2-year Oil House & Footbridge work is done

Billy and Chris install the last railing section, November 4, 2019.

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.

Even though we used modern engineering and materials, we strived to retain the character and spirit of the original designs. We built a new timberframe roof with a reinforced metal frame, sheathed in copper, and repurposed the original timbers that could be salvaged. We even added a belt course of solid granite.

Now, after 41 years, the Oil House is reconnected to the tower. It will serve as a guest cottage.

Last step this season was to install the replica railings before severe weather sets in, built by Nelson Metal Fabrication of Portland, Maine, and installed by Atlantic Restoration of Boston along with an all-star volunteer crew.

Share Button

End-of-season push

Our volunteer team takes a break at the new Oil House Fire Pit as they wind up the 2019 season by adding almost half of the new footbridge railings.

A spate of good weather and a pile of friends helped push our unfinished summer project closer to the finish line.

Nine of us hauled out prefabbed railings and assembled almost half of them in a heroic end-of-season push. 

Now, as the Coast Guard keepers did before us, we can take a footbridge from Graves Light to the Oil House and back, instead of being at the mercy of the rocks and tides.

The summer-long restoration of the historic footbridge is close to complete thanks to Mark, Anna, Mike, Arron, Rich, Matt, Keeghan and Winston.

Looking good, guys! Tip o’ the cap you!

Share Button

How much of a pounding can it take from the sea?

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.

Share Button

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!

Share Button

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.

Share Button

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.

Share Button

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.

Share Button

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.

Share Button

How we spent St. Patrick’s Day Eve

Pat attached the spliced line to an antique US Lighthouse Service block.

Cap’n Pat splices line to hang a lamp.

Staying at Graves during the nor’easter meant that the guys would spend the eve of St. Patrick’s Day eve having some quiet fun when the storm hit.

We took an antique U.S. Light House Establishment (USLHE) dock lantern, and repurposed it to become a hanging lamp in the kitchen.

The kitchen is on the watch deck just below the operational U.S. Coast Guard navigational beacon.

Cap’n Pat spliced an old length of line through an old USLHE pulley block.

Then we hung the lantern from the apex of the arch formed by the recovered First Order Fresnel Lens, just beneath the navigational beacon.

Then we hung the lantern beneath the actual navigation lamp.

Share Button

On the lighthouse roof

Keeper Dave on the roof of Graves Light, installing an anemometer on the new chimney to catch wind speeds.

Thwarted by ill weather over the weekend, the dauntless crew of Lynn, Randy, John and Dave today installed the remaining 12 feet of stovepipe and added an anemometer to measure wind speed.

The top of the bronze chimney is salvaged from an old yacht. The rest of it, we built.

A wonderful view of the frosty harbor from the very top!

 

Share Button