Granite stonework is done

This is the big year for the Oil House restoration. We needed a decorative element to transition from the old stone blocks to the modern 2nd story.

Swenson Granite Works, a family business since 1883, cut a beautiful belt course of solid stone around the top of the original first story, to form a granite base of the new second level.

The fellows from Atlantic Restoration teamed up with King Pine Restorations to form a super-team to tackle the impossible.

Sixteen stones, each weighing 700 pounds, were hauled out in the Miss Cuddy I. She’s former Coast Guard Defender vessel that had been the shuttle to Graves Light until rough waters last year dragged her mooring and wrecked her on the ledge. Her USCG-designed hull came out intact, so we pulled off the cabin and turned her into a barge.

After hauling each block to Graves Ledge on the Miss Cuddy I, we used an old-school derrick to hoist the granite 25 feet up the ledge, and then pinned the blocks into place.

This was no small job: these guys built the Zakim Bridge and it was rough going for 3 weeks.

A tip of the cap, Mike, Jason, Chris and Rob!

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Miss Cuddy I: Unsung hero of Graves Light

Miss Cuddy I, so vital to Graves Light’s renovation, was wrecked in 2018. But that didn’t stop her from finishing the job on Graves Ledge.

One of the unsung heroes of the entire Graves Light revival has been our trusty Miss Cuddy I.

Miss Cuddy is a surplus 25-foot US Coast Guard Defender-class boat named after our beloved Monica Cuddy, who taught fourth grade for 40 years in Lynn.

Last fall Miss Cuddy was wrecked when she pulled her mooring block in a gale and smashed up on the dangerous Graves Ledge. 

But she didn’t sink!

Nelson Metal Fabrication, which was building our footbridge from the lighthouse to the oil house, cut off the cabin and transformed Miss Cuddy into an open decked barge.

Since then, she’s hauled about 19 tons of steel, stone, and timber to supply us with materials for summer projects.

These five pictures show the process.

Using a big two ton-crane at the Winthrop Town Pier, Harbormaster Larry and his crew gently lower the supplies into her hold. We secure the load and begin the hour long haul to Graves, where we fasten Miss Cuddy tight to the rocks at high tide and pull the supplies using a hoist and cable trolley system designed by Nelson Metals in Maine with Nelson Wire Rope near Philadelphia.

Why such a crazy scheme? Well, due to the topography of Graves Ledge, a traditional crane and barge rig can’t get close enough to set the pilings for the new footbridge, or set the granite blocks for the Oil House.

So we devised a low-impact, greener (much!) method of transport.

At the end of the season, we’ll haul away the scaffolding, tidy up the worksite, and (sniff!) cut up Miss Cuddy for scrap.

Good ol’ Miss Cuddy I!

(Yes, we now have Miss Cuddy II, another Defender-class boat.)

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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!

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114th anniversary of Graves Light

Happy Birthday Graves Light!

September 1 marks the 114th anniversary of the first lighting of the magnificent First Order lens by keeper Elliott C Hadley.

This weekend we’d like to tip our caps to the many men and women who’ve kept Graves lit over the decades.

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Regatta rounds Graves Ledge

Flip Flop Regatta sloops make their way around Graves Ledge to Broad Sound, with Boston in the background. (Photo: Larry Andersen)

Our pal Larry Andersen snapped this great shot of the Flip Flop Regatta rounding Graves Ledge recently.

Race officials asked us if they could station photographers at Graves to catch the action as the boats made their way up Broad Sound and on toward the Brewster Islands.

The regatta supports Courageous Sailing’s youth programs and “transforms children’s lives through sailing programs that inspire learning, personal growth, and leadership.” Nice shot, Larry!

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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.

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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.

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2nd story of Oil House uses original reclaimed timbers

It’s not just metalworking out here. The boys from Driftwood Construction in Nantucket brought every tool in the shop and in just three days framed out the new second floor of the Oil House.

In February with assistance of a helicopter, we added the new second story, made in Philadelphia of cast marine concrete. The new timberframe roof was made last year in Maine.

For the second story floor, the Driftwood Construction crew reused the old 12 x 12 timbers from the ruined original Oil House roof. They added some beautiful reclaimed wood from our friends at Longleaf Lumber.

Thanks Karl, Sonny, Peter, and Jack!

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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.

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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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