The USLHS web site redesign goes online, with grant program

After months of hard work by a U.S. Lighthouse Society design team, the new USLHS web site went live late yesterday. You owe it to yourself to check it out, because it’s as comprehensive a lighthouse site as we’re likely to see. And, it’s important to note, it also rolls out the USLHS preservation grants program.

It’s at , the same address as the old site design it replaces.

As a board member and one of the beta testers, I had a glimpse of just how much work went into this revamping of the Society’s internet presence. That workload was amazing, and the site reflects that.

The grants program accessed through the site will start out modestly and build as the fund behind it grows and more investment interest is available for distribution. But if you have a project in need of funding this season, check this out — the first step is a simple letter of interest, and the forms and deadlines now are online.

There’s also a ton of data, photographs and drawings now accessible on the site, and that too will grow. Team members tell me there will be some tweaking still ahead, so suggestions and comments would be helpful.

Here at the Dire Straits Lighthouse, it’s a little difficult to surf the web without electricity. Luckily, the Coast Guard left behind an old generator, and we got it to turning by hooking up a little wheel and caging a couple of Dire Straits squirrels in there. We get a bumper crop of lighthouse nuts at the station each year, so finding the rewards to keep them running isn’t a problem. And that’s the news from Dire Straits . . .

-mike vogel

About lenses …

It has been some time since the ALC (actually, then the ALCC) posted its position paper on optics in American lighthouses, a study by the late and still-missed Cullen Chambers that basically concluded that classic Fresnel lenses should remain in the towers rather than removed for controlled museum display.

Things have changed since then, at least a little. Fresnel lenses again can be manufactured; Dan Spinella’s Artworks Florida does magnificent and historically accurate versions of optical acrylic for less than the insurance value the Coast Guard requires for real ones. That opens an option that didn’t really exist when Cullen was doing his study.

So here’s today’s hot stove topic for lightkeepers — should surviving Fresnels remain in their historic homes, or should they be removed (as the Coast Guard has preferred), conserved and preserved in climate-controlled museum displays?

Like Ralphie’s father’s major-award leg lamp (see Christmas Story, as if you could avoid that movie during the holiday season), these lenses are not only frageelay but increasingly so. Authenticity of place or preservation of the artifact — which prevails, or can both?

In Buffalo, our decision was fairly easy because it dodged that conflict. Back in 1987 we had put a too-small fourth order lens, long removed from the decommissioned South Buffalo Lighthouse, in the empty third-order lantern of the 1833 Buffalo Lighthouse, which at least was a move from a Coast Guard lobby back into a lighthouse. We felt good about that, but the years of sun and temperature exposures were taking a toll and things were looking grim. So we secured $120,000 in grants, took the lens back out again and gave it a full-on conservation before putting it in an enclosed display case in a museum building; then we commissioned Dan to build us a more historically appropriate third order lens for installation in the tower this spring. That was kind of the best of both the conservation and interpretation worlds, but the question can get a lot thornier for the typical lighthouse site.

What’s your take? Do we need to update the ALC research? Should lenses stay or go, at least as far as your site’s ground-level displays?

Here at ALC headquarters in the Dire Straits Lighthouse, we can’t afford any lenses so we’re still using coal fires. There’s no shipping out on the frozen strait, but we light up nightly anyway just to keep warm. And that’s the news from Dire Straits . . .

-mike vogel

The New Year . . .

Here in the break room at the ALC headquarters in the Dire Straits Lighthouse, things aren’t looking as dire as they have been. Maybe that’s because we’ve turned the corner on meteorological winter, maybe it’s because the days are getting longer, maybe it’s the optimism of yet another new year. Or maybe somebody slipped something into the coffee.

In any event, a lot of lighthouse groups are slogging through the paperwork of the offseason and looking ahead to spring and summer chances to show off their lighthouses to another round, and maybe some of another generation, of appreciative visitors. It’s why we do what we do, pains and aggravations notwithstanding.

Of course, my particular offseason is a deep one, lighting as we do the northern border. Lake Erie, my particular concern, went from 6 percent to more than 70 percent ice-covered in one week of recent deep-freeze. So that cuts down the risk of lake-effect snow, which dumped 68 inches of snow in my backyard and buckled a garage wall in November, making this a long and hard winter. There’s only been about 3 feet of shoveling in the driveway since then, but still. I know a bunch of you on the southern coasts, bless your hearts, don’t have much of an off-season (when do you get your paperwork done?), but know this about lake-effect storms anyway — Buffalo gets a bad rap for winter snow but most of that falls in ski country south of the city, and in the southern suburbs where I chose to live (hmmm.) Buffalo only got about 4 inches in the storms that gave me 68 in three days; the lake set up a 20-mile-wide stationary precipitation plume with a sharply defined border. The South Buffalo Lighthouse got clobbered, just a week after we buttoned it up for the winter; four miles to the north, the 1833 Buffalo Light was untouched.

Anyway, back to the point of all this — if you’ve come up with any startling or innovative ideas for programming this year, don’t keep them to yourself — share them with the rest of us, who are now looking at the calendar and mapping out events. And remember that August 7 is a day worth celebrating as the anniversary of the federal lighthouse service — we’ll be fighting for congressional designation again this year, but there’s no reason we can’t just declare it and celebrate it ourselves. Some of us already do, and the rest of us should!

The Dire Straits Lighthouse, by the way, has no specific latitude and longitude, but I dare say we’ve all been there. I’m adopting it as my cyber-home, and seeing whether ALC co-chair Candy Clifford lets me get away with it.

And that’s the news from Dire Straits . . .

-mike vogel