Light Station Restoration Diary
August, 2001
As written by the people working on the restoration.
Unless otherwise identified, the diary author is Linda Nenn,
co-chair of the Restoration Project


August 26, 2001

Oh my. I stepped away from my update for a moment, to rush over and unlock the light station for the electricians, then got a call from the the research center regarding the Galles Dairy and a search for a milk bottle that has a picture of a baby on it, and wham, bam, a whole week has passed!

This past week was a blur. The electricians have finished the rough wiring and the building inspector made a visit, unannounced, to give his approval. The masons almost finished their work on the new front steps with brick veneer, but one little ol' step was an inch shy in depth, so...a very unhappy gentleman was on site Friday and Saturday using a jack hammer to remove the whole steps. Not nice words were spoken, but at least they weren't directed to me.

Ron Mann has been a whirlwind. The walls are all furred out and insulated. Just need to fill in around windows, floor joists, etc. for insulating purposes and also to close any air passages between floors, for fire safety.

Nancy S. showed up and got to do one of her favorite jobs. Pulling nails. Hey, Nancy, I could have asked you to pull staples in the attic. No, I couldn't do that to you.

Yesterday the guys, Rick, Ron, Dean Shaver and Joe B., loaded up the moulding delivered by Charles Chandler. Took it to Joe's workshop while I headed to the hardware store for primer, rollers, etc. Made many trips to the hardware store as I didn't get the primer tinted. I can't believe how many shades of gray there are. Then we needed turpentine. Then more paint, etc. There are only 34 more pieces of wainscoting yet to be painted. Rick showed up today just as I was dipping roller into paint. Boy did I time that right.

Rick and I removed a damaged window sill yesterday and another sill that will no longer exist when the handicap entrance is built. Today we struggled to get the good sill in place. Between flat pry bar, coping saw and finally the Sawzall, the sill is in and isn't going anywhere.

August 20, 2001

The Light Station was a beehive of activity last week. The electricians have finished their work and I'm waiting to hear from the city building inspector regarding scheduling the rough electrical inspection. The plumbers must now descend and install the pipes, flues and a new sewer stack. Bob Greisch of Greisch plumbing and heating was on vacation last week, so I'll stop at the shop today and see if I can set this project in motion. I removed a bunch of piping from the hot water heating system. Some of the junctions were from long abandoned radiators. Others from radiators that will be relocated. Same with some of the long pipes that ran to second floor radiators through walls that no longer exist. Greisch will need to install new copper tubing, sweating the copper to bend and reach the old radiators. It's time to rough in the new bathrooms on the first and second floor. Once that is done and a rough plumbing inspection completed, its drywall time.

The electricians and plumbers will not finish their work until the drywall is finished and the new flooring installed. Wester Electric told me they don't connect and install the outlets, plates, light switches, ceiling fixtures, etc. until everything else is done. Basically right before the final inspection.

Talked with the rep. from Schaus Roofing, Manitowoc last Wednesday. Long conversation, but I think the scope of their proposal now covers all of our needs. Architect, Kathleen, has continued to try to iron out the bumps and questions outstanding regarding the Millen Roofing quote. Unless something drastic occurs, I will be recommending Schaus do the roofing in conjunction with the tower and lantern erection in early Spring, 2002. Schaus's bid is nearly $20,000 lower than Millen for the same materials and work. We have to sign a contract with Schaus within the next 10 days to guaranteed their quote until Spring. To avoid price increases, we'll have to make a 33% payment of $13,000 when we sign the contract. 

Just got off the phone with Jake at Neuens Lumber. BIG, BIG difference between the cost of 12" Western Red Cedar and 10" WRC. The 12" will be $6.27 a linear foot compared to $1.35 for the 10" (D select or better, smooth, beveled, 8" exposure. The 12" would have to be milled in Canada and, when I reminded Jake it had to be smooth, he wasn't sure if that was possible. The 12" just isn't made anymore, except for special orders. Jake also tweaked the window specs per my request. Marvin Windows does have an inswing, wood, simulated divided light that should meet our needs in the sunrooms. We can't do the siding of the rear addition until we get the new windows installed.

I've always been an organizer, but this project gives new meaning to the chicken and egg question. Can't hang drywall until electrical wiring, sewer/water piping and heating pipes are in. Can't do the electrical, etc. until the walls are framed. Can't finish framing until rough plumbing routes are determined. Can't install radiators until walls are finished and flooring laid. Can't do flooring until floor joists have been repaired or replaced. It's a good thing I took a course in juggling many years ago. Juggling three objects/tasks is a piece of cake. Four, five or six eggs in the air at the same time is proving to be a challenge. BUT, I haven't dropped an egg so far and each of these little projects will fall into place one by one.

Waiting for a call from C. Chandler, re: delivery of the exterior trim wood. If its not primed, we'll do that before installation. Joe B. has offered his workshop as a priming place. We'll need to prime the siding before it goes on the buildings, too. The generator building, outside the scope of the restoration, is ready for siding now. Only a few more areas have to be repaired due to water damage that occurred over the last 6 decades.

Had the privilege of being interviewed by Dennis Boese, contributing editor of "Great Lakes Cruiser" magazine. We did a phone interview on Thursday and then he did a site visit on Friday. I provided him with 3 or 4 historic photos of the Light Station. Dennis said he used to come to Port to dine occasionally years ago, but had never really looked over the city. Was quite impressed. Said he had a Monday deadline, but would put in a small article on the Restoration Project and our constant need for more funds. The magazine gives a "Kaplan Award" periodically. The last award was given to the Ontonagon Lighthouse Project, being restored by the Ontonagon County Historical Society and their Lighthouse Committee. Like us, this group began repairing the building, at their own expense, even though the federal government owned it. Unlike us, they had the help of Michigan's Senator Carl Levin and Congressman Bart Strupak. The Congressional help facilitated the Historical Society receiving ownership of the Lighthouse. Although the Port Washington Historical Society was unable to secure ownership of our Light Station, we're grateful that the city of Port accepted ownership so that this Restoration Project was put in motion.

Great Lakes Cruiser, via Dennis Boese, may do a full feature article on our Light Station when the project is completed next Spring. He was particularly intrigued by our Luxembourg partnership.

Nancy S. spent a day working at the LS, insulating walls and sweeping up sawdust and the leftovers from the electricians. Thanks, Nancy.

Pete Paulus and crew have almost finished their masonry work. They'll have to be brought back for tuck pointing many spots on the exterior. The extent of their work won't be known until the exterior paint and dirt has been fully removed.

Down that lane, Dan Dittmer is organizing his schedule so brick cleaning can commence as soon as Coastal Management funds become available. When he starts we'll have to cut a check for $10,700. Dan quipped, when I told him the amount, that he really should be getting 50% of his total quote rather that my deducting his donation now, but didn't argue the issue, so we lucked out.

Bills, bills, bills. Hope the donations are continuing to come in. Would hate to end up dead in the water right now as many of these contractors have to make their hay while the sun shines. Nancy M., treasurer, has assured me that the public continues to respond to our appeals. It's great to know the maritime community as well as local businesses and individuals are willing to pitch in and bring us little by little closer to our goal.

Saturday and Sunday I spent time removing a bit more of the west wall gypsum board in what will be and was, prior to 1934, the kitchen. Rick was in and out several times, between soccer games and horse tending. He also helped me beef up some new framing on the second floor. Well, actually, he took over the job as my wood cutting leaves something to be desired. We wanted to double up the studs that form one of the walls that will support the ladder steps to the lamp room.

Then we did what we been doing since the Historical Society first acquired the Light Station. We poked and peeked and pondered about aspects of the Light Station's construction. We believe that a strong case can be made that the 1860 rebuilding of the Station incorporated parts of the original 1849 Keeper's dwelling. The old kitchen ceiling contains rafters that are angle cut at their extreme, indicating that they were roof rafters for a much smaller building. The saw marks on these boards lead one to speculate that they were cut by an old muley saw. The brickwork of the walls also indicate construction that was done at different times. The interior corners do not align with the rest of the dwelling. And, the interior wall between the kitchen and dining room is only two bricks thick. Remember the letter I quoted in my last update? The inspector said the 1849 dwelling walls were only 2 bricks.

All of the walls in this old section were built up 4 and 5 courses of brick in 1934. We can clearly see bricks that were on the exterior of the dwelling originally and reused in the interior in 1934. We know the kitchen was a step lower than the dining room before the 1934 remodel. But where did these exterior bricks come from? Some are red, indicating oil house brick, but many have the cement slurry/paint on them. Others are white or have a soot coating.

August 12, 2001

The past 10 days at the Light Station have been frenetic. Rick and I have been here, there and everywhere depending on the time and the day. Generally around 7:30 a.m. I'd get a wakeup call from the electricians, wondering why I wasn't at the LS. Usually by the time I'd drive over to the site, Rick had arrived and let the men in to attend to their tasks. Issues such as hard wiring the smoke detectors and how many and what kind of canned lights and outlets we wanted were decided on site. Moving drywall and piles of insulation to expose the walls seemed a daily occurrence.

The masons have been hard at work. The SW window opening has been returned to the original brick relief. The 1935 first floor kitchen casement window is no more, replaced by the double hung removed from the SW window. The brick matching really looks great, although the young mason was definitely not pleased with having to cut the bricks, one by one, to match the height of the old brickwork. Glad I wasn't the one needing to shave an eighth to quarter inch off each brick. The new stoop footings and steps been poured and the brick veneer is nearing completion. Pete Paulus had cleared with Kathleen pouring over the old steps, but when digging down for the footings, the steps tipped and had to be removed. Bottom line, all new stoop. Although the profile will look like the original, there is now a 3 foot deep landing and the brick veneer rises up high enough to provide for hand rails.

Rick and I continue to explore and retrieve bits and pieces of the past. To facilitate the electricians, I set about demolishing just a little of the South wall of the new kitchen. This wall contains the original passageway that joined kitchen and dining room and had been remodeled into a wall with two deep closets and a new doorway. Well, just a little turned into removing the wall. The exposed brick yielded several discoveries. A section of vent pipe leading to the old chimney appeared, with the ash pit below. Century old ashes are just as dirty as new ash. My clothes attest to this fact. There is also an eight inch tin pipe with collar attached going through the old NE wall. Can't figure out its use. Wasn't a flue from the stove, for sure, but looks like water may have traveled through it as it is discolored to a level of about 2 inches. Could it have connected an eaves trough to the stove reservoir? We know the Light Station had a cistern in the basement and also west of the dwelling at different times. Maybe a lead from the East side to the cistern located under the dining room? Jeanette Dallmann remembers sitting on the basement cistern with her sister, but a phone call did not shed any light on the purpose of this pipe. Any ideas?

Rick, of course, had to climb a ladder to see what he could see above and behind the East brick wall. Removing the cornered wall only exposed about 2 feet of brick that backs up to the 1934 rear stairwell. Said he could see more pieces of deck rail from the lantern platform. I crawled up the ladder and took a gander, but couldn't see what he described. Went back today, on my own but for camera and flashlight, and stuck my head between ceiling and brick wall. The railing pieces run vertically with pieces of flooring or old molding nailed on to them. These form the furring strips for the back hall wall. If all these halls and walls are confusing to you, don't worry. I see halls and walls and furring strips in my sleep. Linda in wonderland.

Joe Barclay worked most of the week until the heat got to him also. Pat W., if you didn't take Joe sailing to escape the land heat, you'd better. He's really been putting in long hours. Heard he was looking for me yesterday. Maybe he has the materials list for the first to second floor stairs.

Got another quote for windows and storms. This one from Neuens in Fredonia. $11,000 and we do the installation. Marvin windows, 4 to 6 weeks lead time. Really want to get the new casement windows in before the weather turns cold. Can't address the residing of the 1934 addition until the new windows are installed. Stopped at Lisbon Storm and Sash, in Milwaukee, yesterday. They handle used and new windows and doors. Will send them the measurements and see what there quote looks like. Once again, Marvin windows. Other than being solid wood framed, I'm still not clear which Marvin windows meet the "Secretary's Standards for Rehabilitation and Restoration." Can we go with a combination storm/screen or do we have to have a separate storm and screen? Every place I've gone has told me Marvin windows are acceptable for restorations, but no one has been able to definitively cite which models are used. There is a wood, inswing/tilt casement window that's really nice. I saw this type of window in Europe over twenty years ago and wondered why they weren't used in the USA. I'll keep looking for the answer.

A very, very special thank you is due Candace Clifford. Ms. Clifford has recently left the employ of NPS, but continues to work preserving our nation's maritime history. While with NPS I believe she administered the Historic Maritime Initiative that included the Lighthouses. If you've read, "Women who kept the Lights," you've read a bit of her work. Neat book, even though it fails to mention Margarethe Shomer and Maria Lewis, two women that "manned" our Light Station. Widow Shomer is listed as a temporary appt. as lightkeeper in Port Washington, 1860-1861. She was on duty as our Light Station was rebuilt in 1860. Widow Lewis is not listed as lightkeeper here, but in citations from the Treasury Department it refers to a keeper's nomination, 24 April 1880. Her husband, Charles Lewis was appointed in 1874 and her son, Capt. Charles Lewis, was appointed in 1882, so the only other Lewis around was Maria. Hope my logic makes sense. The actual document was destroyed in a Commerce Department fire in the 1920's, if memory serves me.

Back to the thank you to Ms. Clifford. Numerous times over the last 7 years I've written or emailed anyone and everyone I could think of, in Washington, D.C., regarding information on our Light Station. While doing research for the Buffalo, NY lighthouse, Ms. Clifford came across 2 references to Port Washington, WI lighthouse and generously sent me copies. One is a supply list dated 20 June 1852. It is signed Cyrus B. Worth, Keeper. "Capt." Worth was our first lightkeeper. The second is a four page letter from Henry B. Miller who was Superintendent and Inspector of Lights, North West Lakes. It is dated 20 December 1849. This letter speaks volumes as to the living standards of lightkeepers and their families, especially prior to the reorganization of the Lighthouse Establishment. Mind you this report was filed the same year our first lighthouse was built. Miller had written to his predecessor for information and apparently did not receive a reply. As a consequence, he writes the following: ...I consider it my duty to give you now the following faithful report of the condition of these lights, commencing with Port Washington.-I have no fault to find with the tower of this lighthouse. Although it is not built strictly according to the advertised specifications, it answers all purposes, and in my opinion will stand well. The greatest objection is the placing of a wooden ladder from the top of the stairs to the entrance of the scuttle instead of an iron one. (The 1849 lighthouse was a free standing brick/mortar tower about 30' high.) The following is a description of the dwelling.-I send also advertised specifications so you may yourself compare. The dwelling is from out to out 32 by 19 feet; the walls of the house are 8 inches thick; the door to the cellar enters into the dining room, and back of the chimney is a closet 3 feet by 4 ft. 8 inches, which is the only closet in the house. Apart from this there are no shelves of any kind in the house. The doors are two paneled, back and side of fire places brick; the floors 1 1/2 inches thick, single and matched. Upper part of the house all in one room entirely unfinished, the floor being laid with rough boards thrown promiscuously together. The roof boards are poor, laid some one some three inches apart, and poorly shingled. The roof and flooring joists are of smaller dimensions and further apart generally than described in the specifications. The chimneys are perfect smoke holes, built so narrow that the passage hardly admits the smoke; (This MAY be the old chimney that's contained in the wall recently uncovered. Wish I could confirm or deny this speculation on my part.) there is but one brick to form the back between the two fireplaces leaving only 4 inches in the clear for the smoke to escape. The kitchen is 11 by 12 ft. in the clear; small fire place with brick back and sides; no trammel (pot hook) or hooks; small oven without a door; no sink; floor 1 inch boards, matched. The privy is 3 1/2 by 4 ft. in the clear-the well has a light bucket and rope-the whole has but one coat of paint, and the materials used on the dwelling with the exception of brick are of a very inferior kind. The following articles which the contractor was to furnish have never been delivered viz.-One Stove; funnel; tin wick box; six wick formers (sp?); one hand lantern and lamp; two tubes cleaners, and one glaziers diamond. There are many other little things I might mention, but the above gives you an idea of the manner in which the dwelling is built. The keeper has no other rooms than the two below, and is compelled to use the upper part of the house, unfinished as it is, for a chamber for his children. In a letter, received from him a few days ago, he begs of me to have the chambers above finished, and says that a few nights before more than a bushel of snow blew through the roof on his children. From personal observation, I am convinced of the necessity of this improvement and recommend that $100 be appropriated for this objective."

Not exactly the image I had of a keeper's home. No wonder the entire station was rebuilt in 1860. Widow Shomer and her children must have felt they were moving from a hovel to a palace when the 1860 Light Station was finished. As bad as Port Washington's keeper's dwelling was, Inspector Miller goes on to describe the recently built Plum Island Lighthouse, at a place called 'death's door.', based on a report filed by the captain of the propeler A. ROSSITER. "He says the lighthouse is falling down." The foundation was built of limestone, but no mortar was used! The lantern leaked so bad that the light was extinguished.

Well, that's my bit of Port Washington Maritime History for today. Hope the days ahead provide some continued relief from the sun. Rick's off to church camp with wife and family so I guess I have early morning door opening duty. Hey, volunteers, are you still out there somewhere?

At a special board meeting, last Wednesday, we approved going with Dan Dimmer's company for the brick cleaning. He has demonstrated his desire to do our job by repeatedly cleaning patches of brick to accommodate the masons. He also made his bid low enough that no other company even wanted to bid, especially when they heard about the difficult task of carefully removing the cement slurry on the building. Dan's company will painstakingly remove the coating by hand scraping the chemicals from the bricks. Very time consuming to say the least.

Keep the lights burning. Oh, I almost forgot. On Friday I had the privilege of meeting the great, great, grand-daughter of Bernard and Margarethe Shomer. She was on her way from Florida to a family reunion. Took her to the research center to meet with Mary F. Lunch engagement cut the visit short, but I think Julie Shomer Cleland will be back on Monday to share what she knows about the Shomers. As her G, G, grandmother was keeper in 1860, we've really been trying to track down family information. It seems the after Bernard's death in 1860 (he was appointed in 1857), Margarethe stayed on at the light station until 1861. Julie is a descendent of Bernard/Margarethe's son, Bernard. The rest of the family seems to have just disappeared. The hunt continues. Julie saw the step in memory of Capt. Charles Lewis, lightkeeper, and wrote out a $250 check in memory of her lightkeeper forebears. Thanks, Julie, and thanks, Mary, for pursuing information on this family, even checking when you were in Luxembourg.


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This page updated Tuesday, September 18, 2001