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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See the Light: Graves gets official US Lighthouse Society passport stamp


You can get your own Graves Light & Fog Signal Station stamp – if you have a US Lighthouse Society passport.

Serious lighthouse enthusiasts have a United States Lighthouse Society passport that they fill with stamps from all the lighthouses they’ve visited.

We are excited to announce that the US Lighthouse Society has issued the Graves Light and Fog Signal Station an official rubber stamp to allow us – and our friends – to participate in the passport program.

Even though Graves Light is not open to the public yet, and won’t be for a while, we want to make sure that anyone with a US Lighthouse Society passport can get a Graves stamp.

The stamp is designed by the US Lighthouse Society.

Here’s how it works. According to the Society, “When you visit a participating lighthouse, you can get your passport stamped. There are four panels on each page of the passport and each panel should have a different lighthouse stamp. When your passport is filled it will contain 60 stamps.”

But what if, as in the case of Graves Light, you can’t actually set foot at the lighthouse?

lighthousepassportNot to worry. The Society says that if you can’t get a visit for a passport stamp, just send proof that you tried and they’ll acknowledge it if you send in your passport.

No need to wait to fill your passport, though. Readers of, or those who follow us on Facebook or @GravesLight on Twitter, can get their passport stamped right away.

Its simple: Just send us your USLHS passport and a request for a stamp, plus a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE), and we’ll return your passport stamped with a Graves Light and Fog Station seal. If you don’t already have a USHLS passport, just order one right here.

Graves Light isn’t in a town, so you’ll have to send your passport to our address in Boston:

Graves Light and Fog Station
180 Lincoln Street
Boston MA 02111  USA

I_Have_Seen_the_LightNow, here’s what US Lighthouse Society says about its program: “The United States Lighthouse Society sponsors a Passport Program. A passport with a blue vinyl cover, similar in appearance to an official United States passport, is available through the Society and lighthouse retailers across the US.

“There are seven levels of accomplishment in the US Lighthouse Society Passport Program. Each level is reached by completing a passport book & sending it to the USLHS Passport Fulfillment Service for verification. Upon achieving each of the seven levels, you will receive an official, collectible patch recognizing your achievement and dedication to lighthouse preservation.”

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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.


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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Try a Friday lighthouse cruise with FBHI

Boston LightFor a relaxing and informative look at the lighthouses in our beloved harbor, pack your picnic basket for an expertly narrated Boston Harbor Lighthouse Tour.

“This is the only Lighthouse Tour in Boston in 2014,” says Friends of Boston Harbor Islands (FBHI), which sponsors the lighthouse cruise in cooperation with UMass Boston Marine Operations.

“Cruise through Presidents Roads past Deer Island and Long Island Head Lights, and Nix’s Mate before heading out to Graves Light and returning past Boston Light on Little Brewster Island and Fort Warren on Georges Island,” FBHI says.

“See up close the restoration work being done on Boston Light in preparation for its 300th anniversary in 2016,” according to the FBHI promo.

Lighthouse cruise dates are on Fridays: July 18, August 8 and September 12, boarding the MV Columbia Point at 10:45 a.m. from UMass Boston Harbor Campus, Fox Point Pavilion on Dorchester Bay.

The expertly narrated lighthouse cruise does not land on any of the islands, and provides open top deck seating, indoor air-conditioned cabin seating, on a wheelchair accessible vessel. Click here for more or download a brochure: 2014 Boston Islands tour


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Vivid lost photos of 1938 shipwreck found

The smokestack of the SS City of Salisbury snaps off as the hull of the wrecked steamer makes its final plunge.

The smokestack of the SS City of Salisbury snaps off as the hull of the wrecked steamer makes its final plunge. The bottom photo was taken minutes earlier. The photographer was aboard a US Coast Guard vessel.

Our unstoppable archivists have recovered dramatic photos of the salvage and sinking of the SS City of Salisbury.

The famous “Zoo Ship” sank 76 years ago today.

Graves Light Station has acquired the historic Associated Press photos of the 1938 shipwreck.  

The vessel wrecked off Graves Ledge in April, its keel broken on an uncharted ledge. The big steamer sank the following month.

Most of the vessel’s cargo of exotic animals from India and Ceylon survived, and all the people on board escaped unharmed.

We have been scouring antique photo collections and old newspaper archives for images of wrecks, rescues and other events around Graves Light, and already had a number of original pictures from the SS City of Salisbury.

The earlier pictures appear on the shipwreck page on this site, and on our posting from last November.

The latest collection of eight original prints are from the Associated Press, acquired from a dealer in Tennessee.


The smokestack of the SS City of Salisbury snaps off as the hull of the wrecked steamer makes its final plunge.

The smokestack of the SS City of Salisbury snaps off as the hull of the wrecked steamer makes its final plunge.

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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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Lots of harbor seal sightings this spring

Seal at Graves croppedHarbor seals are happily out this spring at Graves Ledge, with sightings being reported by our diver friends at Boston Scuba.

We got some pictures of our own this weekend, including this one at low tide of a playful baby seal, the newest seen this year at Graves Ledge.

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50-foot wall of spray breaks over The Graves

Graves storm March 2014 Richard GreenOur friend Richard Green shot this remarkable photograph of a 50-foot wall of spray crashing over The Graves.

The picture, taken with a powerful telephoto lens on March 26, 2014, shows the wall of whitewater extending up half the height of the 113-foot tall lighthouse.

Breakers crash over the granite oil house located 90 feet to the left of the lighthouse.

Graves Ledge and the lighthouse are 4 miles from the mainland, but the telephoto lens draws in the neighboring town as if it was only a few feet away.

The dramatic photo shows why it was so necessary to build the lighthouse back in 1903, to guide mariners past the dangerous stone ledge. Numerous shipwrecks, resulting in loss of life, have been recorded around The Graves.

By the way, Graves Ledge, as The Graves is also called, gets its name from British Rear Admiral Thomas Graves (1605-1653), an early settler of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Contrary to popular myth, The Graves was not named as the graveyard of doomed ships and sailors.

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Secret cave discovered at Graves Light

Secret CaveWhile surveying the masonry today at Graves Light, Mike Sylvester of CCI contracting made an exciting discovery: A secret cave.  You’re looking at the first-ever picture from inside.

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Original architectural drawings discovered at National Archives

Lamp room diagramJust discovered: Copies of the original architectural drawings of Graves Light from 1903.

We’re just going through them now. The US Coast Guard Historian recommended a professional archivist to us, who knows the Coast Guard and US Light House Service records at the National Archives in Washington better than anyone else.

The drawing pictured is of the lamp room and roof. It gives a good idea of what we’ve found so far. Other drawings literally get down to the nuts and bolts.

Almost none of the Graves Light records at the National Archives are imaged electronically. We have hired the professional archivist to digitize everything she can find, and will provide the electronic images to the Coast Guard Historian’s office and to the National Archives.

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