What do you get when you mix a few life-long friends, a collective love for history, hometown, and challenge, and a crumbling lighthouse owned by the government and slated for demolition?
Answer: A rescue and restoration adventure overseen by twenty-two different state and federal agencies – sure to test even the most determined individuals and a backstory that makes us want to experience this place firsthand.
Boothbay Harbor was a busy fishing port in the 19th and the early 20th centuries. In 1890, the Lighthouse Board Report decided after one too many close calls that the harbor needed a light and fog signal to protect mariners seeking shelter in inclement weather. In 1892, $25,000 was appropriated to build the light and a keeper’s house.
A granite pier was constructed at the highest point of the island to raise the fog signal above the storm waves with the addition of the light tower in 1907. For more than a century, the Cuckolds fog signal and light station has protected mariners and commercial fisherman as they journeyed into Boothbay Harbor and it still does today.
The fog signal was manned by two light keeper families until the mid 1970s when the light was finally automated. A few years later, with no one now keeping watch, the keeper’s house and boathouse were vandalized and dismantled, leaving a lonely light tower and fog signal to stand watch unattended and crumble from the never ending wind and waves. In 2004, under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, the Federal government began accepting applications from interested and eligible parties to acquire Cuckolds Fog Signal and Light Station. The alternative was to tear the iconic light down. This is where this story begins.
Enter Southport summer residents Janet Reingold and Philip Yasinski. As adventures often do these days, it all started with a benign email. When Janet Reingold received the notice about the Boothbay Harbor Lighthouse potentially being torn down, she turned to her husband and asked jokingly, “Honey, do we have a lighthouse?”
To which her husband quipped, “No. And we don’t want one either!”
With forty-eight hours left before the deadline approached, Janet and Philip submitted a letter to express their interest in the property. A follow up call from the National Park Services revealed that there were five other parties interested in acquiring the property, none from the Boothbay Region.
Over the next two years, the couple rallied a growing group of volunteers to their cause, including lifelong Southport residents, friends who spend summers in the area, and area newcomers as well.. With help from a high-powered attorney who thought this could be fun, the threesome created a non-profit organization, and developed detailed plans for restoring the light tower, and rebuilding the keeper’s house, boathouse, and bell tower to historical specifications, but with the benefit of modern materials and building techniques. Over several years, they recruited friends and raised funds to rescue and restore the Light Station. Local and regional businesses donated materials, design expertise and other resources to bring the project to fruition as the first federally-owned lighthouse to change ownership to private hands.
After a five-hundred and forty-two page application, a two year vetting process, countless hours and dollars spent over a decade and twenty-two different state and federal agencies to appease, in 2014 The Inn at Cuckold’s Lighthouse finally opened its doors to its first guests. This lovingly restored historic inn offers two master suites, with the option to reserve the whole island and inn for added privacy—both for reasonable prices. Each guest will experience uninterrupted 360 degree views of the ocean, spectacular sunrises and sunsets, will be surrounded by ocean sounds, crashing surf and dramatic, twice-a-day, 10-13 foot tides to reconnect with nature.
Despite the lengthy process in which it took for a group of friends from various professional backgrounds – civic leaders, architects, civil and marine engineers, historians, and more to save this lighthouse, this restoration adventure is still not complete. Fundraising is still ongoing to help complete the boathouse interior to hold historic exhibits for future visitor tours, rebuild the bell tower, purchase a second Coast Guard inspected launch that can transport more visitors, create signage and wayfinding guides, and more. Their vision is to create a jewel of mid-coast Maine, a world-class destination to learn about marine history, revel in nature, experience luxury and pampering, and host tours, education and recreation activities that all help further enrich the region, and sustain this asset for future generations.
We will get to the harrowing details of the actual construction of this inn in a future blog since it warrants its own entry. For now, guests of The Inn at Cuckolds can enjoy the solitude & privacy of an offshore island off the rugged coast of Maine, luxurious accommodations at an accessible price, and an experience unlike any other when staying at this elegantly designed and meticulously restored historic lighthouse.
For more information on The Inn at Cuckolds’s Lighthouse rescue and restoration check out the below video. To make a reservation for this once in a lifetime experience you can call 855-212-5252.