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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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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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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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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Construction of the Oil House, then and now

The Graves Light oil house under construction, 1905.
Graves Light oil house, second story added, 2019.

Here is the only known photo of the original Oil House being built back in 1905.

Compare it to the expansion in 2019. How things have changed!


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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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Fogbound work continues at Graves

A foggy week here at Graves, but work continues.

The guys from CCI Construction have finished reinforcing the Oil House and are waterproofing the tower, while up in Maine, cabinet makers Nat and Don are building some of the last of the magnificent interior furniture and fixtures.

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The Oil House starts to become a Guest Cottage

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.

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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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