The present Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse has been helping guide countless thousands of mariners into the protective confines of the Piscataqua River since 1878. Still today, large commercial ships deliver petroleum products, gypsum, fish products, and salt to various ports along the river, while local fishermen work the surrounding waters and a plethora of recreational craft enjoy the region’s briny sparkle.
Even the U.S. Navy highly values the Piscataqua River for its operations at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard where they overhaul, repair and modernize submarines.
But no matter the size of the vessel or whether a mariner is from near or far, the fixed gleams of green shining forth from the 48-foot tall Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse are a welcome sight for all.
However, the fourth order Fresnel lens inside the tower’s lantern is not the only way the lighthouse helps guide the seafarer. Just as important is its daymark – a white conical tower with a black lantern, which is designed to be readily visible and easily identifiable against background conditions during daylight hours.
Traditionally, every so often, this daymark / exterior appearance needs to be freshened-up by its keepers.
That is exactly what occurred in summer 2019 when the light’s modern-day “keepers” – the Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses (FPHL), a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation, saw its dedicated hard work pay further dividends with the completion of a $34,000 project to repaint the exterior of the cast-iron tower.
FPHL contracted the J.B. Leslie Company of South Berwick, Maine, to carry out this important work, which included prepping, priming and repainting the exterior of the tower and lantern, as well as some important repairs to windows along the tower, etc.
The foundation for a successful painting project is found in the prep work, and once this is done, the surface of a tower like Portsmouth Harbor Light is then ready to receive protective coatings in the form of topcoats. And with this protection comes the alluring shine.
In the case of the 2019 repainting of Portsmouth Harbor Light, the “shine” took on a deeper meaning when the Cassil family of Chicago donated the entire cost of the paint used to “dress up” and renew the shine of the lighthouse.
And not just any paint was used. A project like this is subjected to strong winds, storm seas and corrosive salt air. Therefore, only durable, trusted coatings can be used. In the case of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, those trusted coatings are made by Sherwin Williams whose products have proven their value at the historic site time and again.
Jeremy D’Entremont, President of the American Lighthouse Foundation and chairperson for the Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, touches on this, saying, “The development of cast-iron construction in the nineteenth century meant that durable lighthouses could be built more quickly and economically, but the thing about cast-iron is that it has to be kept well painted or it develops rust in a hurry. In the nearly two decades since Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses became responsible for the care of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, we’ve had the tower painted twice by the J.B. Leslie Company. Both times, coatings manufactured by Sherwin Williams were used.”
D’Entremont went on to say, “We know that Sherwin Williams paints and primers are the best in the industry for these types of applications, and the donation of the cost of the paint for the 2019 repainting by the Cassil family of Chicago is appreciated more than words can say. The iconic tower’s gleaming new coat of paint will be seen and admired by countless sightseers in the coming years.”
Lighthouse preservation is not a moment in time, but rather a winding journey without end. At various stops along this journey, a sense of satisfaction is gleaned by modern day keepers who stay the course and stand a faithful “watch.”
For the Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, not only was a great sense of satisfaction and reward realized for a job well done in 2019, but knowing that caring friends like the Cassil family of Chicago helped to make the project possible with their wonderful generosity, is as inspiring as it is vital to the preservation of our rich lighthouse heritage. Thank you Cassil family!