Real Estate Report: Wood Island Life Saving Station being restored

Wood Island Life Saving Station (WGME)

WOOD ISLAND (WGME) -- Renovations are underway on a life saving station off Maine's coast that was once used to rescue boaters in distress.

It's a quick boat ride off the coast of Kittery Point. On sunny days, you can see Wood Island the whole way, but it was during stormy weather that boaters needed the Wood Island Life Saving Station most.

"The old saying is, you had to go out but you didn't have to come back," says Butch Ricci, who's managing the project, "That was truly the way that these men lived their lives."

Men would live on Wood Island yearround. When an emergency call came in, they would deploy from the boathouse using a railway, heading toward the danger.

"They would have railroad ties that would come in here, they would push the boats out, two would merge into one and they would go right into the water," Ricci says.

Built in 1908, the station was used for decades to protect mariners and became part of the U.S. Coast Guard in 1915.

The U.S. Navy used it during WWII and in 1941 Wood Island was integrated into the coastal defense system. But in the early 1950s, the Coast Guard moved to New Castle, N.H. and the life saving station hasn't been used since.

After falling into disrepair, it was in danger of demolition, but now it's being restored and repurposed into a museum.

"It's been very intense," Ricci says.

Crews are keeping every original piece they can and any new elements replicate the old ones.

"You can look up above and see where we've installed new material against the existing material where it's been faulty," Ricci says.

The Wood Island Life Saving Station Association is spearheading the project, Butch Ricci and his team are managing it.

"It's been a great team effort and you need that to do this kind of island work," Ricci says.

It is a lot of work and there's more to be done.

"The idea is to have it fully open to the public," Ricci says, "We hope to have small ships that are able to come on board, people on their kayaks and canoes."

Right now crews are working to get the building's exterior stable for the winter. Next year they'll work on getting the inside restored, and they hope to open it up to the public in 2019.

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