Light Station Restoration Diary
As written by the people working on the restoration.
Unless otherwise identified, the diary author is Linda Nenn,
co-chair of the Restoration Project
April 28, 2002
It began so inauspiciously just one week ago. Sunday, cold, blustery. Rick had come and gone from the Light Station, fitting in family responsibilities with cleaning and sundry other mundane tasks. Larry Foust was quietly caulking nail holes, preparing the door and window trim for priming and painting. Ron Mans may have stopped in as he usually does every day. Mary Flierl stopped in and left for home. I can't really remember what I was doing. The previous days had been spent collecting tools from around the Station. Organizing and preparing. A flurry of emails had been received and answered. Expectations. Questions.
I know I was upstairs, second floor or attic. Larry called out, "Linda, your visitors are here." My visitors? I came downstairs and was met by six men standing in the foyer. The Luxembourgers had arrived.
Handshakes. Greetings. I recognized Mario Mutsch and Bernie Schmitz from their previous visit to the Light Station. How many months had passed since that hurried visit? As I had with my students of by gone days, I tried to put names and faces or mannerisms together. Marc, Edgar, Manfred and Guido. I said their names out loud to help me remember.
Questions: How was their flight? Did they just arrive? Were they checked into the hotel? Did we have the right tools? Had they eaten? Questions, answers, more questions. The day I had been waiting for, for a year and a half, had arrived with the arrival of these six gentlemen.
We went to the Harborside Motel and checked in. Luggage had been left behind in Paris. Phone calls. More questions, this time to Air France. First things first. More calls, to Mary Flierl and Bea Krier. We had guests that needed to be tended to.
Lunch across the street at Smith Bros. Bea arrived and I took my leave. Syl Weyker and his wife had joined the group. Back to the Light Station. Mario had indicated they wanted to start removing the hundreds of screws from the shipping containers. Those wonderful containers that had sat at our doorstep for almost a month. I panicked for only a moment. The containers couldn't be opened today, Sunday. TV and newspapers were set to record the opening on Monday. Mario put my worries to rest. Only some of the screws would be removed to hasten their work on Monday. At the Station I once again checked our tools. Yes, we were ready.
Back to Smith Bros. It had been decided the only way the luggage could be retrieved was to drive back to O'Hare and pick it up in person. But, a welcome dinner was planned for 6 o'clock. More phone calls. Once more the names, as they sat around the table. I would learn them, finally, as the work commenced. The six take off for Chicago. Without telling them, I take the lead in my van and they intuitively follow me back to the freeway. I lead them onto the highway and they speed past me, a wave of the hand letting me know they're on their way.
Mary calls and tells me Air France has called and the luggage may not clear customs until 5:30 p.m. I call Mario and hope he understands the message. Unbelievable. We are less than 100 miles apart but my cell phone call is routed to Luxembourg and then back to Chicago.
Another call from Mary. Will the six be returning to the dinner or going to the hotel? Call Luxembourg/Chicago. Yes, they will go to the restaurant. We should eat without them.
No dinner for me. I must rest and be ready for Monday. No anticipated birthday, no unopened Christmas gift, could ever compare to this sense of wonder I took with me to bed and into my dreams that night.
Monday 22 April 2002 Arrived at the Light Station around 7:30 a.m. The Luxembourg workers, assisted by some of our volunteers, had already opened the container holding the lantern room and were working hard on the other containers. Some were up in the attic, opening the roof and preparing the area to receive the tower. A nice size crowd was gathering and Jim Fowler was on hand with slide camera, digital camera and camcorder. I went around greeting the workers, giving Mario what would be the first of many hugs. My cameras were soon hanging from my neck and I joined the fray. Every time I tried to take a picture of Edgar, he'd look up and cue me on his name, quietly. Edgar, I'll always remember your quiet smile. Maybe someday you can bring your wife and children to see the wonderful project you were a part of.
TV channel 6 showed up and began filming. I was introduced to the reporter, but had decided today would be a day that others would be the focus of attention, so I wandered off and left the media details some of the other very deserving society members. Kevin Wester and his parents, Bert and Verena, did an excellent job. Thanks to all.
Ozaukee Press was also on site for most of the day. The coverage was great! Thanks, Bill and Kris, for staying with us. The Wednesday edition, excellent!! Anyone that wishes a copy of the paper, let me know. I would guess $2.00 will cover the cost of the paper and postage.
Once the containers were opened the real work began in earnest. AZCO crane, of Appleton, which had donated their services, showed up with a mammoth yellow crane. Joe and his colleague immediately assessed the situation with Mario and Bernard. The first lift would be the tower. Completely assembled within its container, it was ready for lifting except for cutting the new 8 x 8 beams of the tower and the old, cedar beams in the attic. The beams had to be notched so they could be sistered together. As Mario later said, "Like Legos."
I had a doctor's appointment to attend to, so I took my leave, raced to the doc's office, and returned just in time to see the tower set in place. The expertise of the Luxembourgers, combined with the skill of the crane operator and his partner, resulted in a perfect lift. Bernard, Manny and Marc worked on securing the tower in place, while Edgar and Guido moved on to part two, the platform. Mario was the director and video recorder. Like an orchestra conductor, he brought harmony to the work.
The wooden platform with its copper decking was in two containers. The AZCO crane gently lifted one half and set it down next to its mate. Copper flashing was bent back so that it could be joined, eventually sealing the deck. I believe it was Edgar that crawled underneath to bolt the pieces together. Six to 10 others pushed, lifted and pulled to get the two half exactly in place. That accomplished, the second major lift took place. Attached straps hoisted the platform and my heart skipped a beat or two as I watched the parapet make its way skyward. The men on the scaffolding that surrounding the newly set tower stood waiting for their prize. Once again AZCO performed its task admirably. This job took more time than the tower, as the platform had to be turned and fitted over protruding corners of the tower. This was a slight deviation from the original blueprints drawn by Jim Woodward. It was done to assure stability to the joint that melded the platform to the tower. Once in place, and it was a precise fit, the platform needed no further adjustment. 142 years ago the platform would have been built piece by piece on top of the tower. The method used today resulted in a perfectly squared and balanced platform.
On to the base of the lantern. The nine sided lantern base was "choked" with straps and hoisted up to its new roost. Copper flashing joined the deck to the wooden sides and cast iron framing and it was bolted in placed. Meanwhile, on the ground, preparation were underway to lift the nine sided lantern. The plans, historically accurate, had been provided by Jeff Shooks, of Michigan. Jeff, you have to come to see this!
The copper ventilator ball was attached to the cowling of the roof. On the ground it looked huge! The distinctive copper lightning rod was fastened and the lantern was ready to go skyward. 2 Four by fours were run through the windowless lantern, straps attached, and the lift began. As with the other parts, adjustments were made so that the piece lifted without a tilt.
Oh, I almost forgot. In the midst of this exciting day, the Lux workers and several of the volunteers took time off for lunch with the local Rotary Club. Steve Schowalter of the Port Washington State Bank was their host. Thanks, Steve. The State Bank is our biggest local benefactor with a $15,000 challenge grant issued last year. Lunch occurred between the platform and lantern lifts, so I passed on the luncheon invitation, climbed up the extension ladder through the tower, and savored the magnificent view from the platform. I flashed back on an old photo we have of Capt. Charles Lewis standing on the original platform around the turn of the last century. At that time there were no trees or ten story high-rise to obstruct his view of the lake. But I think I have a sense of what he must have felt looking over his domain.
My solitude was broken by the return of the crew and entourage. The lantern room lifts occurred after lunch. As with the first lifts, each success was heralded by cheers from the Luxembourgers and onlookers. With the major parts in place, work commenced on securing the whole package together. Long bolts ran from the cast iron ledge of the lantern down through the base and platform. Bolts now hold the old and new beams together.
It was time to quit work for the day. After the onlookers had dispersed, "bier" appeared on site and a congratulatory toast was offered. It was only later that I found out another toast had been made up on the tower platform. Well deserved. Only six hours of work had elapsed. Unbelievable.
I called Cathy at the Harborside Motel and asked if the bar could be opened early. Time to celebrate. Rick and I joined the group for a short while. After Rick headed home, Mario and I had time to talk about the project. He and Bernard had bid on the work as equal partners. Because of their fine reputation in the Grand Duchy, Georges Calteux had approached them to do the work. I can see why. Talk about a work ethic. They are rightfully proud of their workmanship. Before shipping the tower/lantern to America, the men had assembled it in Luxembourg to make sure everything fit perfectly. It had taken them 3 hours then, but we added another ingredient to the recipe.
That ingredient was the weather. Before departure from Europe, Mario had inquired about the weather. Remember the week of the 15th? Several days in the 70's and 80's. Mary Flierl had shared with Mario a Wisconsin saying that is particularly true in Port Washington. "If you don't like the weather, wait ten minutes." Monday the 22nd proved to be the perfect day to test that saying. In the course of 8 hours we had snow, sleet, hail, rain and even some brilliant sunshine. The only thing that gave us a break was Sunday's wind had diminished. By late in the day, Mario said he now knew exactly what we meant in the earlier communiqué.
Tuesday dawned cold but dry. Less onlookers but much work yet to do. The volunteers had dwindled to Lloyd Croatt and Ron Mans. Angle iron reinforcements were added in critical locations. Glass was installed. Caulking was applied. As no beacon will shine from our lantern, glass panes were put in all nine openings. Originally 4 panels were zinc coated plates, designed to limit the beacon's effect on the citizenry of Port Washington. The workers were guests of Schooner Pub for lunch and Kiwanis Club for dinner. By Tuesday I was able to utter more words than "amazing, unbelievable and wonderful." Wester Electric showed up to run the ground wire from the tower. Old photos were checked for proper placement of the ground. PBS out of Madison, WI visited the site thanks to Nancy Mersereau's diligence. Monday's media coverage was slim as the Mayor of Milwaukee chose that day to have a press conference concerning an alleged infidelity.
I beat the Luxembourgers to the site on Wednesday. This was to be the day to "polish the apple." Screws and bolts were checked and double checked. Glass was cleaned. And, the rains came once again. Nothing like Wisconsin in Spring time. Bea Krier, President of the Luxembourg Society in Wisconsin, headed a motor tour northern Ozaukee County, showing the historic sites to our visitors. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the first Luxembourg settlement in America was just north of Port Washington in a small hamlet named Holy Cross. Larry and I spent most of the afternoon putting together photo albums to accompany our visitors when they returned home.
Wednesday night the Luxembourgers were feted again, this time by the Lion's Club. After dinner we headed downtown to celebrate the completion of the tower project. On the way there I called Rick to see if he and his wife could join us. He informed me he had been at the Light Station because the tower was leaking! When I shared that information with Mario, he said, "That is not possible!" The next thing I knew, Bernie, Mario and Edgar were heading out the door to return to the Station. It was after 9 o'clock. The wind was blowing strong and the rain coming at us from the west, diagonally.
I found a trouble light and we climbed the extension ladder to the lantern room. Water had forced itself up under the window ledge and was coursing its way down the bolts on the west side of the lantern. Not a fault of the workmen. Rather, a fault of Wisconsin weather. As Mario stated, "In Luxembourg the rain falls down. In Port Washington it falls down and (he motioned) every other way." This design fault in the 1860 lantern room may have been part of the reason the design was subsequently changed. Later plans that I have, show numerous casting and engineering changes. Mario had talked with me regarding issues in the lantern design that he would have changed if given the opportunity. As the Light House Establishment and later the Light House Board came to realize, building lighthouses on the Great Lakes proved particularly challenging because of the weather unique to this area. Building designs had to be modified to withstand temperature variations that could exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit from summer's heat to winter's below zero cold.
So, Thursday's departure time was delayed. Marc, Manfred and Guido showed up to do additional caulking and sealing. Then the rest of the crew appeared and goodbyes were exchanged. I'm not a hugging type of person, but they all received their share.
Into their van and away they went. Headed back to Chicago for some well deserved rest and relaxation. Donald and Gerday Hansen, of the Luxembourg Consulate in Chicago, hosted the men for the remainder of their stay. Scheduled to take in a Cub's baseball game, I wonder if the weather co operated.
Only 96 hours elapsed from the time "my visitors" arrived and "my friends" departed. So many others made their stay a memorable one I can't begin to thank each of you personally.
The crowds are now gone, but our work here continues. There is still much work to be done inside and outside the Light Station before the 16 June 2002 dedication. The generator building now sports a new red roof. The reroofing of the Light Station began Friday with the tear off of the flat roof on the sunrooms. Ron, Larry, Rick and I continue to work inside. First thing Thursday morning, Ron began building the watch room platform. Ladders and stairs have to be built and the lamp room constructed. First floor restoration may or may not be completed by June.
Fund raising must go forward. Wisconsin Energy Corp. Foundation's $15,000 matching grant is about 2/3's met. As contributions come in, we will be able to pay the roofers at the completion of their task around 01 May. Stallion Doors of St. Cloud, Minnesota, through the generousity of its president, Dan Wright, is donating the interior and exterior doors. Stallion produces only the doors, so we'll have to purchase the jams and hardware and probably do the painting and staining of the doors ourselves. We still have a $12,000+ heating and plumbing bill to pay. Tuck pointing and brick repair has yet to be started and will only be done as funds permit. All exterior wood needs to be painted, especially the windows which also need to be reglazed. Work, work, work, but oh so rewarding.
To Mario, Bernie, Edgar, Marc, Manfred and Guido, I'll never forget you. To all the volunteers, especially Ron Mans, Lloyd Croatt and Rick Smith, that worked so hard side by side with the Luxembourgers, I can't thank you enough. To the individuals and groups that hosted us, my gratitude as well as the gratitude of the Port Washington Historical Society. To Mary Flierl, thanks for keeping your sanity as our primary connection to Luxembourg. To Bea Krier, for being such a great hostess and preserver of the Luxembourg heritage in this little corner of Wisconsin.
I've never tried to write my life story, but I've thought I'd call it Growing Up Small in a Big World. Small because I've spent my life in "small town" America with small town values that stress honesty, trust and community sevice. Small because I'm still a dreamer and idealist and one who doesn't always see "the big picture." Well, since Rick Smith and I were asked to head the Light Station Restoration work, I've come to realize that I'm growing up large in a very small world. This restoration project has brought in donations from almost every state in America. Companies that are located near and far from our doorstep have come forward to donate their goods and services or offer them at reduced rates. And, of course, the biggest thing that shows how small our world has become, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, so many kilometers and an ocean away, rebuilding the tower and lantern for our 1860 Light Station in honor of those hardy immigrants that found their way here 150 years ago and in tribute to the Americans that liberated their country in WWII. As Mario put it, "This will be talked about by my children and my children's children." Now if that isn't "large" I don't know what is.
Keep the lights burning.
April 8, 2002
Twelve days until the Luxembourg workers arrive! It's driving me nuts not being able to peek into the shipping containers to see the tower and lantern. But we've waited this long, so I'll manage to contain my curiosity.
In the course of filling in the trench left by the burying of the electric service, Rick uncovered a rare treasure. There among the clay, stones and dirt he found a round, flat object that upon closer inspection turned out to be a Light House Establishment button. Gentle cleaning showed L.H.E. and the U/S symbol on the front cover and a back plate with Horstmann Bros. & Co. Phila. This information tells us the button was made 1959-1863 according to my button book, "Record of American Uniform and Historical Buttons" by Alphaeus H. Albert. Yes, I have a button book. Don't we all?
Francis Pierron and Lloyd Croatt showed up Monday past and along with Ron Mans installed 90% of the new pine 5/4 flooring. It looks wonderful! The back kitchen floor still needs to be laid, but first we have to tear up the 1934 oak flooring. I began that task on Friday morning with Rick continuing Sunday. About a third of the floor to go before I call Lloyd to let him know we're ready for the remaining floor to be laid. Thanks, Lloyd, for all your help. And pass a thank you on to Francis.
New volunteer showed up last Monday. Larry Foust, a new Port resident, left a message with Nancy M. that he wanted to help. Larry is now spending 3 or 4 hours a day painting. Really nice to have more volunteers working. It makes the Light Station seem more alive.
Just called the Light Station to check if another new volunteer had showed up. Lou Tackes, of Belgium, WI, 80 years young, has offered to assist with the window and door casements. He and Ron are hard at work right now. Lloyd Croatt is responsible for finding Lou and Francis to help. Once more, Thanks Lloyd.
Paulus construction was back on site tuck pointing the foundation below the kitchen. Joe, one of the masons, did a great job filling in places where time and the chemical cleaning had washed out or loosened joints. Pete Paulus stopped by later in the week and said he try to get the whole foundation done when time permits. He'll also do some work on the brick. I don't think there will be an additional charge for this work. Cross your fingers.
Called Azco crane to let them know that another crane source had offered their services free of charge. Karl White, of AZCO, indicated they wouldn't charge for their work, either, so it looks like we will stay with AZCO. Nice position to be in with two companies vying to donate their work.
I may have come up with a source for our five panel doors at a fraction of the cost of new doors. I made some phone calls on Friday, to Laib Restoration of Oshkosh, WI. Terry Laib was one of the first people interested in our restoration plans over 5 years ago. Terry also did a lot of work on the Rock Island restoration. Ended up speaking with his son, Matt, who said he'd look through their inventory of salvaged doors. I decided I couldn't wait, so I drove to Oshkosh. Matt put me in touch with Jay, a full time police detective and part time salvager. Jay is currently moving his stock from Manitowoc to Oshkosh, so I couldn't hunt through his entire cache. He is also salvaging a farm house in Manitowoc County, he's sure the house has all five panel doors. He'll let me know later this week what he has.
Lange Bros./Randy Lange of Milwaukee has some balustrades that almost match the ones we believe were used on the stairs leading to the second floor. Randy said he thought he could donate the spindles to the project. On Saturday I met with Vern Frier of Oostburg who has a lathe at home. He's going to try to re turn the spindles to match the profile we want. I need to check to see if they will be long enough for our stairs, as the rise is quite steep.
Pat Poole, Donna Hunsicker, Ardy and Doug continue to paint. Rick picked out a slightly off white paint to be used on the trim. Ardy, no way was I making that selection! Doug is also cleaning all the window hardware, removing the old paint so the hardware will show its brass once more. Thanks to all of you. Eileen Johnstone, our former tenant, has also begun showing up to paint. Eileen's favorite spot in the caretaker's apartment was the sunroom. Once you see it, you'll know why. Sitting there, gazing out at Lake Michigan, its glorious.
Our www.portlightstation.org website now includes PayPal, a method of making credit card donations to the Restoration Project. Tom Hudson, our webmaster, made the arrangement. He'll write checks to cover any donations that come to us that way and I'll send on the checks and names to Nancy M.
Our Red Roof Campaign continues to bring in donations. Most are for just one shingle, but some for more. Verena Wester is still hitting the pavement, stopping in at local businesses and leaving forms for donors.
A correction, my fault, regarding the Wisconsin Energy Foundation Matching Grant. The kick off date was March 7, 2002. Not March 1 as I erroneously reported. To all the Light House organizations that receive this update: Could you put out the word about our roof campaign. Time is drawing nigh when the roofers will begin their work. Schaus Roofing may be on site as early as April 15th, preparing the roof for placing the tower.
June 16, 2002 dedication plans continue in force. This evening is an "Invitation" meeting. Hopefully my list of those that have helped on the restoration from a construction standpoint is complete. Nancy M. and crew are putting in long hours regarding the dedication. Thanks to one and all.
The Ozaukee County website and Port Light Station website have yielded some interesting, historically significant information. Jim Doran, of San Clemente, CA wrote to tell us about his descendents, the Kehoes. Like many surnames, Kehoe was spelled several different ways. Of particular note is Patrick Kehoe, Lightkeeper of the Port Washington Light, 1866-1874. Patrick was a Civil War veteran. He was born in Massachusetts in 1834, and served in the 16th Infantry, Wisconsin from 1861-1865. He was wounded at Atlanta and returned to live in Port Washington. In the 1870 census it lists Patrick as Lightkeeper, wife Margaret and a daughter, Ellen. My references to Patrick's tenure as Lightkeeper are scant. When he showed up in 1866 to claim his position, questions were raised as to the authenticity of his appointment papers. The questions must have been resolved, as he served until 1874 when he was removed and replaced by Capt. Charles Lewis, Sr. The reason for his removal from office was not stated in the small Milwaukee Sentinel article I uncovered. At the time of his removal, the paper lamented his leaving, implying politics had a role in the decision to replace him with a Milwaukee man.
Ran into Frank Gahan, Easter Sunday. The Gahans lived to the west of the Light Station in the early 1940's. Frank recalls a family named Carpenter living in the Station during the war years. Also, the Cornells. We've heard from the Cornells, through a son-in-law.
Tom Griesch has made contact with a son of Charlie Graham. Charlie was the last Coast Guard "keeper" to serve in Port Washington. I'm hoping we can get some more info and photographs of the Graham family to add to our Keepers file.
Another bit of history. In 1899 photos of the light station a wood fence is clearly present. The fence boards appear to be fairly wide, with no gaps such as one would find in a picket fence. Wooden fence also visible in the 1884 photo we have. But, in a March 4, 1898 letter from the 9th District, Light-House Establishment, Office of Engineer, Ninth and Eleventh Districts, a work order for "Repairs at Sundry Stations," the material list for Port Washington includes, "550 1 1/4" x 1 1/4" x3' pickets, cost: $11." This work order also includes "cement washing dwelling." Wonder if the picket fence was ever erected? This also seems to be when the cement wash was applied to the Light Station. More pieces of the puzzle that makes up the history of our Station.
Well, if I were the keeper today, I would have the fog horn blowing its mournful dirge. The fog has lifted somewhat since daybreak, but visibility is less than a quarter mile.
Remember, now's the time to buy a shingle or a dozen shingles like Dan Smith of Florida and Port Washington. Thanks, Dan. Your Grandfather, Delos Smith, would be proud of you. Delos served a short stint as assistant keeper in Port. Still waiting for Dan to show up on our doorstep to lend a hand. No white washing to do, or lamps to be cleaned, but I'm sure we could find something for you to do! Bet you miss the fog and April dampness that chills you to the bone. Yeah, right.
If anyone receiving this update plans on attending the Sunday, 16 June Dedication and recognition dinner in the evening, motel rooms are available at Best Western, Harborside; Country Inn and Suites at the edge of town, and a Super 8 Motel, Saukville, WI. Cost of the dinner, I think, is $30. Check the website, as more info on the Dedication should be posted soon.
Keep the lights burning!
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This page updated Friday, June 07, 2002