Burnt Island Living Lighthouse
The Maine Department of Marine Resources
(DMR) acquired the Burnt Island Light Station in 1998 as part of the
Lights Program. Education Director Elaine Jones,
her assistant Jean McKay, local contractors, and hundreds of volunteers
transformed it into an educational and recreational facility for the people of
Maine and the nation. The buildings have been restored and redecorated to 1950,
while nature trails established along the rocky shore appeal to the outdoor
An educational curriculum focuses on
topics relating to Maine’s maritime heritage, coastal environment, marine
fisheries, and conservation. During the spring and fall, the five-acre island
serves as an exceptional outdoor school for students and teachers from around
the state. School children discover the varied life found in and around the
rocky shore, sand beach, meadow, and maritime forest as they explore the island
and participate in experiential learning activities. Local elementary schools
participate in day trips to the island, while children from the middle school
level spend up to three days and two nights tenting out. The building of an
Education Center is on the horizon, a facility that will provide adequate
accommodations and classroom space for school groups.
On June 30, 2003, a new educational
program called the
Burnt Island Living Lighthouse opened to the
public. The light station’s beautifully restored buildings serve as a “living”
history museum where interpreters in period clothing portray a lighthouse family
who once called Burnt Island home. A natural history walk around the perimeter
trail follows the
history component, where interpreters point out the flora and fauna indigenous
to Maine’s coast, as well as the geological features of this picturesque island.
Visitors also learn about Maine’s marine resources, the methods used to harvest
them, and the measures used to conserve them. During the final segment of the
three-hour tour, visitors climb the winding stairs into the lantern room; view
the historic photographs and documents in the covered walkway museum; sport fish
off the rocks; or picnic by the waterfront. This interpretive tour helps to
preserve and promote Maine’s cultural heritage, while providing enrichment and
opportunity for its participants.
There are very few, if any, lighthouses
in the nation that offer living and natural history interpretation to the extent
of the Burnt Island program. Summer visitors rave about the fabulous experience,
calling it a "National Treasure" rich in detail on human, historical, and
environmental levels. Many participants compare the program favorably to other
national historic programs, with some remarking that it is better than Colonial
“A National Treasure” Extraordinary Effort
The Burnt Island Living Lighthouse is an exemplary model of the sustainable use
and preservation of Maine's cultural and natural heritage assets. The
restoration effort has promoted intergovernmental cooperation, formed
partnerships with the private sector, preserved a deteriorating historic site,
created an outstanding educational and recreational facility for the public, and
contributed to our state and local economies. The Burnt Island project is a
prime example of an endeavor that used innovative and creative approaches to
accomplish its mission. In order to fund the project, grants were received from
federal, state, and local organizations, as well as private donations from
individuals and local businesses. A cost-effective approach was to utilize the
volunteer labor of AmeriCorps, Maine Conservation Corps, Boy Scouts, Landmark
Volunteers, Master Gardeners, former lighthouse keepers, teachers, students, and
citizens from within and outside the community. Today, these supporters are all
proud of having been part of a cooperative effort that has transformed an
abandoned site into a facility that showcases our region's historic and natural
Keeper Elaine Jones
painting the lighthouse.
removing ceiling tiles
Master Gardener's creating
raised flower beds.
Former Keepr's son
repairing his old home.
School children, Maine residents, artists, and cultural
tourists are now drawn to the Boothbay region for an unparalleled experience
that has been rated by some visitors as the "best in the nation." The living
history component entertains the public as it teaches about the life and times
of the station, while the natural history segment creates awareness of our
fisheries, and the need to protect our environment and its resources. An added
bonus is the boat ride aboard the Novelty, which provides participants with a
spectacular view of one of Maine’s most beautiful harbors.
Recreational boaters and kayakers enjoy
important public access to one more unique piece of Maine's coastline as a
result of a new docking system and moorings. Docents serving as park rangers
remind visitors that they, along with the DMR, must be responsible stewards of
the island and its buildings. This approach helps to protect Burnt Island's
cultural and natural assets for future generations.
The Novelty docks at Burnt Island.
Artist at work.
Exploring the tide pools.
A trip to Burnt Island is like a step back in time,
with a highly competent staff portraying Keeper Joseph Muise and his family.
Dressed in period clothing, they make guests believe that it is 1950 while
sharing their life experiences at the Burnt Island Light Station. James Buotte,
the gentleman in uniform, “wows” the crowd not only by his stately appearance,
but also by his knowledge. As a true former keeper of the Burnt Island Light
(1955-58), there isn’t a question that he can’t answer.
James Buotte Portrays
Keeper Joseph Muise.
The family relaxes on the porch
of the restored keeper's dwelling.
Jean McKay portrays Annie Muise,
the keeper's wife.
The keeper’s children all become
naturalists after the living history component. As interpreters, they lead small
groups around the perimeter trail, pointing out the flora and fauna indigenous
to the island. They also identify nearby landmarks, share local lore, and
explain about Maine’s coastal fisheries.
Bailey Irving explains about Maine's fisheries.
Micheal Wood leads a
Katie Brydon teaches about
And Family Fun
Burnt Island offers numerous recreational opportunities
for families; from exploring the nooks and crannies of the five-acre island to
catching a striped bass. Recreational boaters stop by for a break or enjoy a
picnic lunch near the scenic shoreline. Artists capture the beauty of the
lighthouse on canvas, while the young and the young at heart enjoy the tire
swing. James Buotte portrays Keeper Joseph Muise. The family relaxes on the
porch of the restored keeper's dwelling. Michael Wood leads a naturalist hike.
Katie Brydon teaches about intertidal life Bailey Irving explains about Maine’s
fisheries. Jean McKay portrays Annie Muise, the keeper’s wife.