SOUTH PORTLAND — Disaster was narrowly averted Thursday when Southern Maine Community College students were doing a good deed for the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse Foundation.

Students in the college’s construction technology program this semester built a new welcome center and gift shop as a gift to the trust. They built the 12-by-16-foot “keeper’s cottage” on the school’s campus at Spring Point, about 1,000 feet from the lighthouse property.

On Thursday afternoon, students in the heavy equipment operations program had just begun moving the building to a field near the lighthouse when it tipped off the forklift-style front-end loader and nearly crashed onto the pavement and some parked cars.

“There was a point where it tilted and almost fell off, but it came back and righted itself,” said Clarke Canfield, college spokesman. “It turns out that the house is too heavy to be moved with a front-end loader.”

Chuck Gregory, academic dean of Southern Maine Community College, left, walks past the shed being moved by Howie Hall, driver of the front-end loader. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

Howie Hall, a second-year student who was driving the front-end loader, said the house shifted suddenly while trying to negotiate a speed bump, but he managed to keep his cool and steady the load.

“You gotta stay calm,” Hall said. “That’s key.”

There was no apparent damage to the building and no one was injured, Canfield said. The students left the building in a safe spot and the trust will arrange to have it moved the rest of the way, he said.

“This is a learning institution,” Canfield said. “Sometimes these things happen. It didn’t reach its final destination, but it will.”

Valued at $25,000, the new welcome center and gift shop was built to help mark the beacon’s 120th anniversary of guiding mariners on Casco Bay. The trust has planned a grand opening and anniversary celebration May 27 and 28 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Students from the construction technology program at Southern Maine Community College pause as their project – a building to be donated to the Spring Point Ledge Light Trust property – comes to rest on an SMCC parking lot after a transportation mishap. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

The cottage will replace the trust’s former ticket booth and gift shop, which helps to support the maintenance and management of the lighthouse.

The lighthouse was built in 1897 to warn ship captains of the dangerous ledge that extends into the bay and was the scene of many wrecks and groundings. The U.S. Coast Guard automated the lighthouse in 1960 and in 1998 gave it to the trust, which has overseen several restoration projects.

Weather permitting, volunteers open the lighthouse for tours many Saturdays, Sundays and Tuesdays between Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day Weekend. Admission is $5 per person. Visit for more information.

Staff Photographer Ben McCanna contributed to this report.

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