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New stamp features Five Fingers Lighthouse

Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2007

Five Fingers Lighthouse is extending its visibility.

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The historic navigational aid south of Juneau was selected as one of five Pacific lighthouses commemorated on a U.S. Postal Service stamp set to be released next week.

Five Fingers Light, located on a small island at the entrance of Frederick Sound and Stephens Passage, will grace envelopes across the country beginning June 21.

The program also includes artistic renditions of Diamond Head Light in Hawaii, Grays Harbor Light in Washington, Umpqua River Light in Oregon and St. George Reef Light in Northern California.

"We feel it's a real honor that we were chosen," said Jennifer Klein, president of Juneau Lighthouse Association, a nonprofit group dedicated to the restoration and preservation of Five Fingers. "I think we're going to be more recognized by this stamp."

First day of sale

ceremony, open reception

When: 3:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, June 21.

Where: Douglas Room of the Baranof Hotel.

What will be sold: the stamp, which features an original acrylic painting by Howard Koslow, and special covers for $5 each.

June 21 will be a memorable day for local stamp collectors, said Patricia Conners-Allen, president of the Gastineau Philatelic Society. The Five Fingers Lighthouse stamp is special for local stamp fans because it touches so close to home.

"To have something local commemorated on a stamp is a very big deal," Conners-Allen said.

There have been Alaska-themed stamps before, but none with so much local flavor, she said.

"Some of them have come out that have been somewhat connected to Juneau, but not this close, so that's why this is so big," Conners-Allen said.

Klein said she hopes the exposure will highlight the important role Five Fingers Lighthouse played in the navigational history of Southeast Alaska.

"It was the first lighthouse commissioned in the 1900s for Alaska by the U.S. government," she said.

On March 2, 1902, Five Fingers Lighthouse was lit simultaneously with Sentinel Island Lighthouse, just north of Eagle Beach. A fire destroyed the original wood tower in 1933. It was rebuilt two years later with a concrete art deco-style tower that remains today.

Klein said Five Fingers was also the last lighthouse in Alaska to be manned by the U. S. Coast Guard before becoming automated in 1984.

Dan Peckham, officer in charge of Five Fingers Lighthouse in 1982 for the Coast Guard, recalled many memorable times in his year on "the rock." Along with boat fires and power outages, the treacherous weather and isolated location made it sometimes hard to get rations, he said.

"It was a challenge," Peckham said. "But it was an interesting tour."

Along with memories, Peckham kept a scrapbook of his days at Five Fingers. The new stamp will be the latest memento.

Klein said the Juneau Lighthouse Association has had its hands full with restoration work since taking over operation of Five Fingers in 1997.

"We've been pretty aggressive about maintaining it for the last so many years," she said.

Several grants are now at work, including a $197,535 America's Treasures grant.

"We spend our summers working on this place, and we have had countless volunteers come down to help," Klein said.

The goal is to transform the historic structure into a self-serve bed-and-breakfast, possibly with areas to harbor marine mammal research, she said. The nonprofit anticipates it will be accessible to the public beginning in 2008 or 2009.

"It's surrounded by humpback whales in the summer because it's one of the richest feeding grounds," she said.

"These are one of a kind," Klein said of the covers, which include a special envelope, localized cancellation stamp and informational insert. "From a collector's point of view, they will be pretty nice, but they will also help support the lighthouse."

• Eric Morrison can be reachedat 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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