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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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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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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