The gleaming white tower of the Burnt Island lighthouse stands above a sprawl of seaweed draped rocks. The ruby panels of the lantern room surround a 300 mm Fresnel lens. A slow mist moves in from the sea.
The Burnt Island Lighthouse, lovingly restored two centuries after it was first erected to guide ships to safe harbor, is ready for its close up.
On Thursday, Aug. 19, several hundred guests and dignitaries, including Gov. Janet Mills, noted artist Jamie Wyeth, three former lighthouse keepers along with the families of many more, and volunteers and donors who helped bring the lighthouse back to life gathered to celebrate the 200th birthday of the Burnt Island Light.
Following an invocation by the Rev. Peter Ilgenfritz, interim pastor of the Congregational Church of Boothbay Harbor, and an a capella rendition of the National Anthem sung by Boothbay Region High School sophomore Susannah Edwards, Gov. Mills spoke about the educational value of the lighthouse, of its history and of its future.
Before she closed, Mills recognized the dedication of keeper of the light Elaine Jones who stewarded both the acquisition and the restoration of the lighthouse.
Jones and the governor together presented a Lighthouse Preservation award to artist Jamie Wyeth. Wyeth is the son of renowned artist Andrew Wyeth and the grandson of American artist and illustrator N.C. Wyeth.
Through his work with the Maine Lights Program, which was instituted to preserve historic lighthouses along the coast of Maine, Jamie Wyeth helped fund the initial acquisition of Burnt Island Light. And a recent grant from the Jamie Wyeth Foundation covered the costs of necessary repairs to the boathouse roof.
Jones introduced the audience to the history of the lighthouse from its construction in 1821 to its automation in 1988 to its recently completed restoration.
Jones and U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Amy Florentino presented framed photos of the renovated lighthouse to the three former keepers and to the family members of every former keeper Jones could locate.
Matthew Lindemann, assistant principal of Boothbay Region Elementary School spoke about his personal educational experience with the lighthouse. He camped on Burnt Island for three days when he was in the fifth grade and the experience stayed with him. It informed both his career as an educator and his current involvement with the Keepers of the Burnt Island Light nonprofit organization.
Jean McKay, who was instrumental in the development of a living history program inspired by the life of the lighthouse keepers, recognized the students and volunteers who made that program successful.
At the end of the program, Jones was surprised with a commemorative silver platter and a heartfelt round of applause to honor her role in ensuring that the Burnt Island Light and its 200-year history remain accessible to the people of Maine.