A little bit of Graves is in ‘The Lighthouse’ movie

The Lighthouse” – a wonderfully crafted little movie – is in theaters now.

Starring Willem Defoe and Robert Pattinson, it’s the story of two keepers slowly going mad in an offshore Maine lighthouse in the 1890s. That time roughly coincides with the initial planning of the construction of Graves Light.

Anyway, the film’s art department required authentic period props. Director Robert Eggers, a New England native, is a stickler for absolute historical detail.

So the production company contacted us about two years ago. We answered the call and are proud to have contributed five crates of authentic United States Lighthouse Service as artifacts to use as props in the movie. 

It’s a seriously awesome film, but definitely not for kids or the faint of heart. “The Lighthouse” is in the horror/suspense genre. It’s unconventional. And brilliant.

The pictures below show the genuine US Lighthouse Service artifacts that we loaned the producers either to use in the actual scenes, or to use in making copies that would get damaged or destroyed in the filming.

Willem Defoe tosses one of them, an oil can, at Robert Pattinson in the tight scene after Pattinson struggled up the spiral staircase with a large oil can. In another scene, Pattinson drinks out of the brass oil pitcher.

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2-year Oil House & Footbridge work is done

Billy and Chris install the last railing section, November 4, 2019.

We’re very excited to share the news that our two-year restoration and reconstruction of the historical Oil House and footbridge are now complete.

The original Graves footbridge, a steel structure that spanned the channel in Graves Ledge to link the lighthouse to the granite Oil House more than 100 feet away, was partially destroyed in the Great Blizzard of ’78 and demolished by the “No Name” storm of 1991.

The original wooden roof of the Oil House became unsalvageable after years of heavy storms and neglect.

Even though we used modern engineering and materials, we strived to retain the character and spirit of the original designs. We built a new timberframe roof with a reinforced metal frame, sheathed in copper, and repurposed the original timbers that could be salvaged. We even added a belt course of solid granite.

Now, after 41 years, the Oil House is reconnected to the tower. It will serve as a guest cottage.

Last step this season was to install the replica railings before severe weather sets in, built by Nelson Metal Fabrication of Portland, Maine, and installed by Atlantic Restoration of Boston along with an all-star volunteer crew.

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End-of-season push

Our volunteer team takes a break at the new Oil House Fire Pit as they wind up the 2019 season by adding almost half of the new footbridge railings.

A spate of good weather and a pile of friends helped push our unfinished summer project closer to the finish line.

Nine of us hauled out prefabbed railings and assembled almost half of them in a heroic end-of-season push. 

Now, as the Coast Guard keepers did before us, we can take a footbridge from Graves Light to the Oil House and back, instead of being at the mercy of the rocks and tides.

The summer-long restoration of the historic footbridge is close to complete thanks to Mark, Anna, Mike, Arron, Rich, Matt, Keeghan and Winston.

Looking good, guys! Tip o’ the cap you!

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How much of a pounding can it take from the sea?

We get a lot of questions about how much of a pounding this or that modification or reconstruction will take from the sea.

A lot of engineers and others helped us think things through before we drew up the plans and went to work.

This diagram shows the load calculations on the Oil House, with its new second story.

We built a new timberframe roof to replace the old, and added stainless steel reinforcements which the original roof didn’t have.

The precast marine concrete walls of the second floor are heavily reinforced and interlock with one another. They are bolted six feet into the ledge below.

Nearby pilings for the footbridge are made from 6-inch reinforced stainless steel pipe, welded to the original US Army Corps of Engineers steel pilings that were drilled six feet into the ledge. The original ones worked perfectly for decades until a big storm snapped them off like twigs.

The windows will be protected from hurricanes by anti-ballistic shutters.

That’s the plan, of course. The sea will decide for herself what works.

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Granite stonework is done

This is the big year for the Oil House restoration. We needed a decorative element to transition from the old stone blocks to the modern 2nd story.

Swenson Granite Works, a family business since 1883, cut a beautiful belt course of solid stone around the top of the original first story, to form a granite base of the new second level.

The fellows from Atlantic Restoration teamed up with King Pine Restorations to form a super-team to tackle the impossible.

Sixteen stones, each weighing 700 pounds, were hauled out in the Miss Cuddy I. She’s former Coast Guard Defender vessel that had been the shuttle to Graves Light until rough waters last year dragged her mooring and wrecked her on the ledge. Her USCG-designed hull came out intact, so we pulled off the cabin and turned her into a barge.

After hauling each block to Graves Ledge on the Miss Cuddy I, we used an old-school derrick to hoist the granite 25 feet up the ledge, and then pinned the blocks into place.

This was no small job: these guys built the Zakim Bridge and it was rough going for 3 weeks.

A tip of the cap, Mike, Jason, Chris and Rob!

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Miss Cuddy I: Unsung hero of Graves Light

Miss Cuddy I, so vital to Graves Light’s renovation, was wrecked in 2018. But that didn’t stop her from finishing the job on Graves Ledge.

One of the unsung heroes of the entire Graves Light revival has been our trusty Miss Cuddy I.

Miss Cuddy is a surplus 25-foot US Coast Guard Defender-class boat named after our beloved Monica Cuddy, who taught fourth grade for 40 years in Lynn.

Last fall Miss Cuddy was wrecked when she pulled her mooring block in a gale and smashed up on the dangerous Graves Ledge. 

But she didn’t sink!

Nelson Metal Fabrication, which was building our footbridge from the lighthouse to the oil house, cut off the cabin and transformed Miss Cuddy into an open decked barge.

Since then, she’s hauled about 19 tons of steel, stone, and timber to supply us with materials for summer projects.

These five pictures show the process.

Using a big two ton-crane at the Winthrop Town Pier, Harbormaster Larry and his crew gently lower the supplies into her hold. We secure the load and begin the hour long haul to Graves, where we fasten Miss Cuddy tight to the rocks at high tide and pull the supplies using a hoist and cable trolley system designed by Nelson Metals in Maine with Nelson Wire Rope near Philadelphia.

Why such a crazy scheme? Well, due to the topography of Graves Ledge, a traditional crane and barge rig can’t get close enough to set the pilings for the new footbridge, or set the granite blocks for the Oil House.

So we devised a low-impact, greener (much!) method of transport.

At the end of the season, we’ll haul away the scaffolding, tidy up the worksite, and (sniff!) cut up Miss Cuddy for scrap.

Good ol’ Miss Cuddy I!

(Yes, we now have Miss Cuddy II, another Defender-class boat.)

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Finishing up the second story of the Oil House at Graves

It’s been a very busy summer – perhaps the busiest yet, and the crew is finishing up several big projects which will have a lasting impact on the six-year (so far!) restoration of Graves Light Station.

Dorian and Jason of Seacoast Finishers completed the astonishing solid copper reproduction of the Oil House roof and cupola today.

A stoneworker is seen cutting a 700-pound block of granite where the new second story meets the original stone first level.

We obtained the original blueprints from the Coast Guard to reconstruct the copper roof and cupola. The craftsmen at Seacoast got the details right, adding a stainless steel frame inside to hold back the big waves.

We built the stainless steel frame over the reconstructed wooden timber frame – an exact copy, built in Maine, of the original – and repurposed many of the original 1905 timbers for the flooring and other interior features of the second level.

The second floor walls are of marine concrete, cast in Philadelphia. We installed the walls and roof by helicopter last winter.

We hauled in every section of copper and steel, piece by piece, by dinghy and over the rocks. Thank you, gents – it looks amazing!

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114th anniversary of Graves Light

Happy Birthday Graves Light!

September 1 marks the 114th anniversary of the first lighting of the magnificent First Order lens by keeper Elliott C Hadley.

This weekend we’d like to tip our caps to the many men and women who’ve kept Graves lit over the decades.

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Regatta rounds Graves Ledge

Flip Flop Regatta sloops make their way around Graves Ledge to Broad Sound, with Boston in the background. (Photo: Larry Andersen)

Our pal Larry Andersen snapped this great shot of the Flip Flop Regatta rounding Graves Ledge recently.

Race officials asked us if they could station photographers at Graves to catch the action as the boats made their way up Broad Sound and on toward the Brewster Islands.

The regatta supports Courageous Sailing’s youth programs and “transforms children’s lives through sailing programs that inspire learning, personal growth, and leadership.” Nice shot, Larry!

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New copper cupola replaces original that was lost

Happy National Lighthouse Day!

And a very busy day here at Graves as Dorri from Seacoast Finishers builds a magnificent copper cupola for the Oil House.

It’s a replacement for the original cupola lost over 50 years ago.

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