GOULDSBORO — The Prospect Harbor Lighthouse’s heavily damaged keeper’s cottage will get a temporary roof and be structurally stabilized this fall before the U.S. Navy begins an assessment of and engages the public about the 173-year-old historic structure’s future over the coming winter and next spring.
Gary Hildreth, deputy public affairs officer at the U.S. Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, confirmed Monday that the U.S. Space Force already has assumed official command of the U.S. Naval Satellite Operations Center in Prospect Harbor. Hildreth said the U.S. Navy remains in charge of the Prospect Harbor property, which includes Gull Cottage, as well as the base’s day-to-day operations. For many years, the U.S. Navy made Gull Cottage available as a vacation retreat for active and retired military personnel, National Guard reservists and 100 percent disabled veterans and their families.
“Responsibility for the mission operations performed at Prospect Harbor has transferred to 10th Space Operations Squadron,” Hildreth reported.
At the Gouldsboro Select Board’s Sept. 1 meeting, the U.S. Navy’s community plans and liaison officer, Thomas Morley, reported that a contractor, later identified as CCI Construction Services, had been hired to remove charred and water-damaged debris from the two-story, wood-frame dwelling that caught fire before dawn June 27. A faulty ceiling fan in an upstairs bathroom caused the fire.
Morley introduced himself and informed the Select Board that structurally unstable portions of Gull Cottage’s roof framing and the upper sections of its two chimneys will be removed in coming months. He said a temporary roof is to be installed before winter “to protect the remaining building fabric as a long-term plan for Gull Cottage is developed.”
Off limits to the public, the U.S. Navy’s Prospect Harbor Light Station Historic District is located on the U.S. Naval Satellite Operations Center property. For nearly a year, the U.S. Navy operation had been in a transitional phase in which the nation’s newly formed U.S. Space Force was assuming command of the Prospect Harbor satellite facility as part of the nationwide consolidation of all communications satellites under the new branch of U.S. armed forces.
In keeping with the U.S. National Historic Preservation Act (Section 106), enacted to protect historic and cultural properties from unintentional federal action, Morley said the Navy will give the public and interested parties an opportunity to review and comment on any proposed changes to the historic building. They also will have the opportunity to register their views, thoughts and hopes for the clapboard cottage standing on Prospect Harbor’s eastern shore. The fire destroyed most of the dwelling’s roof and second story. The wood-frame, automated lighthouse was unscathed.
“The Navy anticipates the engagement effort will begin in earnest during Winter/Spring 2023,” Morley said as part of his statement. He succeeds Jackie Johnston, who retired late last year as the Navy’s community plans and liaison officer.
Established in 1849, the Prospect Harbor Light Station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Nathaniel Noyes was the first of the Prospect Harbor Light’s eight keepers, who also included Samuel H. Sargent, Gibeon E. Harman, John Royal, Horatio Allen, Ambrose Wasgatt, William C. Gott and Albert Faulkingham, before the beacon was automated in 1934. The U.S. Coast Guard still maintains the automated light as a navigational aid. Multiple generations of the lightkeepers’ descendants have made their home and derived their livelihood on the Schoodic Peninsula.
Earlier this summer, the Gouldsboro Historical Society circulated a petition asking federal authorities to “restore rather than demolish the building” that “is an important part of the maritime and identity of the Schoodic Peninsula.” More than 250 signatures were collected and the petition submitted to U.S. Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine). Some of the petitioners requested that the historic light station become more accessible for the local community and public to see.