LUBEC, Maine — The West Quoddy Head Light Station in Lubec was named “best lighthouse” by Yankee magazine in its May/June edition.
“Editor’s Choice, Best Lighthouse: West Quoddy Head” reads a placard mounted and matted with a copy of the cover of the magazine. It was sent to the lighthouse by the magazine to announce the award, said Margaret Curley-Clay, chairperson of the West Quoddy Head Light Keepers’ Association, which runs the still-active lighthouse.
“Visit the exhibits in the keeper’s house and climb the candy-striped tower; then picnic overlooking Grand Manan and hike the trails over the cliffs and around the bogs as you watch for birds and whales. Best Lighthouse,” reads the Yankee magazine website.
Curley-Clay said July 24 the magazine did not tell the light keepers’ association why it chose the lighthouse for the award.
“We think it’s the warm experience,” she said, explaining volunteers go out of their way to help visitors.
The volunteers not only share their knowledge of the lighthouse and its history but also recommend restaurants, lodging and events, Curley-Clay said.
“We’re an incredible economic resource [to the area],” she said. “We tell them about everything because we live in the community.”
The easternmost lighthouse in the United States is situated in Quoddy Head State Park, which offers a number of hiking trails, an amenity not commonly found at lighthouse sites.
“There’s no other lighthouse in North America, or the U.S. at least, with trails like these,” said Tim Harrison, editor and publisher of Lighthouse Digest magazine, based out of East Machias.
One is a light keepers’ trail that traces where the light keeper would have walked to fire up the light before the lighthouse was automated, Curley-Clay said.
The more than 20,000 visitors annually are invited to explore the Ron Pesha Lighthouse History Museum to learn about the history of both the lighthouse and the surrounding area. Some interactive exhibits have been created just for children, though adults may like them too, she said. Children also can participate in a scavenger hunt.
Visitors of all ages can climb the lighthouse tower from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturdays. Those who are unable or simply don’t wish to climb can experience it via video.
The lighthouse also has a gallery, offering works by local artists in a variety of mediums. A new program brings artists to the lighthouse grounds periodically to sell their works, Curley-Clay said.
Recently, a class of 27 children, ages 5-9, visited for the day. Pictures they drew of the lighthouse are available for sale in the children’s corner at the gallery, Curley-Clay said.
A piece of artwork is also a recent addition to the museum. James McCormick, an artist from the Midwest, had done a painting of the West Quoddy lighthouse based on the Sept. 22, 1945, cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Harrison saw the painting at a recent lighthouse related event and convinced McCormick to donate it, Harrison said.
“He knew nothing about [West Quoddy] except he saw that cover on a magazine,” Harrison said.
Lighthouse Digest is spearheading a project that would involve placing historical service markers at the graves of lighthouse keepers, assistant lighthouse keepers and other former employees of the U.S. Lighthouse Service, whose duties have since been taken over by the U.S. Coast Guard, Harrison said.
The first of the markers, which are similar to those adorning graves of U.S. veterans, were placed June 26 at the graves of three light keepers — Isaac N. Grant, Harris S. Grant and Abbie Burgess Grant in Forest Hill Cemetery in Spruce Head — during a ceremony by Lighthouse Digest and the Maine Lighthouse Museum, Harrison said.
The project aims to place these markers at all lightkeepers’ graves across the U.S. but, Harrison said, the magazine is starting in Maine because that’s where it is based.
“We are currently working with West Quoddy Light for them to locate and document the graves of their lighthouse keepers and then Lighthouse Digest, in partnership with West Quoddy Light, will place the markers with appropriate ceremonies,” Harrison said.
“We also hope that some of the descendants of lighthouse keepers will also come forward to donate to the cause, or even purchase and place markers on their own,” Harrison said.
In addition to placing markers, they hope to restore tombstones when necessary. In order to pay for the project, Lighthouse Digest has started fundraising. Donations can be made through GoFundMe.com/USLHSGraves.