New England Lighthouses: A Virtual Guide
Doubling Point Range Lights
(Kennebec River Range Lights)
Arrowsic, Maine
Doubling Point Range Lights main page / History / Bibliography / Cruises / Photos

History
Jeremy D'Entremont. Do not reproduce any images or text from this website without permission of the author.

Private navigational aids were used for a number of years to aid mariners traveling on the Kennebec River, heading to and from the shipbuilding center of Bath. The federal government established several light stations in 1898, including the Doubling Point Range Lights. The lights were established on Arrowsic island to mark an extreme double turn in the channel at Fiddler Reach. Mariners would line up the station's two lights to know they were on course.

The octagonal, shingled wooden towers are unique in New England. The front range light tower is 21 feet tall, and the rear tower is 13 feet tall. The towers, which are 235 yards apart, both originally held fifth-order Fresnel lenses.

aerial photo of range lights

U.S. Coast Guard

The keeper's house

A two-story Victorian keeper's dwelling and a shed were also built in 1898. A boathouse was added in 1901 and an oil house in 1902. A raised wooden walkway above the marshy ground connects the keeper's house to the two towers.

The grounding of the steamer Ransom B. Fuller in 1912 at Fiddler's Reach prompted the government to add a fog bell about 1100 feet upstream from the light station, mounted on a pyramidal wooden tower that held automatic striking machinery. The bell remained in use into the 1950s, when it was replaced by an electric horn.

Capt. Harry L. Nye, a former sea captain, was keeper 1921-37. Nye had previously been keeper at Seguin Island Light. On one occasion, herescued four young men who were drifting past Doubling Point on an ice floe.

In 1938, Lucy Mae Woodward, the 10 year-old daughter of Keeper William H. Woodward, drowned in the river within sight of the keeper's house. Local residents and police tried valiantly but unsuccessfully to revive the girl. It was reported that she may have suffered a slight heart attack that caused her to fall.

Beginning in 1935, the keeper of the range lights had the added duty of tending Doubling Point Light around the bend, as well as the Fiddler's Reach fog bell. A 1948 article in the Maine Coast Fisherman reported that Keeper H. L. Kilton didn't seem "to be worried about slogging over to Fiddler's Reach fog signal to wind his bell every four hours in fog and snow." The article continued, "As for the trip to Doubling Point when things go wrong in the winter - he snowshoes."

In 1979, the Fresnel lenses were removed from the range lights; they were replaced by 250 mm optics. (One of the original lenses is now in Maine's newest lighthouse, Rockland Harbor Southwest Light.) At the same time, the job of monitoring the range lights went to the keeper at Squirrel Point Light.

In 1982, the responsibility of looking after the lights and fog signals at Doubling Point, Squirrel Point, and the range lights was transferred to the Kennebec River Range Lights Station.

For several years, Second Class Petty Officer Karen McLean, one of the few female lighthouse keepers under the Coast Guard, filled this position.

In February 1987, McLean's husband, Dan McLean, took charge of the station.

(Right: Karen and Dan McLean, courtesy of Maine Lighthouse Museum.)
Dan and Karen McLean

In 1990, the range lights became one of the last light stations in the United States to be automated and destaffed. The rear tower was renovated and painted in the summer of 1996.

Under the Maine Lights Program coordinated by the Island Institute of Rockland, the property was transferred in 1998 to an organization called the Range Light Keepers. The Range Light Keepers was founded by Michael Kreindler and his wife, Michele Gaillard, along with other concerned residents in the area.

Kreindler, who formerly worked on metal furniture for avant-garde office designs in New York City, told the Boston Globe, "My primary goal is to preserve these 100-year-old navigational devices because they are a major piece of our national maritime history. I want them to be there for all those lighthouse buffs with Nebraska license plates who go off the beaten path to find them."

Range Light Keepers also has the responsibility of looking after the old fog bell tower at Fiddler's Reach near the light station, and they have been gradually restoring the structure. The original 1200-pound bell was put on display at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, it 1972.

A similar bell, donated by the U.S. Navy, is on display outside Arrowsic Town Hall. Range Light Keepers' goal is to restore the striking apparatus so that there will be a complete demonstration of a mechanical fog signal.

bell tower

The bell tower

The range lights continue as active aids to navigation, and the optics are still serviced by the Coast Guard. The grounds are open to the public; remember to respect the privacy of the residents. The station, on a small dirt road off Doubling Point Road, is a bit difficult to find by car. The lights are most easily seen from tour boats leaving Bath and Boothbay Harbor.

For more information or to donate to the Range Light Keepers, contact:

Range Light Keepers
58 Iron Mine Road
Arrowsic, ME 04530


Keepers: (The following list of keepers is not complete. It is a work in progress, and any additional information is welcomed and appreciated; you can email me at nelights@gmail.com. If you copy this list to another site, you do so at your own risk. I can't guarantee its accuracy.)

Harry L. Nye (1921-1937); William H. Woodward (c. 1938); H.L. Kilton (1945-?); Joseph Robicheau (November 1981 to February 1982); Karen McLean (Coast Guard, 1982-1987); Dan McLean (Coast Guard, 1987-1990)

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Plow & Hearth


Last updated 11/8/09
Jeremy D'Entremont. Do not reproduce any images or text from this website without permission of the author.

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