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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Building a steel landing to replace the original.
Adding steel reinforcements to the concrete and stone.
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.
Coast Guard solar panels are at the top of the lighthouse, so the new shed is our only alternative.
Windy conditions made panel installation a challenge.
Lots of teamwork to make us 100% solar powered.
Installation nears completion. Batteries will ensure 24/7 power.
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.