Ken Black was a decorated Coast Guard Officer and later became one of the leading lighthouse preservationists in the United States. He was affectionately known as “Mr. Lighthouse” and was responsible for saving a remarkable collection of lighthouse artifacts.
The origins of the Maine Lighthouse Museum’s Coast Guard-assembled collection are traced to the passion and vision of Mr. Ken Black, a man who has spent his entire life dedicated to the preservation of America’s lighthouse history.
As he rose to become a commander in the United States Coast Guard (USCG), Ken was responsible for the actual operation of many lighthouses as he watched over our nation’s coastlines. He was an active Chief Warrant Officer in the Coast Guard, serving as the Officer in Charge of Coast Guard Station Rockland. He assembled the collection by obtaining permission from his district admiral, and then visiting Coast Guard stations and bases throughout the First Coast Guard District (ME, MA, NH, CT, VT, NY).
He gathered so many artifacts that he sought and received Coast Guard permission to set up a display at the Coast Guard Station in Rockland. When that overflowed Ken arranged for the artifacts to go on loan to the Shore Village Museum. Thanks to the Coast Guard and Mr. Black, it was probably the first time the public got to see such an array of lighthouse artifacts! Soon after that, Ken retired from the Coast Guard and took over the responsibilities of running the Shore Village Museum.
Ken Black realized that while Maine may not have the most lighthouses, we have the most historic ones. He said, “We have more stories of bravery, heroism, romance, and hardship associated with our lighthouses than anywhere else, primarily, because we have most of the oldest lighthouses in the nation.” The Coast Guard is very grateful to Mr. Black and proud of his accomplishments on its behalf.
As you gaze upon this spectacular, one-of-a-kind assemblage of radiating lighthouse lenses – even as they are currently displayed shoulder-to-shoulder in their cramped quarters-you are taken by their beauty, strength, and simplicity.
And you’re reminded of the seriousness of their purpose – to protect and guide those who travel by sea along treacherous coastlines.