OWLS HEAD, Maine — Boats approaching Owls Head have been able to rely on the Owls Head Lighthouse for nearly 200 years.
And the lighthouse has been a major tourist attraction for decades.
“The first question we would get is, ‘Can we get in the keeper’s house?” said Bob Trapani Jr., the executive director of the American Lighthouse Foundation. “Now we can say, ‘Yes.’”
That change will be the result of an agreement between the lighthouse foundation and the U.S. Coast Guard in which the nonprofit organization will maintain the historic keeper’s house and open it for public viewing and to educate people about the lights.
The foundation obtained the license to care for the keeper’s house in Owls Head in October. Trapani said the goal is to have the house open to the public in April. The building will open year-round, although it will likely be a shorter schedule during winter months.
The light tower next to the keeper’s house was erected in 1825. The original keeper’s house was built at about the same time but was razed and replaced with the current house in 1854.
The light was automated in 1989 and ended the necessity of a Coast Guard keeper living at the house. Coast Guard personnel, however, have lived in the house up until 2009.
The American Lighthouse Foundation has held the license to oversee the light itself since 2007 and raised $80,000 to have masonry work performed on it in 2010.
The foundation will relocate its offices, now located on 464 Main St. in Rockland, to the keeper’s house.
The only remaining hurdle — and it appears not to be a significant one — is the need to rezone the property to allow for offices and a museum. The town planning board held a public hearing in which there was support for the move and no opposition.
Selectmen are scheduled to meet Tuesday to set a special town meeting date to allow voters to decide on the zone change.
There will be no charge for people to visit the keeper’s house.
The first floor will be an educational interpretive center that will focus not just on the Owls Head Lighthouse but also on the history of the beacons that played an important role in coastal communities.
Foundation President Eric Davis said on the foundation’s website that the license to run the keeper’s house was a win-win for the organization and the local midcoast communities.
Offices for the foundation will be on the second floor of the house.
The foundation’s mission is to save and preserve light stations and their rich heritage. The organization does that through restoration, promotion and adaptive reuse, according to its website.
The organization was founded in 1994 and is now based in Rockland. It has stewardship of more than 22 lights in Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. In Maine, the lighthouses it maintains on its own or with affiliated chapters include Boon Island, Cape Elizabeth, Halfway Rock, Little River, Pemaquid Point, Perkins Island, Prospect Harbor, Whaleback, Wood Island and Rockland Breakwater.