. Although the government did a good job of maintaining the tower and catwalk, its efforts to keep the lighthouse foundation intact were less successful.
Each spring, when the ice on the Kennebec River thaws, huge ice floes rush down the river in the swift current, and every few years, force the granite blocks that support the lighthouse tower further out of position. If reconstruction is not undertaken soon, the lighthouse will simply fall into the water. This disastrous destruction could occur any spring if the combination of wind, ice and tide is wrong.
The Friends of Doubling Point have accepted a bid to repair the foundation. The proposed plan is extensive and involves separating the lighthouse from the foundation and setting it on a barge while the base is rebuilt and straightened.
The granite blocks of the foundation were originally held in place by iron "staples" made of metal an inch in diameter. The central core is filled with loose rock and rubble. The staples have long ago rusted away and the granite blocks have slid out of position. The project will remove the rubble, place the blocks back into position held by coated reinforcing rods, and the whole core will be filled with reinforced concrete. The cost for this work has been set at $45,000. It is essential that this project be completed soon, (hopefully this year), otherwise the Doubling Point Lighthouse may be lost forever.
The Friends of Doubling Point Lighthouse is a non-profit organization. Your HELP is needed NOW to save the lighthouse!
Annual Member $20.00
Sustaining Member $150.00
Lighthouse Keeper $500.00
Hero of Doubling Point $1000.00
Friends of Doubling Point Light,
c/o Betsy Skillings-Coleman
HCR 33 Box 61B
Arrowsic, Maine 04530
Web Site - http://pantheon.yale.edu/~mes45
This story appeared in the
July 1999 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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