Seguin Island Light supporters to hold Bath fundraiser

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BATH — The Seguin Island lighthouse since 1795 has seen its fair share of history on the waters of the Kennebec River and Gulf of Maine.

The Bath-based Friends of Seguin Island Light Station want to ensure the historic structure’s legacy ripples far into the future.

The eighth Summerfest fundraiser, to be held Saturday, Sept. 9, at the Winter Street Center, 880 Washington St., will offer live and silent auctions, and catering by the Winnegance Restaurant & Bakery. Paintings by local artists, two nights at Sugarloaf, a Merrymeeting Bay cruise through the Maine Maritime Museum, and gift certificates to local restaurants and businesses are among items that will be auctioned.

The 5:30 p.m. event costs $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Tickets are available by calling the Friends office at 443-4808 or board member Ken Young at 841-8562. Tickets are also being sold at Now You’re Cooking at 49 Front St., Halcyon Yarn at 12 School St., and at the Sagadahock Real Estate Association at 33 Centre St.

Those three businesses, along with Bath Savings, First Federal Savings, and the Bath Printing Co., are the event sponsors.

Young joined the board soon after the Friends’ founding in 1986. When the U.S. Coast Guard left the island the prior year, three groups competed to take it over: the Hyde School, the state, and the Friends, Young recalled in an interview Aug. 30.

“We were organized and ready to go, and so we got it,” he said, noting that while the group leased the Georgetown-based island from the Coast Guard for a decade, it received all 64 acres of the island and its buildings in 1995.

The group maintains six moorings at the island, which as many as 3,000 people visit annually.

“There’s been a great cadre of volunteers that have worked out there,” Young said, noting work done on the main house, and the creation of a museum on the island.

The Friends hire caretakers from all over the country and all walks of life to stay on the island from just before Memorial Day to Labor Day; volunteers to the job through Columbus Day. Young said “Wednesday Warriors” go out each week to do maintenance work, and guest quarters are available as well.

Seguin’s first lighthouse tower was built of wood in 1795 at a cost of $6,300, according to information posted at seguinisland.org. When that structure deteriorated, a stone tower went up in 1819 for about $2,200.

Young said he figured the lantern from the first tower was used in the second, which helped reduce the cost.

Extreme weather wasn’t kind to the second tower, so a third – which stands today – was built of stone for $35,000 in 1857; its 53 feet tall and stands 186 feet above sea level.

All the granite used to build the tower, the brick lining and walls of a house also built in 1857 are three layers thick, Young said. A two-oxen cart carried the material to the top of the island, traversing the steep grade from 20 feet above sea level to the 150-foot apex, he added.

The tower remains outfitted with a Fresnel lens, the only operating one of its kind in Maine, with an estimated replacement cost of $8 million, according to the Friends. A little further up the coast, at the Maine Maritime Museum, is another Fresnel lens, has recently gone on display.

The island was included in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

“I feel like it’s important to maintain it,” Young said. “It’s historic, it was commissioned by George Washington in 1795. … I just think it’s a great place.”

Pointing to the work of his fellow Wednesday Warriors, the 80-year-old said, “we have a great time together, (even though) we’re working when we’re out there. … There’s a great fellowship among those committed to the island.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A fundraiser for Seguin Island and its lighthouse will be held in Bath Saturday, Sept. 9

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.