From 900 feet away on shore, you can’t appreciate the bell made by an apprentice of Paul Revere. Or the bulky electric fog horns nicknamed R2D2 (squint and there’s a slight resemblance). Or the cool, round, lighthouse keepers’ bedrooms. Or the hole in the deck for the former outhouse — long defunct but wild to think about today.

No, to appreciate all that and more, you’ve got to get up close to the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse, like Art Greene does every Tuesday.

Like you can next Saturday.

During Maine Open Lighthouse Day on Sept. 8, 21 participating lighthouses from the tip of Lubec to Kennebunkport will open their grounds, their doors or both to visitors, in at least one case offering limited once-a-year access.

The annual event, sponsored by the U.S. Coast Guard, the Maine Office of Tourism and the American Lighthouse Foundation, draws up to 18,000 people a year, according to the ALF.

“Lighthouses are part of our heritage,” said Greene, one of Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse’s 16 volunteer keepers or trustees. He leads tours every Tuesday.

Six of Maine Open Lighthouse Day’s 21 lighthouses are within a 90-minute drive of the Twin Cities. Go, walk, climb, meet interpretive guides, get inspired to volunteer or snag one of the coveted 280 tickets to get to the top of the Portland Head Light.

Burnt Island Light, south of Boothbay Harbor

On Maine Open Lighthouse Day: Boats will run back and forth to the island from 9 a.m. to noon from Pier 8 in Boothbay Harbor. It’s best to reserve your spot in advance at BalmyDaysCruises.com. Note: The state isn’t charging a fee for activities that day, but the private boat operator is charging a $10-a-person fee for the boat ride.

Fun fact: It’s one of 11 Burnt Islands in Maine. It’s believed that most Burnts either got their names from being intentionally set on fire for brush control or accidentally set on fire by fishermen tarring nets to make them more waterproof, according to Education Director Elaine Jones with the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

Shortly after the state acquired the now nearly 200-year-old lighthouse in 1998, Jones said she dug into its history, finding Willard Muise, the son of Joseph Muise, the lighthouse keeper from 1936-1951, still living in town.

“Willard and his three sisters came out to Burnt Island — it had been almost 50 years since they’d been there — and they shared with us the stories that we tell the public (today),” Jones said. “I have their table, their chairs, their highchair, their dad’s shaving mug, their lamp, their mama’s apron, their paper dolls. Anything they still had and could give back to Burnt Island, they did.”

Saturday’s open house will offer the last tours of the 2018. Visitors will find interpretive guides dressed in 1950s costumes portraying the Muises at different stations around the island. They can also head up to the lantern room at the top of the lighthouse and explore the island. Just make sure to catch the last boat back at noon — it’s a long winter ahead.

Squirrel Point Light, Arrowsic (near Bath)

On Maine Open Lighthouse Day: Open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Expect a half-mile walk in the woods with uneven terrain. Volunteers from the Citizens for Squirrel Point will be on the grounds answering questions and the former lighthouse keeper’s residence will be unlocked so the public can look inside.

Fun fact: Yes, it’s a bit out of the way. Yes, it’s a modest size compared to many of its lighthouse brethren (about 23 feet). And, yes, it’s a bit challenging to walk to, but that does not deter lighthouse devotees: Cars from Alaska and Oregon were recently spotted visiting.

Since banding together three years ago to restore the 1898 lighthouse, Citizens for Squirrel Point have overseen $80,000 in improvements including new shingles, new sills and new roofing, according to board president Roman Wasilewski.

“The thing was steadily deteriorating since 1980, which is when it was automated and the last keeper and his family departed,” Wasilewski said. “We’ve cleared the grounds, we’ve put in information kiosks, we are even as we speak painting away at the lighthouse shingles at the site.”

Doubling Point Lighthouse, Arrowsic (near Bath)

On Maine Open Lighthouse Day: Open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Explore and meet former U.S. Coast Guard keepers Karen and Danny McLean.

Fun fact: Back in 1999, when it was at risk of tumbling over, Doubling Point was lifted off its base and sent up river on a barge while the foundation was repaired. Friends of Doubling Point Lighthouse, which owns it and fund raises for its restoration, has a photo series of the repairs, before, during and after for the $50,000 project, on its website.

Also from its website, why lighthouses still matter:

“Even though the ‘age of the lighthouse’ has passed, it is important that we never lose Doubling Point Light. The light is an historic aid to navigation, warning of two treacherous right-angle turns in the Kennebec and offering protection for ships and boats from a shallow and rocky promontory. It is also a link to our maritime past . . . “

Portland Breakwater Lighthouse (Bug Light), South Portland

On Maine Open Lighthouse Day: Open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Hours may be extended on either side.) It’s one of the few times each year the public is allowed inside that lighthouse. No tickets needed, but there may be a line.

Fun fact: The diminutive lighthouse was nicknamed Bug Light because of its size.

Kathy DiPhilippo, executive director of the nearby South Portland Historical Society, said the lighthouse is maintained by volunteers from the Rotary Club of South Portland-Cape Elizabeth. (It’s owned by the city of South Portland.) The lighthouse, which dates back to 1875, only opens a few times a year, though people can admire it from Bug Light Park anytime.

Visitors can also learn more about it at the historical society, open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Maine Open Lighthouse Day.

“It’s a three-level lighthouse,” said DiPhilippo. “It’s got little portholes on the second floor you can look out. Of course, you go way up to the top. You’re sitting right off Portland and right off Fort Gorges, so it’s a nice view from there.”

Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse, South Portland

On Maine Open Lighthouse Day: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is free but donations are encouraged. Children need to be at least 51 inches tall to enter the lighthouse (there are several ladders to climb). Also note: There’s a 900-foot-long granite block breakwater that leads to the lighthouse. Definitely a wear-sneakers-and-keep-an-eye-on-your-kids undertaking.

Fun fact: The massive granite breakwater that connects the lighthouse to shore wasn’t started until 1950, more than 150 years after the lighthouse first turned on. It wasn’t built for lighthouse keepers’ ease, though it surely (shorely?) made it a lot more convenient. The breakwater was added to mitigate storm surge for the nearby marina, according to volunteer Art Greene.

Bonus fun fact, from the lighthouse website: It’s the only caisson-style light station in the United States that visitors can walk to.

On tours, guides like Greene show visitors around the keepers’ kitchen and bedrooms. Two people lived there at a time, a keeper and assistant, with no room for families. Keepers back in the day earned $540 a year, Greene said. To supplement their income, on sunny days they did things like lobster and fish and pilot boats.

Gus Wilson, the keeper from 1914 to 1934, carved duck decoys and sold them for 75 cents each. One of Wilson’s decoys sold in 2002 for $126,000, according to Greene. Pictures of his work hang in the lighthouse today.

Portland Head Light, Cape Elizabeth

On Maine Open Lighthouse Day: Open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., but they start handing out those 280 coveted tickets to the top at 8:30 a.m.

Fun fact: This lighthouse wouldn’t be blamed for harboring a Goldilocks complex: It was raised and lowered four times between 1791 and 1891 to get the height just right, according to Portland Head Light Museum Director Jeanne Gross.

“They were building additional lighthouses in the area and (and the thinking was) the ships would pick up the newer lights first and then Portland Head Light didn’t have to be as prominent, but that didn’t work out so well,” said Gross.

It’s now 80 feet tall and the public is only allowed up inside once a year, on Maine Open Lighthouse Day. The only requirements, other than getting there early to snag one of 280 tickets: You’ve got to be at least 48 inches tall and able to walk a circular staircase with 89 steps unassisted.

“You can see Two Lights (State Park) when you’re up in the tower,” Gross said. “On a clear day, you can see Halfway Rock. Ram Island Ledge Light is the one that’s right off Portland Headlight, that’s visible. And then to the north you can see Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse.”

While there, check out the museum housed inside the former keeper’s quarters that looks, from the outside, about the same as it would have looked in 1891. 

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Portland Breakwater Lighthouse, known as Bug Light, in South Portland is one of 21 lighthouses open to the public for Maine Open Lighthouse Day on Sept. 8. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Spring Point Ledge Light keeper Art Greene of Scarborough climbs up onto the Casco Bay lighthouse. Visitors to the South Portland lighthouse need to be able to climb ladders. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Visitors to the Spring Point Ledge Light can walk along the 900-foot breakwater to get to the lighthouse. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

The United States Coast Guard maintains the Spring Point Ledge Light lamp and Fresnel lens at the top of the lighthouse as an aid to navigation. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

A sailboat passes by the Spring Point Ledge Light in Casco Bay on a recent day. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

The Spring Point Ledge Light in South Portland was activated in 1897. Visitors will be able to tour the lighthouse on Maine Open Lighthouse Day Sept. 8. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Spring Point Ledge Light keeper Art Greene of Scarborough opens windows in the keepers quarters of the Casco Bay lighthouse in South Portland. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

A volunteer paints shingles on the Squirrel Point Light in Arrowsic. The site has had $80,000 in upgrades in the last three years as volunteers have worked to restore it. It’s one of 21 lighthouses involved in Maine Open Lighthouse Day on Sept. 8. (Submitted photo)

Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth opens to the public once a year — this year on Saturday, Sept. 8 — at which time 280 people are eligible to get tickets to climb up inside as part of Maine Open Lighthouse Day. Tickets are first-come, first-serve starting at 8:30 a.m. (Submitted photo)

For tours of Burnt Island Lighthouse, which is off the town of Southport near Boothbay, period actors dress up and describe life as it would have been in 1950 for lighthouse keeper Joseph Muise and his family. (Submitted photo)

The late Jim Buotte, himself a former lighthouse keeper, portrays keeper Joseph Muise during a tour of Burnt Island Lighthouse off the town of Southport. Muise watched the island from 1936 to 1951. Buotte portrayed him for three summers. (Submitted photo)


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