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
November 15, 2002
Well, it's been a busy three days at the Light Station after quite a lull in activity. Cleaning!
Wednesday I found Rick cleaning out the spare lumber in our basement tool room. All the odds and ends of wood that we were saving "just in case." Often over the last 2 years of demolition and construction we would dig through the pile and find a piece of wood that we could use instead of purchasing new product. Started a pile of discarded "stuff" outside of the garage with a big "free" sign prominently displayed. This is how we got rid of the 30 some odd sized storm windows Rick and Bill Steinert had collected over the years, hoping that some would fit the windows of the Station. Mostly we managed to cover the basement windows. I had spent several days dragging and carrying the windows out of the generator building closets and garage. Thursday was our half of the garage. Again, we sorted through what we had, all the molding and door jams that had been so carefully removed from the first and second floor of the Light Station, nails removed by Nancy S. and me. 9/10 of the wood is now at Ardy's house, waiting to be burned. I can't believe we pulled out all those nails for naught. Then we hit the store room created by Rick from old high school doors. Same attack strategy. Our Board of Directors directed us to "make space," so that's what we did. Even threw out the old hand mower I had bought at an estate sale. No time or energy to leisurely cut the lawn with the people power mower. The pile at the curb was growing. Took a time out to move all the 1" flooring lifted in the Station attic into the attic of the Generator building. We may be able to use the wood to rebuild the old well.
Oh, and for any of you left wondering, the temporary oil house Ron and Rick were building on the exact site of the original 1894 oil house, is now gone. City building codes won't permit us to build on the site unless we get a variance and submit plans to the city planning commission. I put a for sale sign on the framed building and sold it for $150. As we were using wood from the Luxembourg shipping containers, it had cost us nothing but our hours of labor. If we do go forward and eventually recreate the oil house, figure $20,000 minimum.
Thursday afternoon I was cutting some wood in the basement. Found some more building materials in the tool room that I carried out to the garage. Heard someone rummaging through the pile of discarded "stuff." Thought the garbage robbers were getting rather bold, sorting through things in broad daylight. Most of us dumpster divers operate after sundown. Nothing wrong with the practice, just hate to have one's neighbors see you hanging over the side of a dumpster or checking out the garbage left at the curb. Turns out it was Ron Mans. Helped him fill his trailer and truck with more wood and headed out to Ardy's to deposit the "stuff" near her fire ring. Ardy's husband, Doug, cuts the wood us and uses some of it to heat the house and the rest gets burned outside. They're going to have quite a few campfires courtesy of the Restoration.
Friday, back at the Light Station. This time we cleaned out the storage room in the basement of all the original 1860 wood we had recovered in the demolition process. Wainscoting, baseboards, window and door trim, soffit boards, exterior crown molding, firring strips with square nails still intact, decking from the original tower, mortised and tenoned 4x 4's, 4x6s (used for framing) etc. Laid it all out on the lawn. Rick sorted it out, keeping a representative sampling of each type of millwork. This wood was invaluable to us when I went out to have new wood milled to our specs. The portion we saved is now in the generator bldg. attic, the rest was trucked away and added to the burn pile. Making "space" is hard work.
Continue to have visitors show up at the light Station. Misters' Yench, Dockendorf and Fichtner, from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, were shown through by Society Pres. Ann Flierl. Heard they were pleased with our progress. Would have enjoyed meeting the men, but wasn't notified of their visit. Oh well. Others have stopped in from Minnesota, Illinois, Kentucky, Wisconsin and parts unknown. Last Saturday I hosted a Harbour Lights group. The group collects "Harbour Lights" Light Houses and gets together to share their passion for light houses. Currently they've adopted the Rock Island, WI Light. Hope they'll extend their generosity and offer to volunteer to us.
Rick has pretty much dismantled the shipwreck and commercial fishing display he had created in the Generator Building. Hate to see it go. Was very popular with our visitors and a wonderful way to share Port Washington's maritime history. I hope the Board (which includes Rick and I) comes to a consensus as to the future use of the display space. Local history or interpretive Light House. I don't see why the two can't mix. Two of our assistant keepers were commercial fishermen. George Rathbun and Delos Smith were officially appointed assistant keepers, ready to help head keeper Charles Lewis tend the 1889 Pierhead Light and the Light Station. This was during the period 1889-1903 when we had two active Lights. Rathbun and Son was an early firm on the fishing scene. Delos Smith was one of the original Smith Bros. He was appointed assistant shortly after the Smiths migrated to Port Washington from Sucker Brook just north of town. The Smith name has been synonymous with fishing since the family planted roots in Wisconsin in 1848.
The Victorian parlor stove has been installed in the dining room. Mucho thanks goes out to Robert and Carol Cook of Kiel, Wisconsin. The Cooks visited the Light Station two weeks ago and when I mentioned I hoped to eventually find a parlor stove, they offered to donate one they had had in their own house. WOW! Rick and I made the trip up to Kiel and had a nice visit with Bob Cook once we had secured the stove in the Suburban. Turns out Bob had participated in one of Rick and Paul Wiening's annual slide and video show featuring Great Lakes steamboats, fishtugs and anything else that has or still floats upon the Great Lakes. The annual Spring show has been going on for over 20 years. It started in someone's living room. Friends sharing their maritime experiences and knowledge. Since then its grown so that it has to be held at the local motel conference room. Anyway, we have the stove and Rick and I put together some stove pipe courtesy of Jim Poull and the Siewert estate. Jim and family have been cleaning out the basement of the former Poull Hardware and invited Rick and I to dig through their "stuff" and take anything we thought might be useful at the Light Station. The Poull building has been sold. Time was I remember three hardware stores in downtown Port. Poulls, Federspiels and the Gambles Store. Now there are none.
Randy Lange stopped in Tuesday evening to take measurements for the railing to be installed on the first to second floor stairway. Lange Bros. is donating the railing. Thanks, Randy, for taking time out of your busy schedule and for forgiving me for missing our Saturday meeting.
The Board has discussed loaning our lifeboat from the car ferry Milwaukee to the Maritime Experience. The Experience is starting up its own museum but needs an eye catcher for their front window. Terms of the loan still need to be worked out, so its not a done deal yet. Probably will be decided at Monday's Board Meeting. I abstained from the voting because I'm just to close to the Light Station Restoration Project and developing our historic site. I'm conflicted about removing the lifeboat from the grounds as it is a historic treasure that we were lucky enough to obtain. Oh well, life goes on.
So, that about sums up what's been going on at the Light Station. I have been burning the midnight oil trying to locate cast iron rim locksets for our interior doors. Placed an order for six of them today from a place out of Washington. Only ordered six because that's all they had in stock. That will take care of most of the first floor. Still searching for the black cast knobs. The sales agent in Washington is hitting some antique sources this weekend. Also will need the key hole covers for the opposite side of the doors. Fire door for second floor tower access has been ordered as of 3 minutes ago. Getting a 45 minute rated oak door. It will be flat, but Rick thinks he can glue some wood rails and stiles on so it looks something like the five panel Stallion doors we've already installed.
For those of you that are many miles away from our little Light Station, winter is knocking at the door here. As I look out my window, it's SNOWING! And, my furnace just kicked in, telling me the temperature is falling. Guess we did our house cleaning just in time. Some of the trees are still holding their leaves. A good northeaster will hasten these diehard leaves to their doom. The Lake has been changing faces daily. Today it was shades of blue with the scuttling storm clouds casting navy blue shadows on the capping waves. Glimpses of sunlight transformed patches into light blue sparkles. Now you know where my eyes and my mind wander every time I visit the Light Station. Makes a days work seem rather pleasant.
Nancy S.: where have you disappeared to? I could stand a little female company at the LS. There's painting to do! Anyone else up for a some volunteering, give me a call. I, of course, will find a good excuse not to paint. There's certainly some caulking that needs to be done.
Keep the Lights burning!
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This page updated Monday, December 30, 2002