Editor’s Note by Brian Kevin
Everyone on staff had been assigned seven or eight lighthouses at random and asked to pick three of them to champion. In concise, impassioned presentations, we took turns arguing why our lighthouses were more worthy than our neighbors’ of a Top 10 slot — why each was more visually arresting, historically rich, touristically valuable, evocative of Maine life and culture, etc. As the day went on, we ate the snacks and raided the coolers and passed withering judgments on our colleagues’ presentations. We took breaks to walk by the lake. We assigned lighthouses various positions in the hierarchy, changed our minds a lot, laughed a lot, swatted a lot of mosquitoes.
One of my favorite old Down East covers is from 1977, an oil painting of Southport Island’s Hendricks Head Light (#30, if you’re curious) by the late Stephen Etnier. Etnier was known for playing with geometry and the subtleties of light, and this painting is right in his usual pocket — the square lighthouse and its stilted bell tower create a thicket of weird angles and shadows, and the gnarly foreground bedrock messes with a viewer’s sense of scale. The work still pays tribute (Etnier was a realist at heart), but it’s an odd, fresh way of looking at something so central to Maine’s iconography that we maybe have a tendency to look right past it.
It’s in that same spirit that we’re coming at Maine’s lighthouses as Rolling Stone might come at Beatles albums. When we asked readers to vote online for their favorite Maine beacon this summer, they singled out Portland Head Light as their Sgt. Pepper’s (or was that Abbey Road?). We placed that one a few slots lower (more of a White Album). But of course, the point is to appreciate, not to agree. At the end of the day, we’re all fans.
Editor in chief
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On the cover: West Quoddy Head Light, by Benjamin Williamson.
Additional photos: Nicole Wolf; Michael Seamans; Jack Roberts; Benjamin Williamson