Are you interested in finding a station in your own back yard or are you interested in researching one across the country? Want to know if a station still exists and what its current use is? We can help you out. While our national station inventory will be available on our web site in the fall of 2014, we can help you locate a station you are searching for right now in the section below. If at any time you know of a station that is threatened or not on our list, or have updated information to pass along for corrections, please contact us immediately.
Clicking on the above link will take you off of the USLSSHA’s web site and onto the US Coast Guard’s Small Boat Stations web page.
Once you are on the USCG web site, find the state in the list to see the listings of stations located in that particular state. All stations are linked to PDF files that can be downloaded or printed off. Please note that the U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office maintains this station information and photography on their web site. The USLSSHA works with the Coast Guard Historian’s Office and we are happy to pass along additions or corrections that you may know about to their online database. It is our hope that our national inventory list will be combined with the US Coast Guard information in the near future to make a comprehensive expanded database.
Documented corrections and additions should be directed to our mailing address below, or you may e-mail us and attach the pertinent information. We will review this information and contact the Historian’s Office.
National Life-Saving Station Inventory Project
The USLSSHA undertook a project to physically inventory all surviving coastal rescue stations established by the US Life-Saving Service and Coast Guard prior to 1961. It’s estimated that nearly 450 stations were established throughout the US, many of which are no longer active. Of the original US Life Saving Service stations, approximately only 129 still exist with the balance being built by the US Coast Guard up until 1961. Some stations are still in use with the Coast Guard, others have been left abandoned or are facing imminent danger from waterfront development or vandalism, and a majority have been completely destroyed.
The stations are were documented to determine what historic buildings and structures still survive at each site; when they were built; who designed them; their original and current (if moved) location; the current owner and use; if they are publicly accessible; and a brief assessment of their condition, amount of alteration, historic significance, and level of endangerment from safe and secure to imminent danger.
The National Park Service received the inventory in a database format from the U.S. Life-Saving Service Heritage Association after completion in 2008, and a version of it will be put onto the National Park Service’s web site and the USLSSHA in the future, hopefully in the fall or winter of 2009. The inventory, which is modelled after an inventory the Park Service completed in 1995 of all surviving lighthouses in the US to help save those structures, will be the first ever comprehensive survey of surviving Life-Saving and Coast Guard rescue stations.
Today, the last, and very few surviving stations, less than 130 of them, are our most visible link to the efforts of the early lifesavers of the past. These are significant historic resources, yet many are threatened by demolition, waterfront land development, neglect and insensitive renovation. The stations are also important architectural building types of which relatively little research has been done to date. Most of the buildings contain unique architecture. This inventory project was the first significant step in evaluating their significance, as it was the first comprehensive compilation of the historic and architectural information that will be available in one place.
This research, when published, will serve as a preservation planning tool for federal, state, and local historic preservation agencies and organizations that may not be aware of the role these stations played in our maritime heritage. Some of the stations that are the most historically significant are also the most threatened. Some stations are one of a kind’s while others had several built of the same type, but maybe one or two examples are left in existence today.
The inventory will enhance our understanding and appreciation of the Life-Saving Service and early Coast Guard rescue efforts and their role in our countries early development, and will also help to preserve an important part of our maritime history by helping to preserve these stations. Since a lot of state and federal resources are facing budget constraints, we loose out on some things that are historically significant to our nation’s history. The US Life Saving Service Heritage Association has stepped up to the plate and accomplished this challenge that we feel is very important for future generations. As a matter of fact, we are facing several challenges with waterfront development currently where stations are facing demolition as people just do not know about the history these buildings played in their local communities. Before more stations are lost, we must educate local owners and communities to start the preservation process.
Photo Above: Umpqua River station, 1923. After the first Umpqua River Lighthouse collapsed in 1861, shipwrecks began to occur with increasing frequency. The 1870s saw a long string of tragic disasters. Besides pushing for a new lighthouse, the local populace also requested a life-saving station. Oregon Representative Binger Hermann requested an appropriation of $8,000 in early 1888 to establish a life-saving station near the mouth of the Umpqua River. The proposed station was rolled into House Resolution 8181, along with ten other life-saving stations, and approved on 17 July 1888; however, a limit of $5,000 was set per station. A site for the station was selected to the southwest of Fort Umpqua (1856-1862) on Army Hill, northeast of the 1857 lighthouse. Conveniently, it was located on land owned by the U.S. Government since the 1850s. The Umpqua River Life-Saving Station opened in September 1891, with a full-time crew of seven. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard.)