Wood Island Life Saving Station // 1908

Located on Wood Island, off the coast of Kittery, Maine, a Life Saving Station and tool shed were built by the Sugden Brothers of Portsmouth, N.H. for the US Life Saving Service. The station was designed by architect George R. Tolman of Portsmouth and its purpose was to house a small crew of men who could rescue shipwreck survivors or people who fall into the harbor at the mouth of the busy Piscataqua River. The station was acquired by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1915, who operated many of these stations off the rocky shores of the United States.

Life Saving Station with Whaleback Light to the left.

The U.S. Navy took over the Wood Island Life Saving Station early in World War II to help protect submarine manufacturing at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard from German U-Boats patrolling the Atlantic Coast. In 1941 Wood Island was integrated into the coastal defense system. As a strategic observation post, the property was also utilized for securing anti-submarine nets, which were strung across the harbor to thwart German U-Boat infiltration. At the end of the war, the property reverted back to the U.S. Coast Guard. By 1950, the staff of the station moved to mainland and the two-building complex sat empty.

It was given to the Town of Kittery, Maine in 1973 and it suffered from a lack of funds and deferred maintenance. The town council had a committee analyze the options for the site, the “best option” was to demolish both structures and re-construct replicas at a cost of $350,000! The council saw that and opened up to alternatives which would save the building and offer an organization a low-to-free lease of the site. I believe that the site is being restored now and the intent is to serve as a historical museum highlighting the Life Saving Station and the Whaleback Light nearby.

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