The Friends of Little River Lighthouse would like to know what happened to the two different lighthouse lenses that once used to shine from the tower of the 1876 Little River Lighthouse in Cutler, Maine.
They believe that one, or perhaps both of the lenses, may be in private possession and they hope that a public appeal will get the lenses returned to the lighthouse for display at their on-site museum.
Tim Harrison, president of the Friends group, said that a fifth order Fresnel lens, the rarest of all lenses, was used in the tower for at least 80 years when it was removed in the early 1960s and replaced by a DCB-10 rotating beacon. It is believed that the rotating beacon remained in the tower until as the mid 1970s when it was also removed from the tower and replaced by a modern plastic optic atop a steel framed tower on the rocks near the lighthouse.
Although some lenses that were removed from lighthouses were shipped to a designated Coast Guard base, oftentimes, for whatever reason, the lenses, which most people at that time believed were simply going to be discarded, were taken or given to a member of the crew that removed them. Harrison said, “There are also documented cases where the lenses were “deep-sixed” or buried near a lighthouse, but there is no record of that happening at Little River Lighthouse.”
Harrison continued by saying, “For years there have been rumors that one of the lenses from Little River Lighthouse is in private possession in someone’s home. Although those are just rumors, since those stories have been carried forward for so many years, we believe there is some validity to it. We now hope that whoever has either of the missing lenses would now consider donating it back to Little River Lighthouse. This was its original home and we’d love to have it back. Plus, we’d honor the person who donated the lens back and we’d help preserve their legacy of taking care of it for so many years.”
In 2000 when Little River Lighthouse was licensed to the American Lighthouse Foundation, one of their first plans, under Harrison’s leadership, was to relight the tower. In exchange for Friends of Little River Lighthouse, a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation, restoring the tower, the U.S. Coast Guard agreed to install a modern Vega rotating beacon in the lantern room.
On October 2, 2001, after being dark for 26 years, in an elaborate and patriotic ceremony, the lighthouse was re-lighted as a “Beacon of Freedom to the World.” On July 27, 2002, under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, the ownership of Little River Lighthouse was transferred from the federal government to the American Lighthouse Foundation.
As part of their ongoing restoration of the once endangered property, the Friends of Little River Lighthouse now offer overnight stays at the lighthouse in the summer months and are now trying to raise funds to have the lighthouse lived in by a year ‘round caretaker.
Harrison said, “Having one, or both, of the original lighthouse lenses returned to the lighthouse, along with our plans for a full time caretaker, would be the coup d’état of bringing the life of this historic lighthouse full circle.”
Anyone with information about the lenses that were once at Little River Lighthouse can call Tim Harrison at 207-259-3833 or e-mail him at Timh@LHDigest.com. You can also write to Friends of Little River Lighthouse, P.O. Box 671, East Machias, Maine 04630. To learn more about the lighthouse or make a donation you can also go to www.LittleRiverLight.org