The American Lighthouse Foundation’s Keeper of the Light award is designed to honor those individuals and organizations in the national lighthouse community who have contributed in a significant manner to the preservation of America’s lighthouses and their rich heritage.
On May 1, 2022, ALF presented the nonprofit United States Lighthouse Society with a Keeper of the Light award during the organization’s annual Gala, which was held at the Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport, Maine.
The following award overview was written by ALF President Jeremy D’Entremont…
Back in the early 1980s, when Wayne Wheeler was the chief of the Coast Guard’s aids to navigation branch in northern California, questions involving lighthouses were always being forwarded to him. Luckily, he had an office wall of bookshelves full of lighthouse books and documents. That led to presentations on lighthouses in the local area. One day he went home to his wife and said, “Boy, there’s a lot of lighthouse enthusiasts out there!”
The United States Lighthouse Society soon came into being, receiving its nonprofit status in 1984. By the end of the following year, there were well over 2000 members.
In 1987, the USLHS took ownership of the relief lightship LV605 and directed its restoration in the years that followed. In 1990, the lightship was named a National Historic Landmark. It was opened to the public in 2002 and remains an historic attraction at Jack London Square in Oakland, California.
In 2004, the Society and its Chesapeake Chapter took over the restoration of the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse in Maryland, the only screw–pile lighthouse in its original location on Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Chapter undertook the complete restoration and ultimately opened it for public tours.
Tours have been a mainstay of the USLHS from the beginning. First there were visits to the lighthouses in the San Francisco Bay area, and the horizons kept expanding to include tours in New England and other regions of the country. The Society’s first international tour went to Russia in 1992. This year’s tours include the Texas Gulf Coast and Yucatan Peninsula, the Hudson River, the northern Maine coast, Italy, Ireland, Newfoundland, and Australia.
Another mainstay of the USLHS has been the quarterly journal, the Keeper’s Log. A subscription is included when you become a member of the Society. Each issue usually features a famous American lighthouse as the cover story, followed by human interest stories and historical articles about lighthouses in this country and around the world.
In 2005, founder Wayne Wheeler retired from his day–to–day operational activities with the Society, and Jeff Gales was hired as executive director.
The Society spent its first 24 years in a succession of locations in San Francisco. In 2008, the headquarters was moved to the Point No Point Light Station in Hansville, Washington, not far from Seattle. All the light station buildings have been restored and half of the keeper’s house has been opened to the public with overnight accommodations. More recently, the Society has also restored the Point Wilson Light Station in Port Townsend, Washington, and it is now also open for overnight guests.
A preservation grants program has been established in recent years. The first nationwide preservation grants program of its kind, the Society’s Lighthouse Preservation Fund and grant program has been set up to support a variety of lighthouse projects with grants awarded each year.
The Society launched the very popular Lighthouse Passport Program in 1995, distributing a booklet similar to an official governmental passport and encouraging visitors to participating locations to ask to have their passport rubber-stamped in exchange for a one–dollar donation to the local lighthouse group. There’s also a passport club and a Lighthouse Enthusiast Community online that lets collectors log their lighthouse visits and compare with other members.
Other activities of the USLHS over the years include the following:
- Helped to develop a comprehensive historic preservation program for the Coast Guard in 1996.
- Co–authored The Lighthouse Preservation Handbook in 1997.
- Participated as one of four partners in the development of the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000.
- Started the Alcatraz Lighthouse Preservation Committee to facilitate the restoration of the oldest light station on the West Coast.
- Launched an online research catalog in 2019. It was named the J. Candace Clifford Lighthouse Research Catalog after the Society’s beloved historian, who passed away in 2018.
- Launched the Society’s podcast “Light Hearted” in 2019. To date there have been more than 90,000 downloads of the podcast.
Some of the awards the USLHS has received include:
- U.S. Department of the Transportation Award for Outstanding Public Service and Historic Preservation
- California Governor’s Historic Preservation Award
- Senate Rules Committee Commendation
- The American Lighthouse Council’s Ross Holland Award
- Phoenix Travel Award for the Society’s tour programs
In addition to Executive Director Jeff Gales, the Society’s leadership team includes President Mike Vogel, one of the most respected lighthouse preservationists and authors in the country; Vice President Henry Gonzalez; Treasurer Rear Admiral Bill Merlin; Secretary Ken Smith; and board members Elinor DeWire, Kathy Fleming, Kraig Anderson, and Cheryl Roberts; and also president emeritus Wayne Wheeler.
As impressive as this list of accomplishments is, it only scratches the surface of what the U.S. Lighthouse Society has done to help preserve America’s lighthouses and their history, a mission that is stronger than ever today with the Society’s devoted staff and volunteers around the world. For all of this and more, the American Lighthouse Foundation is proud to present the United States Lighthouse Society with a well-deserved 2022 Keeper of the Light award!