The History of Cuckolds Light Station
Boothbay Harbor was a busy fishing port in the 19th and early 20th century when The Lighthouse Board Report for 1890 noted the need for a fog signal station to protect mariners seeking shelter in foggy or inclement weather. The report noted:
“The Cuckolds consist of two rocky islets rising about 59 feet above high water in the
westerly edge of the channel at the entrance to Booth Bay. They are dangerous of
approach on their southern side on account of the reefs in that direction, and the shoals
also extend half a mile to the westward of the western rock, but the eastward side of the
eastern rock is quite bold-to. The flood current sets right on these rocks. They are much
dreaded by mariners in thick weather and are a great peril to a large number of vessels.”
In 1892, $25,000 was appropriated for the building of a fog signal station and keeper’s house. To protect the buildings from the sea in heavy storms, a granite pier was constructed on the highest part of the island to support and raise the fog signal station structure above the storm waves. A light tower was added to the station in 1907, which was visible up to 13 miles. In June 2004, under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, the Federal government invited interested and eligible entities to apply to acquire the Cuckolds Fog Signal and Light Station. Deemed excess to the United States Coast Guard, and threatened with destruction, the Cuckolds was at a critical turning point.
In May 2006, a small, committed band of local citizens, organized as the Cuckolds Fog Signal and Light Station Council, succeeded in its efforts to rescue the lighthouse as the deed to the property was presented to the Council. Since then, volunteer-led efforts have been the driving force to restore the historic light station that serves as the “front porch light” for the greater Boothbay region.
Restoring the Cuckolds Light Station
The restoration of Cuckolds Lighthouse would not be possible if not for a group of visionaries and community leaders who rallied to save the light station from demolition once it was no longer deemed necessary by the United States Coast Guard.
For more than a century, the Cuckolds Fog Signal and Light Station protected mariners as they journeyed into Boothbay Harbor; the addition of the light tower in 1907 further aided their passage, and still does today. In fact, many say Boothbay Harbor would never have come to be had the light station not made passage into the harbor safe and practical for commercial fishermen and others back at the turn of the 20th century.
The station was manned by two pairs of light keepers until the mid 1970s when, like many of the lighthouses that dot the American coastline, the light was automated and, a few years later, the keeper’s house and boat house dismantled, leaving a lonely light tower and fog signal to stand watch unattended.
In 2004, people on Southport Island and the surrounding area, concerned that the light signal was slated for demolition, to be replaced by a fiberglass light pole, rallied to save their beloved historic landmark.
The National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, passed by Congress in 2000, gave the community a glimmer of hope. The goal of the program was to find local non-profits to take ownership of
lighthouses considered “excess property.” When the Cuckolds Light Station appeared on the list in 2004, longtime Southport summer residents Janet Reingold and Philip Yasinski submitted a letter of intent just 48 hours before the application deadline.
Over the next two years, the couple rallied a growing group of volunteers, including lifelong residents and relative newcomers, to the rescue. The group raised funds and developed detailed plans for restoring the light tower, rebuilding the keeper’s house and boathouse to historical specifications, but with the benefit of modern materials and building techniques. Local and regional businesses have donated building materials, design expertise and other resources to bring the project to fruition, and Reingold and Yasinski have led the development of a sustainability plan to ensure Cuckolds generates its own revenue in the future.