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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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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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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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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Exact copy of original oak service cabinet is installed

Remember the oak cabinet that Cousin Kenny built for us?

Well we finally brought it out to Graves this week, in two pieces, and set it up on the first floor.

It’s an exact copy of the 1905 “Service Cabinet” used at Graves to organize the oil lamps and their gear. We have put the cabinet to its original use. As seen in the picture, it now stores genuine, antique, US Light House Service oil pitchers, wick maintenance kit, glass lamp chimneys, and other equipment.

The US Coast Guard provided us with the original plans from more than a century ago. Kennedy made this exact replica, to precise specifications, from the Coast Guard plans.

Well done, Kenny!

 

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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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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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Bathroom takes shape

Nat puts up the tile in the first-ever Graves Light bathroom.

Lots of enthusiasm here at Graves Light as we ready the new bathroom.

The lighthouse never had indoor plumbing as we know it, so a bathroom here is a first.

Master carpenter Nat is at it again.

He built the wooden bathroom in his Portland, Maine, shop, and installed it a few weeks ago.

The mahogany door, with porthole, is salvaged from an old boat.

Here, Nat is tiling the shower after he and Lynn laid out the marble pattern on the dock outside.

The plumbing and water treatment system are already in.

Soon we’ll have a fully functional sink, toilet, and shower.

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