Two years ago, a small, hard working band of volunteers established a visitor center in America’s easternmost lighthouse, West Quoddy Head Light in Lubec, Maine. In each of the center’s first two seasons, more than 18,000 people have visited the light station, celebrated as one of the most beautiful spots on the northern New England coast.
Last June 19, the West Quoddy Head Light Keepers Association, Inc. (WQHLKA) observed the visitor center’s second anniversary with a celebration that included live music by Noel Veilleux, the Black Socks String Band and bagpiper Paula Tinker. There were several guest speakers and delicious food offered by local vendors.
Members of the Friends of Little River Lighthouse, a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation, staffed an information table on the Little River Lighthouse in Cutler, just down the coast from Lubec. A representative of the U.S. Postal Service was in the visitor center offering a commemorative cancellation for the event. U.S. Coast Guard personnel were on hand to give tours of the lighthouse, which is rarely opened to the public.
As people gathered in the morning, it felt more like November instead of late spring, with drizzle and temperatures around 50 degrees. But spirits were high as heavier rain held off until later in the day. Before things got underway, attendees thrilled at the sight of bald eagles landing on the rocks offshore near the lighthouse.
Among the attendees was local resident and WQHLKA volunteer Gwen Wasson. Gwen’s grandfather was Keeper Ephraim Johnson, who was in charge as West Quoddy Head from 1901 to 1931. Gwen says that when she first heard about the plans for the visitor center, she was afraid that the beautiful house she knew when she was young would be destroyed. But now, she says, “I feel differently. I like what they’ve done.” Gwen’s son David Jones was a park ranger at West Quoddy Head State Park from 1976 until his death in 2001, and a video of David giving a tour of the tower can be seen in the visitor center.
WQHLKA President Diana Wilson served as Master of Ceremony and introduced Cassie Kinney, an 11th grader at Lubec High School. Cassie welcomed visitors and suggested that they take a close look at the paintings and drawings by local student artists on display in the visitor center.
Next, Chief Petty Officer Kenneth “Sam” Hill, Officer-in-Charge of Aids to Navigation, Southwest Harbor, Maine, spoke of the station’s historic significance and the importance of continuing aids to navigation work of the Coast Guard. Tim Hall, regional manager for the Maine Bureau of Parks and Land, and State Representative Al Goodwin followed with welcoming addresses, both praising the fine work of the WQHLKA.
Ron Pesha, secretary of WQHLKA, unveiled an official keeper’s hat that belonged to Howard “Bob” Gray, a keeper at West Quoddy from 1934 to 1952. The hat had been in the collection of the Shore Village Museum in Rockland and was sent by the museum’s director, Ken Black, to be displayed at the visitor center at West Quoddy. Some of Bob Gray’s family was in attendance for the event.
Julie Keene, whose father and grandfather were keepers at West Quoddy, spoke of her childhood memories and read two moving poems written by the Keene family of Coast Guardsmen.
I was the last speaker for the day, and I recounted some of the interesting history of the buildings and keepers at West Quoddy, and emphasized that West Quoddy Head Light is in fine hands thanks to the WQHLKA, the Maine Bureau of Parks and Land, and the U.S. Coast Guard.
As the rain picked up, people gathered inside the visitor center and were entertained by singer/guitarist D. M. Ingalls of Cutler, as well as balloon sculptor extraordinaire, Jiggs the Clown.
The Coast Guard still maintains the aids to navigation equipment at West Quoddy, as well as the lantern level of the lighthouse. The tower was just repainted last fall, thanks to the Maine Bureau of Parks and Land, and the Coast Guard plans a complete restoration of the lantern later this year. Things just keep getting better at West Quoddy Head.
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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