Before and after: 2013-2019

Well, it seems you’re never really “done” fixing up a lighthouse, but we’re well enough along where we thought it fun to share some Before and After photos.

Those of you who have followed us from the start might recall how big a task we had in front of us.

For perspective, the interior of Graves Light is about 13 feet in diameter.

The “Before” shots were taken in the autumn of 2013, right after we purchased Graves Light from the Coast Guard. The “After” shots are how things look today.

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2nd story of Oil House uses original reclaimed timbers

It’s not just metalworking out here. The boys from Driftwood Construction in Nantucket brought every tool in the shop and in just three days framed out the new second floor of the Oil House.

In February with assistance of a helicopter, we added the new second story, made in Philadelphia of cast marine concrete. The new timberframe roof was made last year in Maine.

For the second story floor, the Driftwood Construction crew reused the old 12 x 12 timbers from the ruined original Oil House roof. They added some beautiful reclaimed wood from our friends at Longleaf Lumber.

Thanks Karl, Sonny, Peter, and Jack!

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Footbridge under reconstruction

A wet and cold spring may appear to have slowed us down in these pictures, but in fact Graves Light Station has been gearing up for its biggest summer since 1905.

We are rebuilding the footbridge that joined the Oil House to the Lighthouse. The last footbridge, designed by the Army Corps of Engineers, was brought down in the massive “No Name” storm of 1991.

The new 130′ bridge is being built, top to bottom, of stainless steel. Like Graves Light and the “unsinkable” Miss Cuddy I, we reclaimed the stainless steel pilings from Uncle Sam. The bridge got permitted in April.

The lads at Nelson Metal Fabrication are shown here cutting and welding the parts of the bridge. Each piece is being hauled out on Miss Cuddy I, the 25-foot Defender-class former Coast Guard fast boat that took a severe beating (but didn’t sink) last year. We’re converting her into a construction barge to finish the Graves Light restoration and reconstruction.

Check out Nelson Metal’s website for examples of its previous work at Graves – including the bronze interior railings in the lamp room, and the re-purposing of bronze porthole cutouts as outdoor benches on the watch deck.

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How it looked up close

The Oil House project has generated a lot of interest in our restoration efforts, so we’d like to share some more photos that have been trickling in all week of our work on the second story.

Praise and respect for the whole crew! Thanks Anthony, Frank, Ben, Randy, Jared, Brad and Raivo for the excellent pictures from every possible angle. 

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Construction of the Oil House, then and now

The Graves Light oil house under construction, 1905.
Graves Light oil house, second story added, 2019.

Here is the only known photo of the original Oil House being built back in 1905.

Compare it to the expansion in 2019. How things have changed!


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Oil House gets a second story & new roof

Erickson Air Crane lowers the first wall panel of the second story of the Oil House.

In 25-knot winds and sub-freezing temperatures, a daring and dedicated crew of 30 put a second story and new roof on the Graves Light Oil House.

We have been working since last spring to convert the Oil House into a guest cottage.

A heavy-lift Erickson Air Crane helicopter ferried the five-ton marine concrete walls and a completed timberframe roof from a barge to Graves Ledge.

Waiting crews guided the massive pieces in place as the helicopter – Erickson’s civilian version of Sikorsky’s military CH-64 Tarhe Skycrane – neatly lowered them, one at a time, on the heavy granite Oil House.

The Oil House was built in 1905 to store whale oil used to fuel the Graves Light beacon. It is made of heavy granite blocks and has withstood all seas and weather ever since.

Making an equally tough second story was a task we gave to Carson Concrete, which pre-cast the four interlocking side panels in Pennsylvania and sent them to Boston by barge.

The original wooden roof also survived, but was too battered to salvage. Haystack Joinery in Maine built a magnificent timberframe replacement on shore. We helicoptered it out in one piece along with the concrete second story.

Hats off to our most daring and dedicated crew, which pulled off the job flawlessly on the icy ledge. Everyone’s safe.  

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The first Christmas wreath on our reconstructed front doors

A cheerful little video by our friend Petr to help celebrate the season.
Delivering a wreath to hang on the magnificent new entry doors made this week by Boatbuilder Don.
Merry Christmas from your friends Graves Light and Fog Station!
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Lighthouse Directory has 20,700 lighthouses in its database

Here’s a shoutout to Professor Russ Rowlett, whose years of work have given everybody access to what could be the world’s largest database of lighthouses.

“For many years, Russ Rowlett, a mathematics professor at the University of North Carolina, has been building one of the most useful lighthouse related sites on the Internet,” the Lighthouse Society reports.

“The Lighthouse Directory provides information and links for more than 20,700 of the world’s lighthouses, divided into sections by countries and regions. There’s also a list of the latest lighthouse news headlines and other pertinent facts. Anyone who’s struggled to find information on a lighthouse, famous or obscure, has probably gone to the Lighthouse Directory in search of enlightenment at one time or another,” the Lighthouse Society says.

Spend a year of rainy weekends on Russ’ Lighthouse Directory and you still probably won’t finish it all. It’s constantly being updated, too. That’s http://www.ibiblio.org/lighthouse/.

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Graves Light under construction, 115 years ago today

November 27, 1903: How Graves light looked after its first 7 months of construction.

One hundred and fifteen years ago today, Colonel Stanton of the Army Corps of Engineers took advantage of calm seas to photograph The Graves, documenting work accomplished in the 1903 season.

Remarkably, in seven months, the workmen prepared the ledge, constructed temporary cofferdams and wharves, built a barracks and footbridge, and set half the tower’s stones into place.

The next year would see the rest of the tower, interior tiled walls and stairs completed.

Graves Light went operational in September, 1905.

Click here for more historic photos of Graves Light’s construction, along with copies of many of the original blueprints and diagrams.

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Graves Light’s massive new oak front doors, from 1905 plans, are built to take a beating

Master Ship’s Carpenter Don Conry with two of the perfect replica doors he built for Graves Light.

There’s no better way to test a new pair of heavy oak doors than to install them during a gale.

Using the original 1905 US Light House Service blueprints, Master Ship’s Carpenter Don Conry built us a perfectly accurate pair of double doors for our entry, 40 feet above the sea.

The old lighthouse plans have been essential to our restoration efforts. For the four entry doors, we turned to Don. He fashioned them out of white oak, exactly according to the 1905 specifications.

Until now, Graves Light’s front doors were Coast Guard replacements of the long-gone originals. They were functional but drab, nothing like the original design.

We unearthed a lovely group of twelve antique heavy brass barrel hinges for a solid and weatherproof fit.

Then we added a beautiful porcelain enamel warning sign – an original from the US Light House Service. It’s all about the details.

Just like the long-lost doors installed 113 years ago, these white oak brutes are built to take a beating. They have reinforced security glass and up-rated hardware against intruders.

An identical set of exterior doors, painted regulation red, completes the entryway.

Don labored over the fall and installed them in early November, during a gale. That’s what Master Ship’s Carpenters do.  Thanks so much, Sir!

 

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