Built in 1934 to replace an earlier tower that had been damaged by an earthquake, the last lighthouse keepers left the Cape Hinchinbrook Lighthouse in 1974. Since then, other than visits to maintain the aids to navigation in the area, the lighthouse has had no care.
In a story for Alaska Magazine, dated October 10, 1989, a mere 15 years after the lighthouse had been closed up, one of the personnel of the Coast Guard ANT-17 team who visited the lighthouse for a quarterly maintenance check on the equipment wrote, “Unprotected from wind and weather and remote to the point of being nearly inaccessible without helicopter, Cape Hinchinbrook shows the sad ravages of time. Its kitchen is buried beneath layers of mold . . .”
He went on to write, “With the huge generators situated now outside the building, the lighthouse has no inner source of drying heat. Laden with coastal moisture, the plaster cracks and peels from the ceilings and walls. And, although the antique wooden staircase rail remains intact, the staircase to the light is littered with debris from water condensation and leakage.” He went on to say that even with a little tender care on their quarterly visits, “Cape Hinchinbrook Lighthouse is dying.”
The reinforced concrete tower was originally painted with weather-resistant Medusa paint. But paint does not last forever. Today, the tower’s exterior looks tired, and the outer layers of cement are beginning to crumble away. Although we have not been able to obtain current photos of the interior of the lighthouse, photos taken in 2002 show hanging plaster, peeling paint, and a rapid state of deterioration and rust was everywhere. A more recent YouTube video of the interior shows conditions have deteriorated even more, and, probably, without question, it is in worse condition today.
Because of its remote Alaska location, the Cape Hinchinbrook Lighthouse may never be turned over to a nonprofit or private individual to be saved. Most likely, it will continue to stand and will eventually become an historical ruin.
This story appeared in the
Sep/Oct 2018 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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