The Oil House starts to become a Guest Cottage

This summer we begin to seriously tackle the old Oil House. That’s the 10 x 10-foot-square granite house on the ledge next to Graves Light. We started building the new timber frame roof in the spring at a workshop in Maine.

We’re converting the Oil House into a guest cottage. The old postcard to the right shows how the Oil House used to look, connected by a steel landing across a small channel to Graves.

Inside, Gary, Logan and Mike drill six feet down into the ledge, pinning the original granite blocks in place to fortify them for the next hundred years.

Outside, Nelson Metal Fab completes the landing and handrails in the same style as the original landing that was washed away in the “No Name” storm of 1991.

The rotten remains of the old roof are gone. They are seen bundled up to the right of the Oil House. You’ll see something new soon.

We do not plan to rent out the guest house. There’s lots of interest, but it just isn’t feasible.

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Powering the living quarters: Solar panels on the new shed

Busy weekend on station as we install our new bank of solar panels on the shed roof.

The Coast Guard’s solar panels to operate the navigation light and fog horn occupy the south and east faces of the watch deck, 100 feet above sea level. So the only place left to install panels is on the next-highest point – the new shed roof, about 25 feet above sea level.

This is a challenge because the shed replaces the one washed away in the big gale a few months ago.

Karl and Will, our Nantucket cabinet makers, teamed up with Randy and Dave to design what we hope is a hurricane-proof system to lock down the panels on the sturdy shelf roof. High winds and working over an angry ocean slowed us up a bit, but we’re almost ready to wire it and say good-bye to the gas cans.

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Back to life, from the original 1903 blueprints

Our talented cousin Kenny Burns built this fabulous quarter sawn oak Service Cabinet.

It’s an exact copy patterned from the original 1903 Graves Light blueprints.

The back is curved to fit the radius of the tower.

The original is long gone.

The Keepers used the service cabinet to store oil lamps, tools, wicks and glass chimneys. We’ll use our new one for the same purpose.

Kenny’s shown in his shop before bringing his exact replica to Boston. Soon it will be in the lighthouse.

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Barging in with a new shed

Don’t you love the smell of a new wooden shed?

The master timber framers at The Barnyard Store in Enfield, Connecticut, built us a replacement, lovingly named “Shed No. 2.”

The sea reached up and grabbed the previous shed during the Riley Gale two months ago.

Patriot Marine hoisted onto the dock yesterday with its mighty 100-foot barge.

Of course, our own Randy was there to guide it into place.

How long will the shed last? Only King Neptune himself knows. . . . Thanks.

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Graves wins prestigious American Lighthouse Foundation award

We bought and refurbished Graves Light as a private project, so it was a special thrill when the American Lighthouse Foundation recognized our work.

The Foundation has awarded Graves Light and Fog Station its prestigious “Keeper of the Light” award.

Keepers Lynn and Dave accepted the award – a crystal trophy reminiscent of a lighthouse lens prism – at the Foundation’s 2018 gala in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Dignitaries and lighthouse preservationists from around the country attended the event.

The American Lighthouse Foundation’s mission is “to save and preserve our nation’s historic light stations and their rich heritage.”

“This is a very special award,” said Graves keeper Dave Waller. “We promise to continue the good work of restoring and interpreting our little jewel on the sea.”

 

Pictured left to right: ALF Exec. Director Bob Trapani, Jr; ALF 2nd VP Brad Coupe; ALF President Jeremy D’Entremont; Graves Keepers Lynn and Dave Waller; and ALF Treasurer Alan Ells.

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New timber roof for the Oil House

Fully framed timber reconstruction of the 1905 oil house.

Our friend Raivo has been busy up in Maine transforming some old pine timbers into a dramatic new roof for our Oil House.

The original 1905 roof was solidly built and still mostly intact, but it’s time for a fresh one and this season we’ll be concentrating on transforming the little stone structure into a fabulous guest cottage.

Raivo will assemble the new roof in his shop, dismantle it and reassemble out at Graves late in the summer.

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Treasured checkerboard made by Graves Light keeper is back at the lighthouse

This original Graves Light checkerboard, made by Keeper Llewelyn Rogers in the 1930s, was gifted to Graves Light by the Rogers family in 2018.

It’s often said the best part of owning Graves Light is meeting interesting people.

Bruce at the UPS Store, delivering the checkerboard to Graves Light.

We just had the good fortune to hear from wonderful Molly and Bruce Nichols in New York state.

Molly’s mother received an antique checkerboard from her aunt Catherine in Wellfleet back in the 1970s.

Inscribed on the back is “Made by L. Rogers, Lighthouse Keeper on Graves Light Boston Harbor 1930s.”

Knowing our interest, Molly and Bruce shipped the relic to us because they “wanted to send it home.”

Well, it didn’t take us long to buy a proper vintage checker set on eBay to go along with the handmade checkerboard so the keepers at Graves can use it again.

Now the set is returned to the Graves Light watch room, waiting for a cozy game by the fire in our potbelly stove.

Thanks, Molly and Bruce!

A note about Keeper Llewellyn Rogers: Born in Maine in 1885, Rogers moved to Provincetown as a boy and worked for the Lighthouse Service for 17 years. He was first stationed at Minot’s Light, then Twin Light, Boston Light, Provincetown Light and finally Graves Light, where he was Graves’ last Keeper under the US Lighthouse Service.

He is standing in the doorway in the 1941 photo below, taken by the prolific Edward Rowe Snow. Keeper Rogers made this checkerboard using scraps of leftover linoleum from the kitchen floor.

The snowy photo shows Bruce readying the checkerboard for shipping to us.

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Two views from the same spot

Graves Light stands in the same spot but always seems to have a different view.

From the mainland four miles away, our friend Sean Foley shows how quickly the view of the lighthouse can change.

At sunrise on March 2, Sean caught calm seas reflecting a brilliant orange sky.

The next day, with Riley Gale surging, Sean caught a huge wave hitting Graves Light, sending up spray more than 100 feet. Graves Light is 118 feet high.

Sean and other photographers on shore are generous about sharing their photos with us. Thanks, friends.

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Clear the deck

Just before midnight during the Riley Gale, one of our cameras recorded the sea laying claim to our tool shed.

The gale pummeled Graves Light as the 27 foot seas smashed into the ledge, sending spray 117 feet to the very top.

This little clip shows the amazing power of nature. Like a great hand, a wave reaches up 20 feet to the dock, plucks the shed that was bolted to the timbers below, and drags it into the surf. See the video here on our Facebook page.

All the gear inside went to Davy Jones. Lighthouse insurance? What’s that?

It’s no great loss, when you think about it. Many people along the coast lost their cars and homes, and at least seven lost their lives.

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Our favorite Christmas ornament this year

We received the most wonderful holiday gift from our dear friends Jane and Jim at Boston Scuba: The Graves Light limited edition ornament created by the Winthrop Improvement & Historical Association.

The for sale at shops all over town with proceeds going to help the WIHA. They’re old school – almost as old as the Dean Winthrop House they’re devoted to preserving – so this ornament isn’t available online, but you can follow them on Facebook.

Call 617-846-8606 for more info.

And Merry Christmas!

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