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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Murphy bed goes up (and down)

gl-murphy-bed-1Now Graves has what every lighthouse needs: A space-saving Murphy bed that folds up to the wall.

Nat Towl of NMT Woodworking custom-built one of quartersawn oak over the summer.

The bed arrived at about the same time electricity lit up the interior of Graves for the first time in 40 years.

Made to fit the curvature of the wall, the bed comes complete with a red-and-black cover storm warning flag.

Nat’s seen here with his pal Mike, installing the bed, which is perfectly balanced and, when closed, features an antique nautical chart of Massachusetts Bay.

Nat built Graves Light’s curved kitchen bench last spring.


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Super ladder 2015 replaces what the storm claimed

Super Ladder 2015 is ferried out to Graves.

Super Ladder 2015 is ferried out to Graves.

Remember that big ladder we installed on the dock last spring?

Well the November storms tore it away, and although we spent an afternoon scuba diving to find it, all we came up with was one lousy rung.

But today, friends, behold the new Super Ladder 2015!

All that's left of our 2014 ladder.

All that’s left of our 2014 ladder.

Fortified with double strength rails and bolted right to the stone pier below, this baby should last until … November?

Maybe we should take it down after the season this time. . . .

Hats off to Emmett who helped build it and Mike and Pat who helped ferry it into position using our dock fenders and a spare life ring!

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Last work of the season: interior cleanup and glazing windows

Pedro is up on the lamp deck, a hundred feet above the rocks, glazing the windows. Photo by Richard Green, who was passing by on the 'Freedom.'

Pedro is up on the lamp deck, a hundred feet above the rocks, glazing the windows. Also see the oak-and-brass casement windows, faithful reproductions of the originals, installed in the granite tower. Photo by Richard Green, who was passing by on the ‘Freedom.’

We wrapped up a busy first season of bringing Graves Light back to life, concluding with work that wasn’t as dramatic as much of what we’ve seen, but was every bit as important.

The crew from Partner Solutions General Contracting came in to do a major cleanup.

Their targets: the rust, tar, dirt and mystery goo from the glazed white interior bricks.

This was the first time the bricks had been cleaned in about 40 years.

We were thrilled with the job that Ricardo, Claudio and Leo did to make the inside of Graves Light shine once more.

On Columbus Day weekend, we went out one last time for the season, before the seas got too rough for our boats to approach the dangerous stone ledges.

Among other things, Pedro went all the way up to the top of the outside of the lighthouse, to the lamp deck, to glaze the huge curved window panes joined together by colossal brass frames.

Pedro stopped the water from leaking into the top of the lighthouse.

By happy coincidence, a friend and fan of Graves Light, photographer Richard Green, happened to be passing by on the flybridge of the Freedom, and took some dramatic pictures with his telephoto lens. Nobody realized it at the time, but Richard snapped some photos of Pedro working up on the lamp deck.

Richard shared the pictures with us on the Graves Light Facebook page.

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The watch room: Before, during and after

Watch Room

Before, during and after the restoration of the watch room, the metal room on the top of the granite tower and beneath the lamp room that contains the light. This set of pictures builds on our previous watch room update.

After Rick Tower of Tower Blast & Paint sandblasted and primed the iron, steel and bronze interior, our crew of volunteers applied black and white marine epoxy paint, while our skilled metalworkers and carpenters installed antique portholes salvaged from an old steam ship.

The lamp room had no windows, and we wanted to add windows to let in light and fresh air, while being as authentic to the period as possible.

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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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Before and after: The watch room is shaping up

The Watch Room at Graves Light, before initial cleaning and painting (left) and after sandblasting and first coats of primer and paint (right).

The Watch Room at Graves Light, before initial cleaning and painting (left) and after sandblasting and first coats of primer and paint (right).

Here’s the first look inside Graves Light after our initial cleaning and preservation. These two pictures are of the Watch Room, the black metal deck on top of the granite tower, just beneath the bronze-and-glass lamp room (see illustration).

watchroomThe outer walls are 1/2″ thick brass or bronze. The inner walls are thin sheets of steel. We had everything sandblasted. All brass, which had been painted, was coated with a clear preservative to keep the golden color of the metal. The two doors and doorframe at left, which lead out to the watch deck, are bronze. So is the circular perimeter of the ceiling where the round skylights can be seen.

The center of the ceiling is a modern addition from when the Coast Guard removed the enormous, original first order Fresnel lens and installed an automated system.

We primed the cast iron stairway and steel interior walls, repaired rusted sections, and painted the walls white and the stairs black with a special marine epoxy paint.

Because this room had no windows and little ventilation, we cut large holes through the walls and installed antique brass portholes from a steamship that sailed at around the time Graves Light was built.

We have a long way to go on this room, as it is going to be a kitchen and social area. This is just the first look.

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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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Cleanup begins

Graves bucketThere’s quite a bit of cleanup work to do at Graves Light, not all of which is visible.

Among the big chores: What to do about the two 1500-gallon cisterns that occupy much of the first 40 feet of the lighthouse.

One of the cisterns held fresh water for the lighthouse keepers. The other one held compressed air for the fog horn, and was later used to store oil or kerosene.

We brought some buckets and rope up to the lighthouse to start cleanup, and found some oil at the bottom of one of the cisterns. We removed the oil in buckets, hauled it to the mainland by boat, and disposed of it safely at an oil recycling site. Now we have to scrub down the interior of the cisterns, break up the oil residue, and we’ll be done.

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