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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Kenny at the firehouse with the exact replica cabinet he built in Connecticut.
Hoisting the cabinet from the dinghy to the dock.
In its new and final home, the first floor of Graves Light.
Storing antique, original US Light House Service oil cans and lamp parts.
Graves Light is a historic landmark. At the outermost entrance to Boston Harbor and the tallest lighthouse in the Boston area, Graves Light is privately owned but continues to serve as a navigation aid run by the US Coast Guard.
The new owners welcome the adventurous public to enjoy the sights of Graves Light, but warn that there are no electrical, water, sanitary, first aid, or other facilities of any kind available to the public at the lighthouse or on Graves Ledge.
Graves Ledge is dangerous. Submerged rocks present a navigation hazard. We insist that visitors enjoy the ledge and lighthouse from the safety of their boat or kayak.
Meanwhile, follow us through this website, Facebook, and on Twitter @GravesLight.