Posted/Updated by Bryan Penberthy on 2017-02-27.
By the late 1800s, the lower segment of the Kennebec River was heavily traveled from the Atlantic Ocean to Bath, Maine, nicknamed "The City of Ships." Vessels heading north to Bath, had to negotiate two treacherous right-angle turns in the Kennebec River. The Doubling Point Lighthouse was built in 1898 to mark one of the turns.
Bath, Maine had played a part in many industries including lumber, iron, brass, ice, and coal, but it would be renowned for its shipbuilding. Started in 1743 by Jonathan Philbrook and his two sons, shipbuilding would take Bath by storm. At one point, there were more than 200 shipbuilding firms operating in the area, and by the mid-19th century, it was the nation's fifth largest seaport.
This put a lot of traffic on the Kennebec River. Although the federal government did establish the Seguin Island Lighthouse and the Pond Island Lighthouse, both near the mouth of the Kennebec River, there were no federally maintained lights for navigation on the river.
Private companies had maintained lights at turning points in the river, but it would take until 1892 before the Lighthouse Board would recommend any federally maintained lights for the Kennebec River. The Lighthouse Board made note of the amount of traffic on the river, citing 3,137 arrivals during the year, which did not count the daily steamer trips.
Due to the volume of traffic, they recommended several lighthouses along the river, which included a light at Doubling Point, as well as a pair of range lights one-half mile east of the point. The other lights that were proposed by the Lighthouse Board were to be located at Squirrel Point, Perkins Island, and Ames Ledge. The Lighthouse Board stated that all lights could be built for $16,725.
Doubling Point Light (Courtesy National Archives)
Several years would pass, but Congress appropriated $17,000 on March 2, 1895, for establishing lights on the Kennebec River. By 1897, land for the Doubling Point Lighthouse was acquired from Samuel Freeman and construction had started.
When completed, a wood-framed, one-and-a-half-story dwelling, lighthouse, barn, and fog bell tower had been erected. The octagonal, wood-framed tower was nearly identical to the ones built at Squirrel Point and Perkins Island. Similar to the lighting apparatus in those towers, a lens-lantern was also established in the Doubling Point Lighthouse.
The following year, a boat slip was built and 90 feet of plank walks were built. A concrete floor was also laid in the cellar of the dwelling.
It was determined that the lighthouse would be more effective if it was located closer to the water line, and on September 25, 1899, it was moved 532 feet to its current location. The Annual Report of the Lighthouse Board for the year 1900 had the following details:
58. Doubling Point, Kennebec River, Maine - A foundation pier of stone masonry was built on the extreme point at the low-water line; the tower with the light and fog-bell was moved to it, and a footbridge 130 feet in length was built from the tower to the shore. The act approved June 6, 1900 appropriated $1,620, to be applied in part to the erection of a boathouse at this station. Plans for this work are being made. Various repairs were made.
At that time, the fog bell was removed from the separate tower, and mounted on the side of the lighthouse. The old fog bell tower was moved and converted into a fuel house. The following year, the dwelling was moved closer to the relocated tower and a boathouse was built.
On January 20, 1902, the intensity of the light was increased by changing the lens from a lens-lantern to a fifth-order Fresnel lens. In 1906, a brick oil house was built, completing the station.
The station had only two keepers throughout its entirety. The first keeper, Merritt Parker Pinkham established the light on March 30, 1898 and retired in 1931. Charles W. Allen, who had formerly served at the Boon Island Lighthouse, took over and served until 1935.
In 1935, it was decided that the Doubling Point Lighthouse would be managed from the nearby Doubling Point Range Lights. On August 13, 1935, the entire station, with the exception of the tower, walkway, one acre of salt marsh, and the shoreline was sold to Amy Richardson Thurston for $2,200.
When maintenance was required, the keeper of the Doubling Point Range Lights would walk to the station. Keeper Harold L. Kilton was known to snowshoe over to the Doubling Point Lighthouse in the winter to perform maintenance.
In the mid-1970s, the fifth order Fresnel lens was removed, having been replaced by a 300mm modern optic. Today, the lens is on display in the Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland, Maine. In August 1980, the Coast Guard removed the fog bell. Its whereabouts is unknown to this day.
The lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places on January 21, 1988.
The Doubling Point Lighthouse was transferred in 1998 under the Maine Lights Program, the predecessor to the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000, to The Friends of Doubling Point Light. Under this agreement, the Coast Guard maintains the light in the tower and the Friends of Doubling Point maintain the rest.
By July 1999, the Doubling Point Lighthouse was in danger of being lost. The granite blocks of the foundation were originally held in place by iron "staples." Over the years, the staples have rusted away, allowing the blocks to move.
Each spring, as the river thaws, ice floes rush down the river, sending massive blocks of ice into the granite pier the lighthouse stands upon. Due to the rusted staples, decades of this abuse allowed the blocks to be knocked out of position, endangering the light.
Plans were made to remove the lighthouse from the granite pier, strengthen its foundation, and then replace the tower. The projected cost of the work was $50,000 and by the late 1990s, the Friends had raised $25,000. A matching grant from the Kurt Berliner Foundation of New York allowed the work to move forward.
The work started in December 1999 when a crane lifted the lighthouse from the pier and onto a barge where it was transported to a temporary storage facility in Woolwich. The contractor, Reed and Reed then reset each of the six-ton granite blocks and filled the core with concrete. Steel tie rods were then inserted to hold the blocks together.
On January 5, 2000, the Doubling Point Lighthouse was returned to the newly repaired foundation. In the fall of 2000, the dilapidated wooden walkway was rebuilt with pressure treated lumber.
The Friends of Doubling Point are still looking for the original fog bell. In 2007, they offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of the fog bell. The bell is 26½-inches high and 36-inches in diameter. One side reads "Buckeye Bell Foundry 1897" and the other side has both "E W VanDuzen Co Cincinnati" and "US Lighthouse Establishment 1897."
Directions: From Bath, take Arrowsic Road (Route 127) south to Whitmore's Landing Road. Turn onto Whitmore's Landing Road and follow that to the "T" in the road. Then turn left onto Doubling Point Road. Follow it to the end.
Access: While the lighthouse is owned by the Friends of the Doubling Point Light, the dwelling is privately owned. Grounds open. Dwelling and tower closed.View more Doubling Point Lighthouse pictures