Before and after: The watch room is shaping up

The Watch Room at Graves Light, before initial cleaning and painting (left) and after sandblasting and first coats of primer and paint (right).

The Watch Room at Graves Light, before initial cleaning and painting (left) and after sandblasting and first coats of primer and paint (right).

Here’s the first look inside Graves Light after our initial cleaning and preservation. These two pictures are of the Watch Room, the black metal deck on top of the granite tower, just beneath the bronze-and-glass lamp room (see illustration).

watchroomThe outer walls are 1/2″ thick brass or bronze. The inner walls are thin sheets of steel. We had everything sandblasted. All brass, which had been painted, was coated with a clear preservative to keep the golden color of the metal. The two doors and doorframe at left, which lead out to the watch deck, are bronze. So is the circular perimeter of the ceiling where the round skylights can be seen.

The center of the ceiling is a modern addition from when the Coast Guard removed the enormous, original first order Fresnel lens and installed an automated system.

We primed the cast iron stairway and steel interior walls, repaired rusted sections, and painted the walls white and the stairs black with a special marine epoxy paint.

Because this room had no windows and little ventilation, we cut large holes through the walls and installed antique brass portholes from a steamship that sailed at around the time Graves Light was built.

We have a long way to go on this room, as it is going to be a kitchen and social area. This is just the first look.

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Boston Globe profiles Graves Light, one year later

Good news on the front page of the Boston Globe.

Good news on the front page of the Boston Globe.

Joe Kahn of the Boston Globe wrote an engaging feature about Graves Light, one year after Dave and Lynn purchased it from the federal government.

In a page-one, above-the-fold story datelined Graves Island Light Station, the Globe laid out what it called “A long to-do list for feeling at home in the lighthouse.”

“We’re figuring this out as we go, though,” Dave says in the Globe, “having no previous experience with something like this.”

“Few people do,” the Globe comments. “Fewer still have the passion and resources that Waller, 51, a Boston businessman who lives in a converted firehouse in Malden, has brought to renovating one of the state’s iconic landmarks, aiming to covert it into equal parts family vacation home and historic preservation project.”

The online version includes a gallery of pictures by Globe photographer Wendy Maeda, and a video.

Keeper Dave explains in the Boston Globe video the progress to date and future plans.

Keeper Dave explains in the Boston Globe video the progress to date and future plans.

While the Globe focused on Keeper Dave as the main character, it laid out the bigger picture of family members, contractors, volunteers, local officials, and well-wishers who are making the revival of Graves Light possible.

“Waller says his biggest surprise has not been the extent of the repair work, or the price tag attached,” the Globe reports.

“‘It’s been the outpouring of positive energy from the community — and willingness for contractors to actually come out and work on this,’ he said, grinning. ‘I thought people might say, “Hell, I’m not working out there on this rusty old lighthouse.” But they haven’t.'”

The Globe asked Dave what a lot of people have been asking: Will there be any public access to the lighthouse in the future, and might people have a chance to rent it out as a B&B?

“Yes and yes, says Waller. For now, anyone attempting to land on the rocky outcropping is trespassing and warned to stay clear. Once access is improved, though, open houses should become more feasible. Short-term rentals, too. ‘Because it’s something worth sharing,’ he said, bounding between floors. ‘People are curious.'”

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Volunteers devote Labor Day weekend to paint the lighthouse

Sunday paint crew: Sue, Allison, Mike, Shane, Andrea, Jack and Lynn.

Sunday paint crew: Sue, Allison, Mike, Shane, Andrea, Jack and Lynn.

Family, friends, friends of friends, and even a new friend discovered online took time from their Labor Day weekend to come out to Graves Ledge and paint inside the lighthouse.

We had sandblasted all bronze, iron and steel surfaces inside. We covered the bronze with clear protectant and painted the iron and steel with a special marine-grade green-gray primer. That work was done by a professional crew.

Over Labor Day weekend, a hardy group of volunteers from all walks of life visited Graves and, with paintbrushes and rollers, carried out the difficult task of applying a thick epoxy urethane paint as a secondary primer to bond with the first. This is the same kind of primer used on oceangoing vessels and oil rigs.

The two-day midcoat primer job was followed by a topcoat job on Monday, to apply black paint to cast iron stairways, rails and other surfaces.

Here are some of the pictures of our Labor Day weekend paint party. We are really, really grateful for all the enthusiastic and devoted help.

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Our new YouTube channel is launched


We just launched a YouTube channel to share our videos.

Click here for the link to the Graves Light Station YouTube Channel.

The first feature is the above magnificent 34-second time-lapse montage. Using a remote camera, we snapped a photo every five minutes for four days, resulting in this video.

Take a look at how the tide rises and falls, the sun and moon rise over the horizon, the workers move up and down the lighthouse and around the dock and ledge, and the light itself casts its beacon over the dark sky.

We also link to YouTube videos that other people shot, where Graves Light is seen or referenced, and arranged them on playlists for “one-stop shopping” for Graves Light videos. We’ll continue to expand these lists.

RC camera improvHow we made the stop-action video

The Graves Light keepers describe how the crew created the remote camera system: “We used a Canon 5D camera with a 24mm lens. My nephew Patrick and I built a waterproof housing out of a 50 caliber ammo box and powered it with two solar panels and a car battery.

“The real trick was the triggering device: Patrick cracked an old cell phone which he can fully control from his iPhone.

“The cracked phone triggered he camera, the camera sent the images to the cracked phone, which sent them on to Patrick’s phone, then automatically deleted them so the phone and camera didn’t fill up.”  

See the photo of the initial improvisation with the ammunition box, which we posted on Facebook in February.

Again, here’s the link to our YouTube channel.

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Authentic replacement windows restore original design

Karl Phillips of Driftwood Construction in Nantucket looks at how he's going to install the white oak casement window he built to restore the Graves Light windows to their original appearance and function.

Karl Phillips of Driftwood Construction in Nantucket looks at how he’s going to install the white oak casement window he built to restore the Graves Light windows to their original appearance and function.

From a rotted original casement window frame, master carpenter Karl Phillips and his friend Will Phelps built nine replacements in his Nantucket workshop, and installed them at Graves Light in early August 2014.

First we removed the historically inaccurate and aesthetically displeasing block glass windows that the Coast Guard installed decades ago to replace the originals, and then installed the casements.

Part of the installation was filmed for “This Old House.”

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Suspended 80 feet to repair stone at base

Mike Sylvester of CCI Construction hangs by ropes to reinforce stone blocks at the base of Graves Light.

Mike Sylvester of CCI Construction hangs by ropes to reinforce stone blocks at the base of Graves Light.

We started the stabilization and restoration of weathered stone at the base of Graves Light,  using modern techniques to revive the original.

In this picture, Mike Sylvester of CCI Construction is suspended 80 feet as he works to reinforce blocks of stone fragmented by a century of tidal action.

Mike’s drilling holes in the damaged stone, inserting epoxy and stainless steel bolts to reinforce the blocks, then covering the holes with grout.

We made the grout with crushed granite from the very same Rockport quarry that provided the original stone to build Graves Light in 1903.

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Zip line operation recovers original lighthouse windows

window glass on zipline

The first load of original 1903 lantern glass is returned to the lighthouse by a 100-foot zip line.

The perfect weather coupled with our hearty all-volunteer team enabled us to recover the original lighthouse lantern glass.

Decades ago, when the lighthouse was being renovated, the Coast Guard thoughtfully stored the historic glass away in the oil house.

But to safely recover the heavy plate glass, we needed to build a 100 foot heavy-duty zip line over the treacherous rocks.

Fingers crossed as the first load is away!

We even recovered the rest of the original oak and brass casement windows from the tower.

Big shout out to Jack, Diana, Wes and Lonnie.

zip line from oil house to lighthouse

Moving the priceless original glass was a complete success. Decades ago, the Coast Guard had carefully stored the glass for safekeeping in the oil house.

photo-3

Our volunteer crew takes a well deserved rest on the ledge, and does a little exploring as the tide starts to rise.

The plate glass we recovered were spares to replace the huge, curved panes in the lamp room.

The plate glass we recovered were spares to replace the huge, curved panes in the lamp room.

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Coast Guard stops by on maintenance visit

USCG Harley

Harley of the US Coast Guard climbs the ladder to do maintenance work on the navigation aids.

The US Coast Guard stopped by Graves Light recently to do a regular maintenance visit.

Even though Graves Light is privately owned, we have a commitment with the Coast Guard to provide regular access to maintain the beacon and fog horn.

Harley and Dave of the US Coast Guard maintain the solar-powered batteries in the Graves Light watch room.

Harley and Dave of the US Coast Guard maintain the solar-powered batteries in the Graves Light watch room.

Coast Guard AToN (Aids to Navigation) crew members Harley and Dave stopped by in their red Mustang outfits to do the maintenance work on the light and fog apparatuses.

(Coast Guard Dave is not to be confused with Light House Dave, who took the pictures.)

They patiently showed us the operation of the various devices and back-up devices used to make the lighthouse operate reliably for mariners.

The first picture shows Harley climbing 20 feet up from the rocks to the dock, with our granite blockhouse, called the Oil House, in the background.

In another picture, Harley and Dave are 80 feet up in the Watch Room, and Dave is topping off the primary batteries with USCG-distilled water. The light and fog apparatuses are solar powered, and the energy is stored in the batteries.

And 100 feet up in the Lantern Room, Dave replaces burnt-out bulbs in the automatic bulb changer.

Dave of the Coast Guard maintains the lantern in the Lamp Room, 100 feet up.

Dave of the Coast Guard maintains the lantern in the Lamp Room, 100 feet up.

Thanks for the tour, Harley and Dave!

We’re glad to serve the Coast Guard any way we can.

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Friends of Boston Harbor Islands arranges a nice debut for Graves Light family

Dave at FBHI

Dave Waller addresses the Friends of Boston Harbor Islands at FBHI’s annual event on Long Island, Boston Harbor, May 18, 2014.

The Friends of Boston Harbor Islands put on a fine event to host the new owners of Graves Light Station and help them make their first public debut to the islands community.

The May 18 event, during FBHI’s annual meeting on Long Island in Boston Harbor, featured Dave and Lynn making a presentation about the lighthouse, with Lynn managing the visuals; and Dave’s mother Carol, who had just returned from the Library of Congress in Washington with archival material.

Some of that archival material included news coverage from 100 years ago this summer of the first long-distance swimmers to Graves Light.

Extra seating was required to accommodate the packed house of interested guests.

One of those attending was Dolly Snow Bicknell, daughter of the beloved New England coastal historian and preservationist Edward Rowe Snow.

Dolly Snow Bicknell presents the Graves Light family with a first edition of her father's book, The Lighthouses of New England.

Dolly Snow Bicknell presents the Graves Light family with a first edition of her father’s book, The Lighthouses of New England (1945).

Dolly presented the Graves Light family with an autographed first edition of her father’s book, The Lighthouses of New England, published in 1945. A new edition, edited by our friend Jeremy D’Entremont, is available on Amazon.

In the accompanying photo here, Dolly is seen presenting the book with the page opened to a photo of Graves Light.

The public reception was thrilling.

Friends of Boston Harbor Islands, celebrating its 35th anniversary, served as our enthusiastic host.

Everyone who attended seemed excited to be there and hear the Graves Light family’s story.

Giles Parker, National Park Superintendent of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, sent out a Tweet promoting the event in advance, and Tweeting a picture of Carol, Dave and Lynn at the May 18 event, featuring their presentation hats and bottle of champagne.

Follow Giles on Twitter: @YourIslandPark.

Parker tweet

 

 

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Cleanup begins

Graves bucketThere’s quite a bit of cleanup work to do at Graves Light, not all of which is visible.

Among the big chores: What to do about the two 1500-gallon cisterns that occupy much of the first 40 feet of the lighthouse.

One of the cisterns held fresh water for the lighthouse keepers. The other one held compressed air for the fog horn, and was later used to store oil or kerosene.

We brought some buckets and rope up to the lighthouse to start cleanup, and found some oil at the bottom of one of the cisterns. We removed the oil in buckets, hauled it to the mainland by boat, and disposed of it safely at an oil recycling site. Now we have to scrub down the interior of the cisterns, break up the oil residue, and we’ll be done.

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