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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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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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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Finishing the ‘basement’ floor

Lynn finishes the careful work to set the true-to-the-original hexagonal tiles on the first deck.

Barry pours the new slab to replace the old.

July has been a busy month on Station.
Inside Graves Light, on the first floor about 40 feet up, which we call the “basement,” Barry from CCI pours a new slab floor and Lynn lays down the same period-correct hexagonal tiles to finish the job.
All done!
Mike and other lads from CCI have staged the oil house, removed the rotted roof, and are fortifying the place to last another 100 years.
Meanwhile, the new solar panels on our hopefully storm-proof new shed are generating plenty of power to run all systems.
No need for the fuel-burning electric generators any more.
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The Oil House starts to become a Guest Cottage

This summer we begin to seriously tackle the old Oil House. That’s the 10 x 10-foot-square granite house on the ledge next to Graves Light. We started building the new timber frame roof in the spring at a workshop in Maine.

We’re converting the Oil House into a guest cottage. The old postcard to the right shows how the Oil House used to look, connected by a steel landing across a small channel to Graves.

Inside, Gary, Logan and Mike drill six feet down into the ledge, pinning the original granite blocks in place to fortify them for the next hundred years.

Outside, Nelson Metal Fab completes the landing and handrails in the same style as the original landing that was washed away in the “No Name” storm of 1991.

The rotten remains of the old roof are gone. They are seen bundled up to the right of the Oil House. You’ll see something new soon.

We do not plan to rent out the guest house. There’s lots of interest, but it just isn’t feasible.

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Powering the living quarters: Solar panels on the new shed

Busy weekend on station as we install our new bank of solar panels on the shed roof.

The Coast Guard’s solar panels to operate the navigation light and fog horn occupy the south and east faces of the watch deck, 100 feet above sea level. So the only place left to install panels is on the next-highest point – the new shed roof, about 25 feet above sea level.

This is a challenge because the shed replaces the one washed away in the big gale a few months ago.

Karl and Will, our Nantucket cabinet makers, teamed up with Randy and Dave to design what we hope is a hurricane-proof system to lock down the panels on the sturdy shelf roof. High winds and working over an angry ocean slowed us up a bit, but we’re almost ready to wire it and say good-bye to the gas cans.

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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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