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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Philanthropist Bobby Sager joins the Graves Light team

A Boston businessman, philanthropist, and lighthouse aficionado has joined us to bring Graves Light to an even higher level of restoration and revival.

Boston Globe reporter Emily Sweeney broke the news on December 28 that Bobby Sager is now part of the Graves Light team.

Bringing Graves back to its original magnificence, while adapting it for modern use, had gotten very expensive, and we were wondering what to do since buying it in 2013. We had been up against a determined bidder.

“An interesting person came into view — doubly interesting because he turned out to be the individual we were bidding against the whole time,” Graves Light keeper Dave Waller told the Globe.

“Sager is a philanthropist who made his fortune by turning a small Boston-based jewelry firm into a lucrative global financial services business,” according to the Globe. Here’s an excerpt from Sweeney’s article:

The Wallers officially partnered with Sager in June 2016. Sager offered to provide financial resources to speed up the restoration work at Graves Light, and they agreed to share the lighthouse.

“We were bidding against each other and ended up being roommates,” said Sager.

Sager is impressed with Waller’s knowledge of the inner workings of the lighthouse and what it needs.

“Dave Waller is a genius” at “being able to restore these,” Sager said. “He’s a man on a mission.”

Sager and his son went out to Graves around Labor Day, and a storm rolled in during their visit, leaving them stranded. They couldn’t leave until the storm had passed.

Sager said they looked at each other and thought, “What have we gotten ourselves into?” But it turned out to be a bonding experience for father and son. The trip ended up being longer than they had planned, but they felt safe inside the lighthouse and it was a memorable adventure.

. . . [Sager] believes lighthouses should be preserved and that they can do more than warn ships away from rocky shores. Sager says they’re “small spaces where big conversations can happen.”

“I think these lighthouses are really a special opportunity,” he added. To be somewhere where you’re completely surrounded by water is unique, and “It’s a good place for people to listen . . . and to have powerful conversations.”

Click here for the full story
. Contact Emily Sweeney at Follow her on Twitter, as we do, @emilysweeney.


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Mahogany kitchen benches go in this week

Nat of NMT Woodworking shows some of the mahogany benches he built for our kitchen.

Nat of NMT Woodworking shows some of the mahogany benches he built for our kitchen.

Meanwhile, Nat and the lads at NMT Woodworking in South Portland, Maine, have been busy.

Living space at Graves Light is at a premium – none mores than the kitchen on Level 6. That’s the old Watch Room, a circular room of bronze and steel that sits on top of the granite tower and just below the glass Lamp Room.

The NMT crew created this custom mahogany bench seat to fit against the curved wall.

They built it for serious chowder eating. The marine-grade mahogany is able to withstand extreme temperatures and salt air.

You can see how the curvature matches that of the bronze kitchen stove that our man Wyatt designed over the winter.

Nat will be installing the bench system this week, weather permitting, as always. So stay tuned.

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Short stories of Graves Light on WATD 95.9FM 5-part podcast

WATD podcastsVeteran broadcaster Dave Skill created a 5-part podcast series about the purchase and restoration of Graves Light.

The feature series, called “Light at the end of the . . . harbor: The restoration of Graves Light,” aired April 11-15 on WATD radio, 95.9 FM.

Each podcast is roughly two minutes long, featuring two Daves: The broadcaster with his folksy storytelling, and Keeper Dave of Graves Light.

Click here to listen to the podcasts.

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The oak ceiling is almost ready to be installed

At his Nantucket shop, Karl Phillips works on the new oak ceiling of the 5th floor of Graves Light - a perfect copy of the ruined original.

At his Nantucket shop, Karl Phillips works on the new oak ceiling of the 5th floor of Graves Light – a perfect copy of the ruined original.

We’re getting wicked excited about a winter project that’s entering its final stages.

The oak ceiling of the Graves Light living quarters are being reconstructed, just as it would have looked in 1905.

Down on Nantucket, Driftwood Construction’s own Karl Phillips is working day and night, this time building the amazing paneled oak ceiling for the 5th floor study.

Karl already built perfect oak copies of the original casement windows, window sills, window paneling, and interior stairway doors.

He’s been using the original 1903 architectural drawings to rebuild the ceiling. But since parts of the original ceiling are still in place (despite their heavy damage), Karl was able to take measurements right off the original.

For the fun of future generations, we think we’ll install this new ceiling to cover the original old one, so that in another 100 years, people will have something to discover.

Take a look at the pictures of Karl’s latest work.

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Facelift just in time for TV advertisement shoot

Still from Harvey window ad, by Redtree Productions.

Still from Harvey window ad, by Redtree Productions. See how different the lighthouse looks after the exterior restoration?

Our summer-long facelift was completed just in time for a local production company to film a television advertisement for Harvey windows.

The ad, produced by Redtree Productions, features a Harvey window being installed in a lighthouse.

PowerwashShot in Boston Harbor, the ad shows Curtis, a Harvey contractor, braving choppy waters to deliver a carefully wrapped, custom-built window to the lighthouse.

The intrepid contractor takes a lobster boat to the rocky ledge and rows the window ashore in a wooden dinghy. He is greeted by a lighthouse keeper. (See still shot above from the ad, and the video directed by Jonathan Bekemeier.)

Freshly cleaned of more than a century’s worth of coal dust and other grime, its stonework all re-pointed, Graves Light glows as it did when it was completed in 1905. There’s even a glimpse of the freshly painted iron stairway railing inside.

In the ad, the lighthouse keeper leads the contractor the curving staircase. The window is neatly installed, showing the Harvey Building Products brand.

All this really did happen, and the Harvey window was installed at Graves Light. But it was just for the shoot. We’re sticklers for staying as close to the original as possible, and one of our workers found an original 1905 casement window, in a rotted oak frame, stored in the oil house.

With that exciting find, we used the original window as a template for nine reproductions. Those were custom-built out of oak and brass, true to the original, by a master carpenter in Nantucket.

But the Harvey ad sure tells a nice story. Here’s Harvey’s Facebook page, and the YouTube video, below.

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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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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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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.


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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