Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Covered Way

Architectural styles of lighthouses vary greatly, as do their geographic locations. In colder regions many lighthouses were designed with covered walkways between buildings. These facilitated lightkeeping--lightkeepers could access the light tower from their house without ever going outside--and reduced the work of shoveling snow and keeping a trail to the light tower cleared.

Above is Owls Head Lighthouse in Maine. In 1903 a 60-foot covered way was built between the lighthouse and the oilhouse. Three years later another walkway connected to the first and provided a weather-free link between the keeper's quarters, the light tower, and the oilhouse. The keeper, if he so desired, could tend the lighthouse in pajamas, though I doubt any ever did. The covered way simply made access easier and safer. The keeper still had to trek outside to work the fogbell. Owls Head's covered way is gone today.

Safety was a great concern at some lighthouses. At White Island Lighthouse in the Isles of Shoals, New Hampshire, situated on an island several miles off Portsmouth, the covered way (seen in the old postcard and HABs b&w view below) protected the keepers from the sea. Waves could breach parts of the island during severe storms. The walkway itself was damaged on several occasions by storm waves. The keepers reported how fearsome the sound of the waves was at they crashed over the walkway.

While most covered ways were found in New England, smaller ones were seen in other parts of the nation, such as the Great Lakes lighthouses.
Fairport Harbor Lighthouse in Ohio still has its wooden covered way connecting the house and tower, seen in this travel book photo. So does Beaver Island Lighthouse, Michigan, seen below. (Coast Guard Archives photo)

Terry Pepper of the Great Lakes Lightkeepers Association took this picture of the covered way at St. Helena Lighthouse, Michigan.
Here are some other examples of covered ways at lighthouses--
This vintage postcard shows one of the twin light towers at Thachers Island, Cape Ann, Massachusetts. Only one of the twin towers had a covered way running from the house to the tower. The other twin light was accessed by a rock path several hundred feet long.

This old postcard shows the covered way at Burnt Island Lighthouse, Maine. The way was not connected to the bell tower, seen on the right, but there was a plank walkway and bridge to the bell tower.

Of course, development of the integral lighthouse/keeper's house made access to the light tower exceedingly easy. Here are some examples--

New York's Selkirk Lighthouse was built with the tower rising from the roof of the keeper's home.

Block Island Southeast Lighthouse in Rhode Island had the light tower connected directly to the house. (Coast Guard Archives supplied the b&w images in this section and the next)
Of course, if you lived in this lighthouse below, at Barbers Point, Hawai'i, there was no need for a covered way. In fact, a jaunt from the quarters to the light tower was pleasant and clement!!


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