The Holland Award

Harrison awardIt only took about eleven months, but lighthouse heritage champion Tim Harrison finally got the Ross Holland Award that the American Lighthouse Committee voted him last September. The award is the national preservation community’s highest honor for lifetime contributions to the preservation of America’s lighthouses and their history, and Tim — publisher of Lighthouse Digest Magazine, founder of the Lighthouse Depot and American Lighthouse Foundation and a tireless crusader for the cause, certainly deserves that.

After several missed efforts to mesh schedules, ALC co-coordinator Mike Vogel finally managed to make the long journey from the Dire Straits Lighthouse, ALC’s legendary headquarters, to the Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland, where Tim had journeyed for five hours from Cutler “Down East” for a museum board meeting. The journey from Dire Straits is always shrouded in time but considerably longer; the leg from Buffalo alone took about 11 hours.

Tim is the handsome guy on the right. Mike’s on the left, the award’s in the middle, and we’re not sure who the keeper in the background is. It’s not Wayne Wheeler, because Wayne is in constant motion.

Both guys got the memo about khaki slacks, and considering their divergent paths they also wound up kind of color-coordinated in the shirt department. Credit Stacey Vogel and Kathy Finnegan, who witnessed this transfer along with some Vogel kids and grandkids.

It was fun to catch up with Dot Black as well, and to see the museum surviving and its fabulous displays still unchanged. Hopefully, with financial support and Coast Guard cooperation on the artifact issue, that can continue.

I confess a bit of nostalgia for the old museum on Limerock Street, in an old Victorian house shared with the Daughters of the American Revolution. Ken Black had that set up so that kids could push a button on the first floor and activate a fog horn in the basement. That’s not a popular option in the new digs, as the basement houses the Rockland Police Department and the blast probably would be noticed.

That’s not a problem up in Dire Straits. Not only is the sound of the fog horn kind of exciting, there being not much else happening in these parts, but we don’t have to house a police station in the basement coal bin either. The area’s so poor that we don’t have crime, because there’s nothin’ worth stealing. Down at the corner store, Caleb Farnsworth keeps an old dog we call Offisa Pupp, and he’ll do. Sleeps most of the time, because with all the fog there’s not much to see and no perps to track anyway. He’s deaf in one ear, too, so he just keeps that side turned toward the fog horn and the other turned toward the pot-bellied stove.

And that’s the news from Dire Straits. If you recognize the allusion to Offisa Pupp, well, a lot of water has slid under your keel by now. We’ll keep the light on for ya.

-mike vogel

ca. WWI Portable Searchlight Needed for Exhibit

Lee Radzak at Split Rock Lighthouse sent the following:

The Minnesota Historical Society is designing a new World War One exhibit and they are looking for a ca. WWI portable searchlight for loan for the exhibition. If anyone is aware of one or knows if there is one they could get on loan would you please contact me and I will inform the exhibits department.

I believe that BBT was making some about that time period and, with the advent of air mail and air travel aero-beacons were coming more into use. I have a historic photo but can not attach it here.  Let me know if you want to see it and I can email you a copy.

Lee can be contacted at

Query on ADA Accessibility at Lighthouses

Robert Hall with the Point Lookout Lighthouse would like your feedback:

I’m trying to gather some statistics about lighthouses and keeper’s quarters that have been restored, and how many of those restorations involved compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) along with how the ADA was accommodated. For the last 10 years, I have led a non-profit that has been maintaining and providing staffing to allow the public to visit the current structure for the State of Maryland, the owners of the lighthouse complex.  However, the state is now expecting funding to renovate the lighthouse and for reasons unknown, they are determined to provide ADA access, even though that would mean destroying fabric that in some cases would be up to 185 years old.  Our lighthouse is 2 stories high; the current plan is to provide ADA access to the one half of first floor only, which has very limited views of the water. So far, I have only found one lighthouse, Point Fermin in San Pedro, CA, that has installed an elevator to provide ADA access. Other ideas included tearing down walls between the north and south sides of the first floor so that visitors can look in from the south side to the north side, which in my opinion would completely destroy the historic value, losing the feel of what it would have been like for two families to live in a duplex style quarters. Does anyone know of other examples of lighthouses that have been renovated to fully accommodate ADA access?

Please either comment on this post or contact Robert directly at

STORIS Act support

Lee Radzak at Split Rock just contributed an excellent letter to Congress as part of the ongoing effort to restore the national maritime grants program funding, and it’s a critically important time for the lighthouse community to do the same. I’ve just fired off another round of emails to my area’s senators and representatives, who have heard a lot about this from me in the past (one even signed on as a cosponsor of an earlier version), but at this juncture the more input we can provide the better.

Tim Runyan is leading this effort from our side, and Denise Krepp has done some absolutely fantastic work on holding the Maritime Administration accountable. Here’s a link to her latest:

Please get on board with this. We need to show support. Contact your senator about the STORIS Act (S. 1511 in the Senate) and your representatives in the House (where the bill is HR 2876). Tim has provided a letter template:

On Letterhead if possible
(Name)                                                date
(Insert address)  or Washington, DC

Dear (Senator or Rep.) (insert name),

My name is (insert) and I represent (insert). I am writing to you to seek your support for (S. 1511 or HR. 2876), the “Ships to be Recycled in the States” (STORIS) Act, especially Section 4 (c) (C) to assure a competitive public grants program in support of America’s maritime heritage. Please support inclusion of the Storis Act in the Coast Guard authorization bill; or as a floor amendment.

The (my organization) is devoted to (insert your mission). The maritime heritage community is composed of more than 1,000 non-profit organizations in more than 40 states. This includes historic naval ships, maritime museums, tall ships for sail training, lighthouses, maritime historical societies, education, and preservation organizations. Thousands of veterans serve as staff or volunteers.

The STORIS Act is a proposed amendment to Public Law 103-451, the National Maritime Heritage Act of 1994. This act calls for a pool of unappropriated funds equal to 25% of the proceeds from the scrapping of ships in the National Defense Reserve Fleet (“mothball fleet”), to be distributed by the National Park Service to maritime non-profit institutions, and state and local governments through a competitive matching grants program. There is no impact on the budget.

The National Maritime Heritage Act reflected an historic and deep recognition by Congress of the importance of our country’s maritime history. On a practical level, the National Maritime Heritage Act also sought to provide assistance to those non-government organizations dedicated to preserving surviving reminders of that past, the ships, the artifacts and the stories that are so vital in telling our unique maritime story to new generations of Americans and so economically important to the cultural tourism sector on which so many communities heavily depend.

An amendment was added to the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act that allowed the Maritime Administration to use all of the funds solely for the preservation of property it owns. This ultimately resulted in reduced funding to maritime heritage institutions across the country in more than 40 states by 50%.

The STORIS Act (S. 1511), restores the original formula of 50% for MARAD, 25% to maritime academies, and a full 25% to the National Park Service-administered grants program for maritime preservation and educational projects. The STORIS Act also seeks more transparency in the ship-scrapping process.

I respectfully request that you support the Storis Act.


Please send a copy of your email or letter to:

I’d do that too, but here at ALC headquarters in the Dire Straits Lighthouse budget cuts have reduced us to using carrier pigeons. It’s a long flight, and hopefully Tim won’t need my copies in 2016.

-mike vogel