With the calendar flipping from the month of April to May, and spring gaining a firmer grip on the weather with each passing day, the time to spruce up our lighthouses and get them ready to welcome visitors in 2011, has arrived.
On May 2, 2011, volunteers for the Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses (FPHL) gathered at the light station armed with the necessary tools and work supplies to carry out their plan to apply some much-needed TLC to the brick oil house and to touch up the paint along the wooden walkway that leads to the light tower.
The 1903 oil house, a key component to FPHL’s educational programming at the site, may be a small building, but its ongoing preservation is not without a number of challenges.
The structure’s close proximity to the water places it in the direct path of storm surge, which often inundates the interior of the oil house during powerful storms. Strong winds and the salt air also take a toll on the roof, wood trim and coatings.
Left unchecked, the elements exact a slow but steady adverse affect on the historical integrity of the building, which FPHL recognizes and works to stay one step ahead of.
“Taking care of a lighthouse and its companion buildings is like taking care of your house,” said Ross Tracy, FPHL chairman. “You put your blood, sweat, and tears into a project and as soon as you’re done, another one sneaks up behind you!”
“This past year, J.B. Leslie and Company completed the enormous tower repainting project at Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, which allowed us to shift our focus onto other needs. The oil house, restored in 2004, touched up in 2006, and damaged by storm in 2007, really showed signs of needing some help. Our May 2nd workday consisted of scraping all of the white trim on the oil house and applying a good exterior coat of primer. Next week we hope to add the top coat of paint.”
Tracy went on to note, “Unfortunately, during the course of the project, more issues popped up as we noticed additional damage caused by the April 2007 gale. Parts of the trim around the oil house door were torn off and washed away, revealing the poor and brittle condition of the remaining trim. Along with that, the under eave trim is exhibiting dry rot and splitting, the wooden ridge cap is in very rough shape, and there are a number of slates missing from the roof, further exposing the old wood to the elements. In light of the newly identified issues, the group will be discussing how we want to proceed with what appears to be a pretty major restoration effort.”
“Next week during the painting detail, we also hope to address the trim around the oil house door. While there are certainly a couple immediate fixes that we can put in place to protect the structure in the short-term, FPHL will definitely need to look at this situation more closely in the form of a structured project as early as 2012.”
In meantime, the Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses will be ready to welcome the general public during their 2011 open houses that occur every Sunday from 1 to 5 pm, beginning Memorial Day through Columbus Day.
Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses is a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation, and also cares for Maine’s Whaleback Lighthouse, which is owned by ALF. To learn more about FPHL and their 2011 events schedule, visit: www.portsmouthharborlighthouse.org
Thanks to the following volunteers who helped with the May 2, 2011 maintenance work at Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse: Jeremy D’Entremont, Robert Kearns, William Marshall and Ross Tracy