Saturday, December 11, 1999

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Heavy duty repairs

By DENNIS HOEY, Staff Writer

© Copyright 1999 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

ARROWSIC - A steel cable attached to the crane twitches. The lighthouse's tower shifts slightly, but does not move off its foundation.

Several people who have gathered along the Kennebec River clench their cameras or hands. Moments later, the crane's engine roars again, but this time there is movement.

Doubling Point Light's white clapboard tower, which weighs five tons, is lifted into the air, dangling by a steel cord over the river it has kept watch over for more than a century. The wooden tower swings toward a barge. It lands safely, the first leg of its journey upriver about to begin. Spectators begin to relax. "It's like having a baby. All that fuss and it's over in 10 minutes," Joyce Spencer said.


Workers lift Doubling Point Light from its 102-year-old perch along the Kennebec River on Friday. Crews from Reed and Reed Construction Co. will put the Woolwich landmark back in place after repairs to its ice-damaged base. Supporters raised nearly $25,000 to match a grant to pay for repairs. Staff photo by Doug Jones

 

 

The lighthouse tower, which was erected in 1898, needed to be moved off its granite block foundation so the foundation can be rebuilt. Over the years, ice floes have pounded Doubling Point Light's foundation, causing its blocks to shift and crack. Lighthouse enthusiasts were concerned that the tower might fall into the river.

Last summer, the Friends of Doubling Point Light went public with a campaign to save the lighthouse, which is part of a riverfront system of lighthouses that were installed south of Bath around the turn of the century.

Perkins Island Light, Squirrel Point Light, Doubling Point Range Lights and Doubling Point Light were installed by the United States Lighthouse Board to deal with a sharp increase in river traffic.

Doubling Point Light was built on the western shore of Arrowsic Island, on a point of land that forms one of two dangerous right angles in the Kennebec River. That stretch of river is known for its strong currents and eddies. A white light in the tower, powered by electricity, flashes every four seconds.

Since August, the Friends of Doubling Point Light has been able to raise $24,000. It must raise another $1,000 before the Kurt Berliner Foundation in New York City will provide a matching grant of $25,000. The deadline is Dec. 30.

"I feel so grateful. These people (who have given donations) have really put out for us. Their efforts will preserve the lighthouse from being at risk of falling into the river this century and hopefully for another century," said Jim Spencer, president of the Friends of Doubling Point Light.

Spencer said the fund-raising effort has allowed his group to hire Reed & Reed, a Woolwich-based contractor, to repair Doubling Point Light's unstable foundation.

Charles Guerette, Reed & Reed's project manager, said his crews will spend the rest of the month resetting the granite blocks - each block weighs about six tons - and filling the foundation's core with concrete. Steel tie rods will be inserted to hold the blocks together. Iron brackets, which were installed in 1898, have rusted out. Currently, the foundation is filled with loose stone rubble.

No one is certain how long the fix will last, but the hope is for at least another century.

A solid, white light has been placed on the foundation as a temporary measure to warn vessels. The wooden tower will be stored at the company's docking facility in Woolwich until the foundation repairs have been completed in a few weeks. Guerette expects to have the tower installed on its new foundation by Dec. 30.

Spencer said the Friends of Doubling Point Light still have a lot of work ahead of them. Spencer would like to paint and refurbish the boardwalk that connects the lighthouse with the mainland. And he estimates it will cost about $2,500 a year to maintain the lighthouse.

But his most difficult task may be locating a missing fog bell that was removed from the lighthouse by the United States Coast Guard in 1980.

"The Coast Guard has lost track of the bell," Spencer said. "I'm hoping that all this interest will give us a lead on where it can be found."

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: dhoey@pressherald.com

This article is courtesy of the Portland Press Herald.