Light Station Restoration Diary
January, 2002
As written by the people working on the restoration.
Unless otherwise identified, the diary author is Linda Nenn,
co-chair of the Restoration Project


January 20, 2002

Happy New Year to one and all! My holiday in Florida turned into my family's version of National Lampoon's Vacation. If something could go wrong, it did. No dead bodies, but one auto repair shop and a visit to a very small town hospital. But, parents and I returned home, separately, and my Mom's broken arm is healing nicely.

On to the Light Station... Heat was returned to the building on Christmas Eve. A wonderful gift even if this work was not donated.

Taping of the drywall continues. One of our two volunteers picked up a paying job, so finishing the walls is on hold for now.

Rick has been working, mostly alone, in the sunrooms. Yesterday he finished framing the new windows with old molding. I had the task of caulking, another new skill I apparently have acquired.

Tom Mutsch of Schaus Roofing, in Manitowoc, called to check on the status of the restoration. Schaus is our roofing contractor. Because of the relatively mild weather, he suggested they start the roofing work now. I told him that would be great but we couldn't afford to do even part of the job now.

Restoration fund is low, low, low right now. Maybe after taxes are paid people will respond to the mailing we sent out in Port State Bank statements. I'm running out of ideas where to go to beg for money. Suggestions or donations gratefully accepted. Meanwhile I've been paying for any materials I've needed. Yesterday it was another bag of insulation, four tubes of caulk and two new spotlights. This may be why I seemed to have more money in my wallet in Florida. Nothing to spend it on.

Staffers of Congressman Sensenbrenner and Senator Kohl: Isn't there any federal money out there to help us fund our project? The federal Maritime Initiative funding has been stalled for years now and we're faced with a fast approaching deadline to complete this Restoration. You're on our honored guests invite list. It sure would be nice if our government was even slightly as generous as the Luxembourg government. The Grand Duchy's Minister of Culture and Director of National Sites and Monuments will be on hand for the dedication. Hopefully our dedication committee has already contacted your offices with the details. Care to tack on $35,000 to a spending bill so we can pay for the new roof? Wisconsin surely doesn't get its fair share of federal monies. Oh well, thought I might as well ask.

While we have heat in the Light Station, only one boiler is hooked up and temporarily plugged into an electrical socket. Wester Electric has to make a return visit to do a pile of work. They need to run two 110 circuits to the boilers and two 220 lines to the new water heaters. We also need to get a few of the first floor lights hooked up so we can see what we're doing, especially when it comes to the drywall.

We've paid WEPCO for burying our electrical drop, but Wester has to pull the city permit and install the pedestal that the cable will connect to. Paulus Construction will make an appearance on site to cut through the cement that is next to the generator building. They'll do this 24 hours before WEPCO shows up. As Wester is donating their services, I can't be too demanding.

Still trying to pin down someone to build the stairs to the second floor. Several offers but nothing done so far.

2 p.m. Sunday. Taking a break to head over to the Light Station.

Thank you to whoever shoveled the snow in front of the Light Station. I've been working on it little by little, but we ran out of ice melt and I hate shoveling snow. I'm guessing it was Ron that pitched in. Heard he's back from grandchildren duty but haven't crossed paths with him yet.

7 a.m. Wednesday. When I take a break, it's a long one. Monday morning bright and early, Wester Electric called. I warned John T. that my car had died the previous day and then came back to life, so I might be delayed getting to the Light Station. All went well in my short trip to the Station, but when I came to leave, it lay silent in the road. Called my friendly tow truck provider and he arrived with mallet in hand. A few swings at the solenoid and the problem was finally diagnosed. Two hours later and a few hundred dollars lighter, and I was on my way.

Sundown Monday: one boiler and one hot water heater hard wired. Light fixture has been added to small closet off dining room, an area we overlooked previously.

Talked with Dean B. to find out when he's reappearing to continue with drywall/plaster work. I'm hoping to meet with him next week. Figures he'll finish the kitchen he's working on, Thursday. Then spend a few days with his brother who'll be on leave from the Navy.

Speaking of brothers, my big bro and wife will be arriving via Amtrak on Saturday evening for a two week stay. Much summer sausage and smoked chubs will fill the larder while they're here. My sister-in-law can't get enough of either. When Smith Bros. wholesale operation closed, I lost my prized provider of the succulent fish. I wonder if Ned and his crew realized the family turmoil they created by closing their doors. Raised on seafood in the Philippines, sister-in-law Perla fell in love with smoked chubs the first time she visited Port. Bernie's sausage came in a distant second. The ten pounds of chubs I sent her at Christmas were but an appetizer. I have a feeling that for over a hundred years, in homes and gathering places around Port Washington, the disagreement over who smoked the best chubs, often came up. For those not in the know, chubs, a Great Lakes member of the sardine family, are soaked in secret recipes of salt brine and then slowly smoked until they're dripping with good taste. Best eaten right off the smoking rack. In lieu of that, room temperature will do. Port Washington was a favorite destination for Sunday rides, with visitors coming from Milwaukee and surrounds, via the Pabst excursion boats and later by the lakeshore RR, cars and the interurban. On pleasant weekends, hundreds would arrive at our doorstep to partake of the local brew and food and, a century ago, possibly kick up their heels at the Columbia Beer Garden or Harmony Hall on St. Mary's Hill.

Okay, back to work. Rick finished nailing the caretaker's kitchen trim back in place and cutting the remainder of the crown molding for the ceiling abutting the upstairs bathroom. Take two amateur carpenters with too much education and not enough practical experience and a relatively simple task takes on monumental proportions. Many, many test cuts had to be made before the right corner cuts were executed. Rick, definitely the better of the two of us, tipped the blade of the compound saw back and forth so many times I thought it best that I throw in my two cents worth. I have a feeling that action probably doubled the time needed to accomplish the work. Slide rules are a piece of cake compared to a compound saw.

Last night was a hard one for me. My activity of Monday afternoon has finally caught up with me. After checking on the electricians just before lunch on Monday, I picked up half of my twin nieces and was talked into going snow tubing. I was a bit heady from finally getting the car fixed properly. That's the only excuse I can come up with that explains why I agreed to putting my creaking bones in harm's way. DeDe and I headed out to a nearby ski slope and joined a cadre of others risking life and limb riding down slick slopes of snow with no control of one's destiny. By the end of our two hour ticket, which stretched to three, people were cheering us on as we sailed down the shoot, over the two berms designed to slow you down, became momentarily airborne, and continued to the very edge of the parking lot and looming trees. Note to all: the takeoff is easy. It's the landing that shakes you to your very soul, or, in my case, every bone and joint in my body. The scary part is that I have to repeat this adventure with Dani, home sick with strep. Any volunteers? My sense of abandon has been tempered, as the evening news reported two sledding deaths in the Milwaukee area.

Tuesday: Nancy Simpson and I painted most of the caretaker's kitchen. Well, actually, Nancy painted and I did my best to avoid it, by meticulously scraping and patching a myriad of holes and bumps in the surfaces. Nancy: I did take roller in hand and get one coat on all the walls. It was guilt rather than desire that drove me.

Ron showed up for a couple of hours and worked on the downstairs closet and then outside removing some more of the old siding.

ANYONE WILLING TO ASSIST IN PUTTING ON SIDING IS ASKED TO SHOW UP SATURDAY MORNING, THE 26TH, AROUND 8:30 A.M. We're trying to at least finish the sunroom siding. Harold S. has put out a call to Habitat for Humanity to see if once again they can rustle up some volunteers.

Architect Kathleen O'Donnell spoke with Rick and me concerning details of the lantern and tower. I sent her a sample of the tongue and grove paneling that lined the tower. We have to make a color decision regarding the exter ior wood surfaces. I have the paint swatches, so all board members are asked to stop at the light station to vote on their choice. We have painted boards that came from the original tower, but age has changed the color. Lantern colors with be black, flat exterior, white interior. The white was used to lighten the interior and reflect heat. The copper roof will also be black, as will be the parapet railing. The floor of the lantern will be gray, a color repeated in the ladders.

Kathleen and husband David will be winging their way to Luxembourg in mid February to check on the fabrication project and visit with family. I can't imagine another architect that would have been willing to do so much for our project for so little remuneration.

Kathleen forwarded to me the latest fax from Henri Colbach in Luxembourg. Henri is project head. I passed the updated timeline on to Mary F. and shared it with Rick and Schaus Roofing. Our scaffolding needs have changed to meet the Luxembourg requirements. Tom Mutsch said he'd talk directly with Kathleen to sort out that aspect.

Nancy M. has offered to talk with Steve Barber regarding hotel needs for the two Luxembourg contractors that will be site foremen for tower and lantern installation. The other workers will need private housing. Kathleen should have a better handle on how many and how long the workers will be in Port. Vehicles will be needed for transportation.

Wrote up and submitted to city administrator, Mark Grams, quarterly update for Coastal Management grant. Nancy M. has submitted two contractor costs for reimbursement. Half of the cost of cleaning the exterior brick and cost of new casement windows. When we get this payment, it goes right back to the State Bank as we had to draw on our line of credit to pay these bills. Thanks, Nancy, for following up on this.

Rick is preparing a slide show to present to Kiwanis on Jan. 29th. I shall be his lovely assistant. We really should also get on the Rotary Club agenda.

Now, a bit of history on the Lights of Port Washington and Light Houses extant.

I keep searching for details on our lighthouses. In a 1849 Treasurer of the United States Report, I've learned the following: The keeper's salary was $350. The lantern held 4 lamps.

July 1, 1851 Port Washington: "At Port Washington, northeast part. 5 lamps; 14" reflector; fixed; Height of tower from base to lantern, 38 feet. Built in 1849.

1856 Report: $1,000 was appropriated for a "small beacon light" at Port Ulao, 5 miles south of Port, August 3, 1854. Never constructed. "Action deferred for want of perfect title to site."

From the same report, Eleventh District, "New illuminating apparatus has been placed during the past year in the lighthouses at...Port Washington...." I believe this is when the first Fresnel lens was installed in Port.

Report of March 13, 1858: Comparison required by US Senate of 5 1/4 years prior to organization of Light House Board and 5 1/4 years since organization. (The Light House Board was created by an act of Congress, October 1, 1852.) Prior to Oct., 1852, only 5 of 325 lighthouses were fitted with the new type of lens. By December 31, 1857 only 6 remained to be refitted. It is noted that the new type of lens produced, "at least four times as much light for the benefit of the navigator as the best system of reflector lights which has been devised, and at the same time, at a consumption of not more than one-fourth of the quantity of oil required for the best system of reflector lights." ...Inspector of the Eleventh District was Commander Gustavus H. Scott, U.S. Navy, Detroit, Michigan.

(It appears that between 1851 and 1858 the number of lighthouses increased from 325 to 490. Westward expansion and increased maritime traffic translated into more federal spending on navigational aids.)

#467, Lake Michigan, Wisconsin: Port Washington, At Port Washington, 25 miles south of Sheboygan light, WIs. one light, fixed white, visible 9 miles. Height of tower from base to focal plane: 36 feet. Height of light above sea level, 109 feet. (Height of light above mean lake level, I think.) +6 order of lens. Refitted 1856.

Remember, our Restoration Project involves the Lighthouse that was "rebuilt" in 1860. So, this earlier data refers to the free standing brick lighthouse that was built in 1849 and demolished in 1860.

By sifting through 100s of pages of Army Corps of Engineer material I've documented that Port Washington's Harbor project, began in 1870, created the first completely artificial harbor on the Great Lakes. It's a claim long made by our community, but no one could show me the proof. As it happens, Waukegan, Illinois was scheduled to have the first completely artificial harbor, but the project was delayed, giving us that honor. I've found nothing that supports or disproves the more recent claim made in some C of C and tourism advertising that we were the site of the first completely artificial harbor in the United States. Don't know the source of that claim. In a 1907 document it states that only Waukegan and Port, on Lake Michigan, had no natural harbors. By then going over Corps of Engineers survey descriptions of every other harbor on the other Great Lakes, it became clear we were no. 1. If I mentioned this information in an earlier Update, sorry about being redundant.

Anyone able to send a donation our way, please mail it to the Port Washington Light Station Restoration Project P.O. Box 491 Port Washington, WI 53074

"Keep the Lights burning." And, mark your calendars for the June 16, 2002 dedication.


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This page updated Sunday, March 24, 2002