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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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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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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New timber roof for the Oil House

Fully framed timber reconstruction of the 1905 oil house.

Our friend Raivo has been busy up in Maine transforming some old pine timbers into a dramatic new roof for our Oil House.

The original 1905 roof was solidly built and still mostly intact, but it’s time for a fresh one and this season we’ll be concentrating on transforming the little stone structure into a fabulous guest cottage.

Raivo will assemble the new roof in his shop, dismantle it and reassemble out at Graves late in the summer.

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Crowning achievement

Master Cabinetmaker Will installs his mahogany crown molding in the kitchen (watch deck).

Four original cast iron pieces were lost years ago, but once Uncle Mike gives the mahogany replacements a fresh coat of paint, they blend right in with the rest!

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Bathroom takes shape

Nat puts up the tile in the first-ever Graves Light bathroom.

Lots of enthusiasm here at Graves Light as we ready the new bathroom.

The lighthouse never had indoor plumbing as we know it, so a bathroom here is a first.

Master carpenter Nat is at it again.

He built the wooden bathroom in his Portland, Maine, shop, and installed it a few weeks ago.

The mahogany door, with porthole, is salvaged from an old boat.

Here, Nat is tiling the shower after he and Lynn laid out the marble pattern on the dock outside.

The plumbing and water treatment system are already in.

Soon we’ll have a fully functional sink, toilet, and shower.

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Last part of Nantucket-built kitchen cabinet is installed

Back-to-back great weather days let us get stuff done!

Up from Karl’s Nantucket wood shop, we load the custom-built curved kitchen cabinets aboard Miss Cuddy.

In the gallery below, John and the gang install the “fair weather ladder” as Lynn surveys the cove (really), we all haul the new kitchen cabinets 90 feet up using a new “super bag,” and Randy applies spar varnish to the kitchen benches.

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Inside Graves Light during a nor’easter

Safest place in the harbor, 100 feet up.

We finally got to spend stay in the lighthouse during a winter nor’easter.

The storm, Stella, was pretty tame, as it turned out, but with some good preparation and common sense we had a fine time.

Graves at night during Winter Storm Stella.

Cap’n Pat of the Keep-ah joined us just before the storm, when the seas were still calm.

We were well-equipped. Plenty of bacon and beans. Lots of spirits to drink. Wood and coal for the potbelly stove. An electric generator plus solar panels and good communications to shore.

Plus lots of work to do.

For us, it was a normal winter trip. Basic maintenance, wood finishing work, attachment of bronze window hardware, and stuff. It was good to be in the lighthouse during a solid rain so that we could find where the windows leaked, and seal them up.

Earlier, Keeper Dave installed an anemometer on the chimney so we could get real-time wind speed.

We didn’t realize so many people were following us on Facebook, and didn’t think to take a lot of pictures or send messages. Here are some of our Facebook postings during the storm:

  • March 14, 2017. 4:28 pm: It’s a dangerous place to go to but it’s a very safe place to be.
  • March 14, 10:42 pm: The waning hours of the nor’easter Stella. Dead low tide opened a window to crawl across the ledge with safety lines and dry suits to witness the heavy surf. The wind and rain have calmed, but it’s still an amazing, wild and exciting place.
  • March 15, 6:42 pm: Yesterday we didn’t do anything productive. Just watched the storm all day and then went exploring on the ledge at dusk (and low tide) in our dry suits. We brought a few lengths of line in case somebody slipped. No one did!
  • Cap’n Pat catches up on his history of New England shipwrecks as the bacon and beans bubble on the potbelly stove.

    Today we slept late because the sleeping bags are so warm! Did a bunch of chores today – put the paneled ceiling back up after running some plumbing and electrical lines, put on some cabinet knobs, ran a cold water line up the six stories. (See the exciting pictures.) Now I’m installing an improved method of securing the storm shutters. The ribs are going on the stove in an hour!

  • March 15, evening: Cap’n Pat of the Keep-ah took care of all the food. Tonight it’s ribs and baked beans on the wood-fueled potbelly stove. We’re mostly burning wood as we haven’t figured out the secret to getting the coal fire hot enough.
  • For those of you kind enough to worry about us, we’ve got a propane heater for the kitchen. It’s well ventilated because the room was designed to allow outside air in thru snorkel vents.
  • Pat’s streaming some great Pandora feeds – we found one of the old Nova Scotia sea shanties.
  • What REAL lighthouse work is like: Cap’n Pat splices an old length to a genuine US Lighthouse Establishment (USLHE) pulley block, so we can hang the oil lamp in the kitchen. The lantern is repurposed from a USLHE dock lantern.
  • Pat did a fine job, of course. The lantern fits right in beneath the First Order Fresnel Lens that forms our kitchen ceiling, right below the operating Coast Guard navigation lamp.

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