Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
CONTACT: Jane Tranel (NPS-AK) 907-644-3513
For Immediate Release:April 26, 2004
Joan Moody (Office of Secretary-D.C.) 202-208-6416
Secretary Transfers Alaska Lighthouse to
Historical Society; Governor and other Dignitaries Participate in Ceremony

JUNEAU, AK -- Interior Secretary Gale Norton today announced 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 Point 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." The historical 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 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.


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