A Fight Lost — For Now

Bad news for maritime funding this week, but it’s not a permanent defeat. The STORIS Act, which would have restored federal maritime preservation funding to the level Congress originally attended, did not survive as an amendment to the defense spending authorization act. The maritime community had pushed hard to have that funding restored (see earlier posts) but the Maritime Administration applied pressure of its own to allow it to keep the money it had carved out of the fund for itself. It didn’t help that STORIS Act sponsor Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska was defeated in a close reelection bid, and that his staff had left Washington for the campaign that wasn’t settled until well after election day. But Tim Runyan already is at work lining up support for next year’s effort to reverse this money grab, and we’ll be letting the lighthouse community know when it’s time to step up efforts with your local congressmen and congresswomen. It would help to talk to them about this at every opportunity between now and then, so that the issue stays as alive as the funding needs of the community. Meanwhile, the National Park Service still will be administering a program with half the money it really should have. For those of you who applied in 2014, by the way, the NPS review of applications now has been pushed back to mid/late January. That’s just for the review that will lead to NPS recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior; I’m not aware of any timetable for those recommendations or for the final decisions, yet, but there’s a lot of pent-up demand for a relatively small pot of money and it’s spread across the entire maritime community. These remain tough financial times. The National Maritime Historical Society notes that several historic and replica sailing ships have been sold or laid up recently — Amistad, for example, is in receivership and Harvey Gamage and others have been sold off, with another dozen or so schooners also up for auction or sale. America’s maritime heritage really does need funding, and that’s a message we have to keep getting across to this and future Congresses. -mike vogel

Funding Resources

Ted Panayotoff recently wrote “The H. Lee White Maritime Museum, Oswego, NY, which recently assumed responsibility for restoration of the Oswego West Pierhead Lighthouse by leasing it from the owner, the City of Oswego, NY, is seeking information on any private foundations or other organizations that may offer grants that would apply to lighthouse restoration.  We are looking for funding support to help with the painting of the exterior of the lighthouse.  Any information or contacts would be most welcome.  Thank you.”

Funding has always been an important concern for lighthouse preservation.  ALC has started a resource page for funding sources.  What others programs should Ted consider and/or be added to our list?

Please reply to this blog post or send an email to info@americanlighthousecouncil.org

Spinning New Webs

Just in case you haven’t noticed, the gift-giving season is bringing a bunch of new lighthouse stuff to the Web. At least three new lighthouse-group Web sites have been unveiled or are in production, and all bring new looks and new life to the movement.

The National Lighthouse Museum, at lighthousemuseum.org, recently rolled out a smart new site, as Linda Dianto and friends gear up for a “hard opening” of the site’s education center (the “soft opening” was a gala event in August). It’s a good place to keep up on the museum’s already robust New York City-area programming (the bad news: we already missed the Holiday Party that took place earlier this week).

Then, of course, there’s this American Lighthouse Council site, which co-chair Candy Clifford put together so well for those of us in the “practitioner” category (the bad news: we’re not hosting any Christmas party, because in the real world we’re basically homeless. Isn’t that the saddest thing you’ve ever heard?).

But the real topper will be the new United States Lighthouse Society’s extensive website redesign project, a good-looking package that will pack pages with information resources of benefit to the entire community. It’s in testing now, and headed for a hoped-for mid-January rollout. We could give you the beta test site URL, but then Wayne Wheeler would have to hunt us down, and that would ruin our holidays for sure (unless, of course, he cooks for us; that’s his hidden talent). Anyway, the testing is now consuming hours of time from some of us, but nowhere near the hours that have been poured into this by the team of professionals and volunteers who have spent months on this. Tom Tag, a USLHS board member as well as ALC Artifact Committee head, has been leading this effort, and we all know how thorough and painstaking he is. Trust us — this site will be worth the effort, and worth your visit next month!

Giving thanks for lighthouse preservation

In case you haven’t noticed, the lighthouse preservation movement is cycling through the Big 3-0. Last year, the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association celebrated it 30th anniversary; this year, the United States Lighthouse Society does the same. The American Lighthouse Council recognized both milestone events by honoring the organizations with the movement’s top national honor, the H. Ross Holland Award, at events in 2013 and 2014.

Where has the time gone? Those of us who have been in this for the long haul think that, surely, this can’t mean we’re getting old(er)!

At any event, there has been a lot of progress in saving lighthouses but precious little in documenting our own history. Back issues of such outstanding publications as the The Keeper’s Log, Lighthouse Digest and The Beacon help, but you have to hunt.

So you just might want to make sure you get a copy of the upcoming quarterly Keeper’s Log, the US Lighthouse Society’s publication. Instead of a banquet or similar event, the Society put its effort into a 30th anniversary edition that supplements the usual lighthouse articles with a history of the Society and what could be the first stab at a history of the overall lighthouse preservation movement — a listing of “30 Beacons of Light,” people or things that have had major impacts on the movement over the past three decades.

Better, the Society hopes those who read it will send along their own recollections, insights and comments for this embryonic documentation effort. The whole thing’s at the printer’s now, so look for it once the polar vortex settles onto the coasts once more. Here’s to the preservation movement that keeps the lights shining!

Piedras Blancas Lighthouse Seeking Preservation Expertise

Piedras Blancas tower ca. 1930. Photo courtesy Carole Adams

One of the missions of the American Lighthouse Council is to share expertise among the Lighthouse Preservation Community. If any of you have experience with reconstructing your lighthouse’s lantern, please comment on this post or contact Carole Adams directly at pcadams@sbcglobal.net.

Tower ca. 1950 after lantern was removed to accommodate an aerobeacon. Photo courtesy Carole Adams

Carole Adams, a volunteer at Piedras Blancas Lighthouse, recently wrote, “The Piedras Blancas Light Station Association is looking into replicating the missing upper three levels of the lighthouse with a modern man-made alternative material rather than original like-material (brick and cast iron). Have you seen a blend of materials successfully used on other lighthouses? Does the blending appear different to the observer? What do you think the reaction of the public and the lighthouse community would be? Any feedback would be welcome!”

Evidence of paint failure
Evidence of paint failure

Carole also mentioned, “You may be interested to know that the old lead based paint was removed and the tower repainted in 2012. Unfortunately, there has been 100% failure of that paint job and it needs to be redone. That lesson is one reason why I believe communication between lighthouses regarding experiences, both positive and negative, is crucial. Someone with experience, might have been able to warn us of complications.”


More Money for Lighthouses

There still is federal money available for lighthouse preservation, but there should be more. There’s an effort now under way in Congress to make that happen, and it could use your support.

First, what’s out there: Under a law passed in the 1990s, a portion of the proceeds from scrapping Navy and Coast Guard ships in the “mothball fleet” is supposed to go to maritime preservation and education. After a first round of $650,000 in grants to 39 projects in 1998, the program went dormant as scrap metal prices tanked and environmental concerns added costs to the scrapping. But that’s improved, and recently $7 million was made available to restart the process.

The program is administered by the National Park Service, which will be using its administrative percent to restart its Maritime Heritage Program, itself a good thing. And NPS has decided to stretch that $7 million pot four years, to allow groups to develop requests and build some momentum. Each year will see the distribution of $1.7 million, by law divided equally between education (grants up to $50,000) and preservation (grants of $50,000 to $200,000). The tight deadline for this year has passed, but NPS promises more lead time in getting next year’s round going.

The grants require a match, and are paid as reimbursements. Another catch — under new laws, everyone receiving federal money has to do so through the federal grants.gov website, and registration takes a little time. Getting started now would be a good idea. Check the NPS Maritime Heritage Program web page for details.

Next, what’s needed: In short, restoration of Congress’s original intent. It passed a law that provided 25% of the scrapping proceeds for this program and 25% for the nation’s maritime academies, but in 2010 the U.S. Maritime Administration, which oversees the National Defense Reserve Fleet, won an amendment giving it sole discretion over the money. MARAD decided to keep it all for the academies and its own ship preservation projects (surprise, surprise). A tug of war ensued, and in stages supporters got funding back to half of what it should be. Instead of 25%, it’s 12.5%  We lost millions.

The National Maritime Alliance is spearheading a drive to regain that lost ground. You can help. An amendment to the original act is in Congress, attached to the huge Defense Authorization Act that funds the military. The action right now is centered on the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, which will report out the bill before everybody heads out to elections; the act probably will be passed quickly once the senators return.

Dr. Tim Runyan, a maritime studies professor at East Carolina University, is the Alliance’s point man on this. He’s asking groups and individuals to contact their home state senators and press for support on this. You can get information from Tim at runyant@ecu.edu

There is 16 years’ worth of pent-up demand for a small-by-federal-standards pot of money here, but this is funding the entire maritime community, not just lighthouses, needs. You can help with the legislative effort, and check into applying for your education prog or preservation project grants.

Money for Lighthouses

Need funding for a lighthouse project? For the first time, the lighthouse community itself is generating a grant program to help lighthouse groups across the country.

As part its 30th anniversary year, the United States Lighthouse Society is launching its own grant program, after growing its Preservation Fund enough to begin a competitive grants program. It will be a modest start, but USLHS is still working hard to grow the fund to allow bigger and better support.

The Society this fall will open the program to applicants for project funding up to $5,000. No match is required. Watch the uslhs.org website for application details.

The first grant will be used to repair ironwork around Block Island Southeast Lighthouse’s lantern. From left to right: Jeff Gales, USLHS; Maria Ryan, Senior Vice President, Retail at Land’s End; and Henry Gonzalez, USLHS Vice-President

While interest from the fund will allow only a few grants this year, the program already got a boost from a new partnership between USLHS and the Wisconsin-based clothing company Land’s End, which uses a lighthouse logo. On Aug. 7, National Lighthouse Day, Land’s End donated $30,000 (another nod to the 30th anniversary) and joined USLHS executive director Jeff and grant program manager Henry Gonzalez at the Block Island SE Lighthouse to award that lighthouse group the first $10,000 grant from the program.

While there are other lighthouse preservation funds out there the Florida Lighthouse Association is a shining example — this is the first nationwide one generated by funds from within the lighthouse community. That in itself is a significant milestone. The program is off to a good start, and USLHS is hoping for more donations and investment income to make it even better.

2014 Winners of Holland Award

Tim Harrison
Tim Harrison

Two new recipients of the Ross Holland award were announced September 17, 2014, at the Maritime Heritage Conference in Norfolk, Virginia. The award winners are Timothy Harrison and the U.S. Lighthouse Society.

Timothy Harrison is a Michigan native who adopted Maine as his home state – making lighthouses a natural lifelong calling – Timothy Harrison has been a major figure in the publication and preservation of Lighthouse Service history and lore, and of news within the lighthouse preservation community.

In 1992, he co-founded Lighthouse Digest magazine, following that a year later by opening the nationally known Lighthouse Depot gift store and mail order catalog, located in Wells, Maine. In 1994, Harrison launched the American Lighthouse Foundation and its adjunct Museum of Lighthouse History in Wells, later merging its collections into the Maine Lighthouse Museum where he serves as a board member.

Mentored by the late lighthouse preservation leader Ken Black, one of the first Holland Award honorees, Harrison also organized a national lighthouse education conference in New Bedford, Massachusetts, sponsored the Public Broadcasting System mini-series Legendary Lighthouses and other lighthouse documentaries, authored and co-authored a number of lighthouse books, founded the Friends of Little River Lighthouse and headed the group’s restoration of that lighthouse in Cutler, Maine.

Harrison retired from Lighthouse Depot in 2004 to spend more time on lighthouse research and writing and in 2007 ended his 13-year presidency of the American Lighthouse Foundation. He continues to be editor and publisher of Lighthouse Digest and, with the assistance of his wife, Kathleen Finnegan, who is the managing editor, maintains a Web site with information on thousands of lighthouses as well as an extensive archival collection of rare and many original historic lighthouse photographs and lighthouse related documents.

Harrison’s years of contributions have earned him awards from several nonprofit lighthouse groups, the United States Coast Guard’s Meritorious Public Service Award, and the rare designation from the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard as an Honorary Chief Petty Officer. The American Lighthouse Council is pleased to add to that list the nation’s top lighthouse community honor, the F. Ross Holland Jr. Award.

Jeff Gales received Holland Award on behalf of the United States Lighthouse Society
Jeff Gales (right) receives Holland Award from ALC President Don Terras on behalf of the United States Lighthouse Society

Envisioned and organized by lighthouse community leader Wayne Wheeler, the United States Lighthouse Society has played a seminal role in promoting lighthouse lore and awareness. As the largest of any of the national lighthouse groups during all the early decades of the lighthouse history and preservation community, USLHS has made a wide range of pioneering contributions to the cause of lighthouse heritage in this country.

Chief among its many contributions is the premier journal of lighthouse lore, history and technology, The Keeper’s Log. Evolving over time into a highly professional quarterly publication with original researched articles in a number of categories including American and international lighthouses, news items, reprints from U.S. Lighthouse Service Bulletin items and other topics, the Log has been a touchstone publication for the lighthouse community for decades. The Society also maintains an extensive research library and databases, and to mark its 30th anniversary has embarked on an extensive redesign of its Web site to provide in-depth online resources for the use of lighthouse historians and groups nationwide.

USLHS also has restored a lightship and two lighthouses, and will continue that program while also launching a pioneering preservation grant program, the first lighthouse preservation funding program generated within the lighthouse community itself for lighthouse projects. The program is expected to grow as the USLHS Preservation Fund continues to grow over time. The Society’s popular Lighthouse Passport Program also supports individual lighthouse organizations across the country.

USLHS also pioneered in the development of high-quality lighthouse tours both in the United States and abroad, and hosted a national event on Newport, Rhode Island for the bicentennial of the Lighthouse Service in 1989. The Society was linked by the U.S. Postal Service to the first of its series of stamp issues depicting lighthouses, and in 2009 First Lady Laura Bush presented USLHS and its Chesapeake Chapter the Preserve America Steward Award during its 25th anniversary year. The organization has been active in the development of national lighthouse preservation legislation and in lighthouse community efforts, as well as providing research assistance and advice to lighthouse groups and individuals.

Originally located in San Francisco, the Society now is headquartered at Point No Point Lighthouse in the State of Washington. Wheeler continues as president, with Jeff Gales serving as executive director. The American Lighthouse Council is proud to honor the United States Lighthouse Society.

Established by the American Lighthouse Council to recognize truly exceptional contributions by an individual or group, the Holland Award is the major national honor bestowed by the lighthouse preservation community. It is named for Francis Ross Holland, Jr., who received the initial Distinguished Service Award that was to henceforth carry his name. Past winners include the American Lighthouse Foundation and the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association.


IALA Heritage Forum Meeting Planned

IALA logo


Bob McIntosh with the Northern Lighthouse Board in Scotland recently sent out the following communication regarding the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA-AISM):

After a successful IALA Conference in La Coruna, Spain the new working period of the IALA Committees will begin. The 1st session of the IALA Aids to Navigation Engineering and Sustainability (ENG) Committee (ENG1) will be held from 17th – 21st  November 2014 at IALA’s offices, which are at 10 rue des Gaudines, 78100 Saint Germain en Laye, France.

For more information visit the IALA-AISM web site

Vincent Guigueno, one of the organizers, added that the Heritage Forum Discussion would include:

A seminar about LH archives will be held at the French National Archives (with a scottish touch)

Among other subjects, Cordouan (the english version of http://www.cordouan.culture.fr/en) and the LH historical digital library of the Ecole des Ponts (http://bibliothequedesphares.fr/ with links to non french material, for instance Bell Rock http://bibliothequedesphares.fr/bibliothequeC/bib_C025)

I am looking forward to exchanging ideas with you to enhance LH heritage and culture