James Streeter, co-Chairman for the Avery Point Lighthouse Society – a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation, has provided the following update on the 2005 progress realized at Avery Point…
Beginning in mid-August, after a hiatus of over a year and eight months, work on the second phase of the restoration of the Avery Point Lighthouse is in “full swing”.
The Joseph Gnazzo Company, Inc., of Vernon, CT, which specializes in exterior stonework restorations, has been contracted to do the work. This company comes highly recommended and its employees are considered to be some of the best highly skilled restoration craftsmen in the country.
Members of the Avery Point Lighthouse Society (APLS) have visited the lighthouse on an almost daily basis to watch and document the various stages of work being accomplished. Several significant aspects of the construction project have taken place over the past six weeks and it is anticipated that the overall restoration of the structure and the surrounding landscape will be completed by November 1st.
Almost immediately upon mobilizing to the site, workers for Gnazzo removed the cast stone railings and marble balusters from the balustrade which surrounded the wooden lantern room on the top of the tower. Replacement cast stone rails, comprised of the same materials and texture as those removed, have been fabricated and will be arriving on site within the next few weeks.
While the thirty-two marble balusters were being removed from the balustrade, ten were found broken in half and another ten or so had cracks or large voids which required attention. These balusters were imported from Italy around the turn of the century and were an important factor in having the lighthouse accepted for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Thus repair of these balusters was extremely important.
A stone mason who specializes in the restoration of damaged stone was brought on board and within one week had repaired and restored all of the balusters. The members of APLS who had witnessed the restoration process were amazed that, even upon close inspection, it was extremely difficult to detect any signs of the repairs. The only words to properly describe this stage of the restoration would be “First Class”.
In the mean time, while the balusters were being repaired, other workers were busy preparing the top of the tower to accommodate the newly duplicated wooden lantern room. While removing the old materials from this area, roots from vines, that had found their way to the top of the structure, were found growing under the roofing materials. New blocks, matching those used to replace the block on the main structure of the lighthouse, were used to construct a three foot foundation on which the lantern would be attached. Aluminum flashing was installed on the roof to prohibit future leaks and, of course, to prevent the unwelcome growth of vegetation. All joints in the flashing materials were welded together to insure proper seal and stability. Again, “First Class”.
Work on the inside of the lighthouse has also been ongoing. The old wiring, fixtures and various other miscellaneous items which had been attached to the walls over the years were removed. Once all of the paint on the walls and ceilings was removed workers repaired several cracks that were present on the cement surfaced inside walls. Workers also installed framing for the custom made door and windows, which should be arriving on site within the next few weeks. During the last two weeks in September two very exciting and spectacular stages of the restoration process took place.
On September 21st, the new replicated wooden lantern room was loaded and secured onto the deck of the CHIEF, a work boat barge at the West Mystic Wooden Boat Company in West Mystic, CT. For those who were not aware, Steve Jones, who is the owner of the Boat Company and a professor for the University of Connecticut at Avery Point, donated the materials and labor needed to duplicate the original lantern room, which had been removed from the lighthouse in late 2003. Incidentally, Steve is also a former light keeper of the Harbor of Refuge in Delaware.
Early the next day, the CHIEF departed the West Mystic Boat Company and transported the lantern room on a seven mile journey through Fisher’s Island Sound and Long Island Sound to the Shennecossett Yacht Club in Groton. On board the CHIEF, and ensuring its safety, was Mark Robinson, the craftsman who did most of the work building the lantern room, Steve Jones and other workers from the boat company.
No one could have asked for better weather conditions during the transport. Clear and bright blue skies, a very light southerly breeze and extremely calm seas set the tone for the picturesque voyage. The lantern room, under escort by a US Coast Guard high-speed recovery/rescue boat and the City of Groton Police Boat, was now receiving the attention it rightly deserved. Along the way individuals standing on the shoreline and boaters could be seen taking photographs of this historic site. Newspaper reporters were documenting the event while they traveled on boats along side the transport. A news helicopter hovered above for some time while following the route of travel. Yes, a “First Class” operation.
Upon arrival at the Shennecossett Yacht Club, which neighbors the property on which the lighthouse is located, the lantern room was off loaded from the CHIEF, place on a flatbed trailer and transported approximately a quarter mile to the lighthouse site. Planning immediately began to schedule lifting and securing the lantern room on top of the lighthouse the following week.
On September 30th the long awaiting historical event of lifting and securing the replicated lantern room on top of the lighthouse took place without a hitch. Again, weather conditions were nothing less than excellent. A one hundred foot telescopic crane was used to lift the room to the top of the structure. Approximately fifty spectators, including members of the Avery Point Lighthouse Society, the American Lighthouse Foundation, University of Connecticut campus officials, news reporters and interested residents looked on and photographed this significant stage of the restoration project. The air of excitement could be felt as the crane and workers moved the lantern room into place on top of the lighthouse. Once the wooden and steel lifting cradle was completely removed from around the cupola, many of the spectators displayed their emotions with cheers and applause. “First Class!”
It is anticipated that, without any further delay in the delivery of materials, the final phase of the lighthouse restoration will be completed by November 1st. The Avery Point Lighthouse Society will be working with officials from the University of Connecticut to schedule a relighting and re-dedication ceremony for the lighthouse to be held sometime in the early spring of next year. Once a date has been established announcements will be made through various lighthouse organizations and associated websites.
Invitations will also be sent to all who have contributed to the restoration project. For additional information concerning the effort to save, restore and relight the Avery Point Lighthouse please visit the Avery Point Lighthouse Society’s website at www.averypointlight.com