The Lighthouse Log
Summer 2005

A publication of Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association,
PO Box 83, Jamestown, RI 02835-0083 Tel: (401)423-3270
E-mail: info@BeavertailLight,org
Website: WWW.Beavertaillight.org


Officers
President, Linda Warner
Vice President, Joe Bouchard
Secretary, Linda Jacobson
Treasurer, Richard Sullivan

Board of Directors
Don Barrows
Brenda Johnston
Varoujan Karentz
Richard Koster
Patricia Lucas
Frank Meyer


Newsletter Editor
Charlotte Richardson



Jamestown, Rhode Island

Conanicut Island
41° 26’ 58” N 71° 24’ 00” W
(Bowditch)

A message from our president…
Dear Lighthouse Friends;

Spring was a very long time in coming this year, but the museum is open for the 2005 season.  Starting on Monday, June 13th the Museum will be open everyday from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

Richard Koster, our docent coordinator, has been busy setting up the new schedule.  There are openings that we need to fill.  Please consider giving Richard a call at 423-1465 to volunteer your time.  It is a very interesting and enjoyable way to spend a few hours.  The view is magnificent, of course, and the visitors are happy to be there.

A lot happened during the winter months.  The Lighthouse Acquisition Committee, headed by Varoujan Karentz, has been hard at work, detailing how we plan to operate the Lighthouse, once the government releases it.  We are working toward a cooperative agreement between BLMA, the State of RI and the Town of Jamestown.  You can read more about this elsewhere in this newsletter.  In the meantime we have petitioned the Coast Guard to allow us to control the tower in return for its maintenance.  The lantern room will not be included in the arrangements, as the light will continue to be an active aid to navigation under the jurisdiction of the US Coast Guard.

We thank Jim Filkins for his work during the past two years, as buyer for the Beavertail Lighthouse Store, and for finding all the wonderful new items for the pleasure of our visitors.  Charlie and Karan Ostenton have taken over those duties and are already hard at work.  Charlie’s business experience makes him a natural for this position.

New book racks have been installed in the Gift Shop, freeing up shelves for more and more new items and the interactive map has been covered with plexiglass to protect it from curious fingers.  Our thanks to Jack Willis and George Warner for their time and expertise on both of these projects.

One of the highlights for BLMA members and friends was a bus tour to the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse in Portsmouth, New Hampshire that included a visit to the Lighthouse Depot and Museum of Lighthouse History in Wells Maine, followed by a delicious meal and shopping at Kittery, Maine.  Many thanks to Pat Lucas, who was in charge of the arrangements and did an excellent job.  We look forward to other such trips in the near future.

Sincerely,
Linda Warner,
President BLMA


BUILDING IMPROVMENTS

When the summer season drew to a close, after a very busy and successful 2004, we were pleased to learn that BLMA had received a grant from the Rhode Island Historic Preservation Commission to restore the windows in the Keeper’s and Assistant Keeper’s quarters. Storm windows will be purchased to preserve and protect the newly restored windows and will serve to lower the heating costs for both buildings, as well. All of the building improvements are costly and continuous, and we will continue to search for grant funding. But we need your support, as well, to succeed in our mission, to preserve and educate the public about Beavertail Lighthouse, the third oldest in our nation. .

And so we ask that, if you have not yet sent in your dues payment, please take a moment to do so now as we depend on your support to keep the Museum in operation. People by the hundreds stop by, rain or shine, all throughout the summer to see and hear about this lighthouse and others. Lighthouses are too quickly becoming but a memory in too many places.  We need to pull together to keep Beavertail Lighthouse and its history for generations yet to come.

BEAVERTAIL LIGHTHOUSE ACQUISITION PROGRESS UPDATE.
Varoujon Karentz, Chairman

While the US Coast Guard has not yet declared the Beavertail Light Station as excess government property ready for transfer, there are some upcoming changes in process.

The BLMA Board of Directors has approved the Light Station management concept which sets up a partnership identifying the State of Rhode Island as the potential transferee of the property, the Town of Jamestown as a second partner and the BLMA as the Light Station’s operational manager and principle partner.  Initial discussions have begun with both RI Department of Environmental Management and the Town of Jamestown aimed at developing a mutual agreement regarding the sites future operations and preservation.  This is in anticipation of responding to the US National Park Service (NPS) request for application when the Light Station does become available.

This past spring the BLMA petitioned the USCG to allow more frequent visitor use of the granite light tower and authority to begin some repairs that have been neglected by them.  The USCG has not appropriated any maintenance funds for any site upkeep except for emergencies.  The resident in the Keeper’s house, the RI DEM who use the old whistle building and BLMA have been the sole providers of maintenance services for the past few years.

The BLMA proposal to use the tower has been approved by the Coast Guard and changes are in process as a license modification to the Town of Jamestown.  The changes to the license include the maintenance of the other site buildings by adding BLMA as one of the principles in the license.  The modification will also remove the present restricted access to the tower with the exception of the lantern room, which remains an active navigational aid. 

When the license modification is received, BLMA plans to open the tower on more frequent occasions this fall where visitors will be able to climb the spiral staircase and view the spectacular surrounding terrain from the outside circular catwalk.

The Site Acquisition Committee continues to update the planning documents for BLMA’s future application to the U. S. National Park Service.  NPS has established new guidelines and submittal requirements for agencies and organizations applying for lighthouse acquisition.  A new Beavertail Light Station “site use plan” is being developed by the Acquisition Committee that will show how the entire site and all its buildings will be envisioned as a public use, historic, recreational and preserved entity.  This use plan will outline, both near term and future plans in addition to facility requirements and building restoration needs.  Since some concepts extend into a longer term period and have funding constraints, the new use plan will be developed around a multi-year phased implementation.

The committee is looking for a volunteer artist to help conceive some sketches for purposes of illustrating future site layout options.  Contact Varoujan Karentz at 401-423-0636 or Brenda Johnston at 401-295-7907 for further information.

DOCENT HIGHLIGHTS

Richard Koster, BLMA’s able Docent Coordinator, needs people to fill in some slots in the roster for July and August.  Please call him, at 423-1465 and tell him that you’d be delighted to help out.  You’ll love it down at the point – there’s no prettier or more refreshing spot on earth and you’ll meet many interesting people.  Give him a call, won’t you?  You’ll be glad you did!

Docents! Take heart!  Your parking problems (particularly the afternoon shift) have been addressed.  A “Museum Staff Parking Only “ sign as been affixed to the split rail fence warning others away.  But be sure that your Museum Staff Sign is visible on your vehicle so you don’t get ticketed!

That new cash register which gave us all the jitters is becoming just part of the scenery, with most docents quickly catching on to its mysteries.  We still need the sales record sheets filled out, though, for inventory purposes.  AND!  We now have a counting device to find out just how many people really do come down to visit our famous Lighthouse and its lovely museum.  Don’t forget to urge visitors to sign the guest log – it’s nice to know where they all hail from – near and far.

The Museum mannequin dressed up as a Lighthouse Keeper will not be the only one in uniform in the lighthouse. Alan Bestwick has gone to great lengths to find an authentic Lighthouse Service Uniform to wear on his watch as docent.  Alan tells us that there was never an official uniform for Lighthouse Keepers during the days of the Lighthouse Service, now long gone, but he has found a company that specializes in tailoring uniforms bearing authentic buttons and insignia and one is currently under construction to his measurements.  In the very near future guests will be greeted and escorted by Alan in his Assistant Lighthouse Keeper’s uniform with the insignia #2 on the lapels. During the winter months, Alan serves as a tour guide at Florida’s tallest lighthouse, The Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse, which is located in the Daytona area of Florida.

Hugh Bucher, BLMA’s first board president often wore a uniform during special events on the grounds and in the museum. Hugh appeared in full uniform in the 1999 Jamestown Memorial Day Parade. He marched proudly at the head of the Beavertail Lighthouse Contingent which carried the banner proclaiming the 250th year of a ‘Light” at Beavertail Point. 1749 – 1999.

LIGHTHOUSE IN GOOD SHAPE

Don Barrows reports that during the winter, a committee consisting of Board members, Guy Archambault, Don Barrows, and Joe Bouchard, completed their assignment to provide the measurements of the site.  Joe completed the prints and has sent them to the Committee.  They also met with Keith Lescarbeau, President and owner of Abcore Restoration Company, which was responsible for completing the restoration of Plum Beach Light and Sakonnet Light.  Although Don, has not visited the lighthouses on site, but he notes that from a distance they look nicely restored.  Many can attest to that regarding the Plum Beach Light, which sits just north of the Jamestown Verazzano Bridge and is seen by many who cross the bridge daily. Keith has toured the Beavertail Light Station property and overall, he has found the structure to be sound, although there is considerable cosmetic work to be done.  He has submitted a schedule to Don, who looks forward to a follow-up in the near future.  We expect to have more details very soon on where we go from here.


W. CRAIG ARMINGTON MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIPS AWARDED.

Scholarship Committee Chair, Linda Jacobson reported she met with committee members, Linda and Don Barrows to begin the difficult task of narrowing down to two, from the twelve applications received for the BLMA W. Craig Armington Memorial Scholarship program. The end result was that Lauren Evangelista, a North Kingstown High School graduate and Caitlin Kozel, a Lincoln School graduate were the winners of the two scholarship awards.  Lauren received her certificate and check during Honors Night at NK High School and Caitlin received hers at the Lighthouse with Linda and her husband Jim Myers.  What could be more appropriate than that!


A POSTSCRIPT TO KEEPER EBERLE

Two of our docents, Linda Jacobson and her husband Jim Myers, who stand regular watches at the museum every summer, had an encounter with some history one day, four or five years ago. Linda tells us that an agitated elderly woman came into the Museum, and asked ‘How can I get to Whale Rock Lighthouse’? .  Linda explained that you can’t get there from here without a boat.  The lady seemed extremely upset and said that she just had to get there. She had to see it.  Linda took her to the window and pointed out where the Lighthouse had stood and suggested that she drive to the mainland and perhaps be able to see a better view of it.  The lady became quite distressed and began to cry, and in trying to console her, Linda learned that she is the youngest of the six Eberle children.  She went on to say that on that day, September 21, 1938, her father, an assistant Keeper,had sensed the bad weather brewing. He rowed out to Whale Rock to get the Keeper out of the light and sadly, as we all know now, was never heard from again.  Her mother was completely devastated by the loss of her husband and the finality of it all, and died two years later.  The children were all separated to live in different homes.  In all of the sadness of her plight, we never got her name, Linda tells us, but only know that she lives somewhere in Florida now.

 We’d love to be able to reach her to let her know that a plan is in place to memorialize her father.  If you have information please let us know by phone, mail, or email, (located on front page.)

A TALE OF TWO LIGHTHOUSES, A FIERCE AND UNEXPECTED STORM AND ITS DEVASTATING BLOW.

Here we are in July, the earlier part of 2005

Hurricane season, and already we have been subjected to Mother Nature’s fury with the fourth storm dancing around in the Gulf. Early warnings have been given and many have already evacuated the area which is considered to be the destination of Hurricane Dennis, reported to be a Category 4 storm headed for the USA Mainland. This is to be a fierce storm, according to the Weather Bureau, following closely in the path of Ivan, only ten months ago. We’re told that the cleanup from Ivan has not been completed and fear and awe of Dennis’s arrival permeates the south. Continuous breaking news alerts and predictions are being broadcast all day long, yet hurricanes are hardly a new phenomenon.

Come with us, back into history to the year 1938, down through the years to revisit a fierce and dangerous hurricane which howled its way up the East coast and inflicted unbelievable damage and destruction throughout Southern New England.  There was no warning – no minute by minute reporting – no television broadcasts to track the storm from its earliest moments – no preparation nor chance to prepare. Kids were dismissed from school to make their way home, as best they could.  Waves, enormously big and terrifying, crashed down on the shores, relentlessly and death and destruction were the record of the day.

In Narragansett Bay there still stands (now newly renovated and equipped with a solar light in its tower), Plum Beach Lighthouse, a small structure of the ‘spark plug “ design.

There was no bridge in place at the time of our story and the little lighthouse was indeed a vital navigational aid.  In it were two men, Keeper John Ganze, and a visiting substitute keeper, Edwin Babcock.  Babcock tried to row back to shore, but was forced back to the light by the raging waters. 

The story goes on to tell us that the two men were trapped and as the crashing waves assaulted the tiny island and its tower, they were driven ever upward by the rising and raging waters.  Eventually they were trapped in the very upper lantern area that housed the light.  One of them knew the urgency to open portholes and windows for fear the entire structure would burst open from the outside pressure (like an egg as we’re told). 

They opened all they could and sooner or later the water drained away.  They looked southwest but could not see Whale Rock’s Light, and when morning finally broke they could see that it was not just that the light was out – the lighthouse had disappeared, equipment, tower, keeper and all.

What had happened to the remains of Whale Rock Lighthouse?  What kind of fury was packed within that powerful storm, that it could remove all trace of the structure and its keeper without a trace?  It had stood as a lonely and vital sentinel outpost at the mouth of Narragansett Bay’s west passage since 1882 to caution ships away from the deadly reef hidden below the surface.  Fifteen years before it was built a ship hit the reef, and five of the six men aboard were lost. The station was never a favorite of  either keepers nor assistant keepers – it was lonely, cold and isolated from their families, friends and life in general.  Keepers came and went with great frequency, preferring other less hostile assignments. 

When the infamous 1938 Hurricane let loose its fury that fateful day of September 21st, Walter Barge Eberle, assistant keeper was on board. He was 40 years old, a 20 year navy veteran and a master diver.  He was father of six children and alone in the lighthouse.  His family waited anxiously throughout the storm to hear word of Walter, but when word came it was the simple message: “The lighthouse is gone”.  His body was never found. Eberle had been in the lighthouse service only one year.

David Robinson, an Undersea Archaeologist from the Public Archaeology Lab in Pawtucket, RI. has located some of the remains of the lighthouse. He has begun a campaign to establish a plaque dedicated to the memory Walter Eberle, to be placed somewhere in the area where Beavertail Lighthouse stands.

If you would like to hear more about this riveting story of Walter Barge Eberle, learn more about what has been found of Whale Rock Lighthouse, don’t miss Beavertail Lighthouse Museum’s annual meeting to be held on August 16, 2005.  See flyer enclosed for more details.

Mark your calendar for August 20 and September 10 from twelve to three because the Tower will be open. Take the adventure of climbing the winding metal staircase and feel the footfalls of the keepers who went before you. Look out over Narragansett Bay, Block Island and our Conanicut Island. We look forward to seeing you at the Light!