GOULDSBORO — Lighthouses take a beating from Mother Nature. These isolated outposts on barren ledges are submerged at times by surging seas. Violent storms pummel the beacons and have heavily damaged keepers’ quarters and swept away boathouses, ramps, fog horns and other structures over the years. The outposts required constant maintenance and working on them could be perilous.
Facing south, the Prospect Harbor Lighthouse has taken its share of abuse from the elements since it was built in 1850. Off limits to the public, the 30- foot-high tower and wood-frame keeper’s house are located on the U.S. Navy’s Prospect Harbor Naval Satellite Operations Center on the harbor’s eastern shore. Over the years, the dwelling has required periodic painting, reshingling and masonry work to withstand the increasingly extreme weather.
A true-to-scale model of the Prospect Harbor light station, too, has withstood gale-force winds, driving rain and snow and other severe weather. The white clapboard and black-trimmed light station, complete with twin brick chimneys on the roof, stands on the Schoodic National Scenic Byway’s stone pavilion between the Gouldsboro town office and the Prospect Harbor Women’s Club. Built in honor of Gouldsboro’s 200th birthday, some of the replica’s asphalt shingles are curling and frayed. Paint is peeling in places from the overlapping wooden clapboards. The diminutive light station has held up remarkably well over the 32 years since it was presented as a bicentennial gift by the Prospect Harbor Naval Satellite Operations Center’s personnel to the town in 1989.
Cherryfield resident William Kearns and some of the naval installation’s sailors built the exact reproduction. At the time, Kearns headed the naval group’s maintenance department. Previously, he served as the satellite operations’ watch supervisor. Starting at age 18, he had first worked at the Navy’s former radar station off the Corea Road before the site was closed.
“The Navy wanted to do something for the town’s bicentennial,” Kearns recalled last week. His boss gave him the go-ahead to construct the replica. No detail was spared. “I built it just like a real house. Every one of those shingles was nailed in like a real house.”
The meticulously built Prospect Harbor Light, whose beacon can be illuminated and rotates, proved a big hit. The lighthouse won multiple blue ribbons in contests and was a familiar fixture display atop a trailer in town parades. Over the years, the reproduction has had some repairs and alterations.
At the Select Board’s meeting earlier this month, Gouldsboro Infrastructure Superintendent Jim McLean informed the board that the lighthouse was deteriorating and local resident and retired Maine Forest Service Ranger Rick Henion had come forth and offered his woodworking skills in that regard.
“It’s an important part of the town,” Select Board Chairman Dana Rice noted.
Since then, interim Town Manager Eve Wilkinson has consulted with both Kearns and Henion and says some plan will be formulated later this year.