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Sentinel Island Lighthouse Transferred to Historical Society by Sec. Norton
Governor and other dignitaries participated in ceremony


April 27, 2004

Juneau, AK - Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced Monday the selection of the Gastineau Channel Historical Society as the first group to receive a lighthouse in Alaska under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000.

In a ceremony at the Juneau Federal Building in which Governor Frank Murkowski and other federal, state and local dignitaries participated, Norton announced that the Sentinel Island Light Station will be transferred from the United States Coast Guard to the historical society. Located about 23 miles north of Juneau, the Sentinel Island station dates back to 1902 and includes 6.5 acres featuring an Art Deco lighthouse, shop, boat house, dock and tramway.

"Historic lighthouses like Sentinel Island Light are national treasures," Norton said in making the announcement at the Federal Building in Juneau. "This program recognizes the value of these structures by transferring them to the best possible stewards for their long-term preservation." Thehistorical society already has a six-year track record of leasing the site from the United States Coast Guard and working on preserving the historic buildings at Sentinel Island.

Norton presented the transfer documents to the Gastineau Channel Historical Society. Participating in the ceremony were Governor Murkowski, U.S. Coast Guard Admiral James Underwood, Kathryn Cohen and Gary Gillette of the Gastineau Channel Historical Society, Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho, Senior Advisor to the Secretary for Alaska Affairs Drue Pearce, National Park Service Regional Director Marcia Blaszak, Tongass National Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole, GSA Regional Supervisor Jon Kvistad and State Historic Preservation Officer Judy Bittner.

The Federal program allows the lighthouse to be transferred to the Society at no cost. Non-profit groups receiving lighthouses must use them for public purposes, such as education programs, museums and maritime displays.

Sentinel Island is one of eight historic Alaska lighthouses - including Guard Island Lighthouse in Ketchikan - that eventually will be transferred under the program. The original Sentinel Island lighthouse, built at the turn of the century, was one of the two earliest
American-built lighthouses in the Territory of Alaska. The current lighthouse was built in 1935 of reinforced concrete. The tower rises 25 feet above the main building and includes the original 13-foot lantern, which
flashed a white light with a 17-mile range.

The lighthouse preservation program calls for the Department of the Interior to decide the best possible steward for some 300 lighthouses around the nation. These may be private organizations, like the Gastineau Channel Historical Society, or public agencies. "It's not surprising that historians, lighthouse buffs, and involved citizens have been part of an effort to rescue lighthouses. Many Americans love the history and lore of lighthouses. Today's recognition of the local historical society as the best recipient is a classic example of partnerships for the good of preserving American history," Norton said.

Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski noted his multiple connections to the Sentinel light, going back some 40 years when, as a young Coast Guardsman, he was a member of the crew of the tenders Sorrel and Thistle, which serviced all the lighthouses in Southeast Alaska, including the one at Sentinel Island. Later in life, as a U.S. Senator, Murkowski introduced the legislation that is now allowing the transfer of lighthouses to private, nonprofit organizations dedicated to the upkeep and public use of the facilities.

"The Sentinel Island light was a particularly difficult one to service, because it has no good landing area and is exposed to the wind, sea, and swells of Lynn Canal," Murkowski said. "If the weather was not amenable, we didn't go in. Even though the Coast Guard has better equipment today, it is nonetheless a good thing it has been automated," said Murkowski.

Murkowski said, "I was especially pleased to introduce legislation in the 2000 session of Congress that recognized America's historic lighthouse properties were wasting away, mainly because they had been automated and there is no longer a need for lighthouse keepers to man them on a daily basis. The public/private sector partnership we create by transferring the lighthouse to the Gastineau Channel Historical Society is precisely the kind of relationship we had in mind when Congress passed the Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000."

"Lighthouses are a significant, historical part of the sea-going traditions of Southeast Alaska. I appreciate the efforts of Secretary Norton and the Department of the Interior, the Coast Guard, and the Gastineau Channel Historical Society to keep the lights burning brightly at the Sentinel Island Lighthouse for generations to come," said Governor Murkowski.


Source of News Releases:

Office of the Governor
Web Site

United States Coast Guard
Web Site

U.S. Department of the Interior
Web Site



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