Digest>Archives> September 2002

Women of the Light

Anne Webster-Wallace: Savior of Seguin


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Seguin Island Lighthouse.
Photo by: Jeremy D'Entremont

In 1935, A.G. Staples, editor of Maine’s Lewiston Journal, wrote about the lighthouses near where he lived. “All these lights teach steadfastness. They enter the soul, if permitted. Long after we leave here, I hear the memorized echo of Seguin as it lows like a great bull, out there in the storm, fog, blackness amid roar or surges.” Seguin’s light and horn had a profound effect on a future lighthouse preservationist as well.

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Anne Webster-Wallace outside the lantern room of ...
Photo by: Lynn Jones

“Lighthouses have always been a part of my life. As an infant, I was often lulled to sleep by both Seguin Island and the Pond Island foghorns, and their lights were distant reassuring beacons,” says Anne Webster-Wallace, founder of the Friends of Seguin Island, Inc. Seguin Island Lighthouse was commissioned by President George Washington in 1795. It’s the highest of Maine’s lighthouses (180 feet above sea level), and the only one with a still active first order Fresnel lens. Thanks to Anne and her fellow volunteers, Seguin’s many admirers can rest assured that the light station is in the best possible hands.

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Anne Webster-Wallace in July 2002. Photo by Troy ...

Anne Webster-Wallace’s contributions to the lighthouse world have also gone far beyond Seguin’s shores, as she served as director of the seminal Maine Lights Program. She also was a member of the National Lighthouse Museum Steering Committee and is currently the First Vice President of the American Lighthouse Coordinating Committee.

Anne grew up spending her summers on Indian Point in Georgetown, not far from Seguin Island. “I remember the distinctive diaphone foghorn and fixed white light of Seguin from my earliest childhood,” she says. Her father was a Coast Guard Academy graduate, so Anne was exposed at an early age to boating and maritime subjects. “My first boat was Old Betsy, a rowboat my father built and which I mastered well before the age of five,” she recalls. “I then graduated to a small sailboat and had to learn all the names of workings part of the boat before I could go solo.”

Years later, after living in Massachusetts for some time, Anne moved back to Maine. “In 1985,” she remembers, “when the Coast Guard was in the process of automating and demanning the Seguin Island Lighthouse Station, there was local concern about the fate of the light and rumors were that it might become private property. In 1986, I sought to see if there was local support to establish a nonprofit for the preservation of the station. Petitions were placed around Georgetown and were filled within hours of their placement. So my father, myself and another, with the guidance of an attorney, incorporated the Friends of Seguin Island as a nonprofit organization.” The all-volunteer group now has about 1,000 members, and Anne is currently the vice president.

The Friends of Seguin Island received a lease on the property from the Coast Guard in 1989. In 1998, under the Maine Lights Program, the property was transferred to the group. Anne explains, “Ownership was part of the Friends’ long-term goal, and the Maine Lights Program provided the opportunity.”

The Maine Lights Program grew out of the efforts of the Island Institute of Rockland, Maine, leading to legislation sponsored by Maine’s Senator Olympia Snowe and signed by President Clinton in 1996. The program led to the eventual transfer of nearly 30 lighthouses to new owners. Anne says that serving as director of the Maine Lights Program “was an extremely positive experience. The many people in all aspects of the program, without exception, were truly a pleasure. The program speaks for itself, as it was used as the national model for the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000.”

Grants and donations have paid for the restoration of the keeper’s house on Seguin Island. Since 1990 caretakers have lived at Seguin in the summer. Anne says that the best part of her work on behalf of Seguin Island is “meeting and becoming acquainted with the caretakers each year and meeting the visitors who come to enjoy the fruits of the labor of the Friends of Seguin Island. Recruiting the best caretakers is a constant learning curve and we’ve been fortunate with the caliber of our caretakers and their commitment to the preserving this unique historical site.”

Seguin Island now gets about 1,200 to 1,800 visitors each year. Asked what she’d most like to tell readers, Anne says, “Come visit Seguin Island, a 64-acre island hosting one of Maine’s most complete lighthouse stations. Become a member and please say Anne sent you.”

For more information, contact Friends of Seguin Island, Inc., P.O. Box 866, Bath, Maine 04530. Or vist them at their website www.seguinisland.org

This story appeared in the September 2002 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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