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
October 6, 2002
Lighthouse Linda is back! Be that good or bad, my summer vacation has ended. The total knee replacement has gone great and a friend of mine has now added bionic woman to my moniker. When my surgeon asked what my expectation was regarding the new knee, I told him it was that I could once again climb the ladders in the Lighthouse. He said I was the first patient he's had who had set this as their goal. I wonder why.
I want to share with all of you a sad note. I received a phone call on Friday past that a friend of our lighthouse had passed away. Harold A. Almquist, one of three children of Arthur Almquist, the first head keeper of our 1935 pierhead light, died on Thursday, 3 October. I meet Harold and his companion Johanna about 7 years ago. They showed up unannounced one Sunday morning at the Light Station. Our tenant, Eileen, called me to say there were two people outside the Station that looked like they'd really like to come inside. I asked her to keep them busy and I would come right over. When I arrived, Eileen had invited the couple into her apartment. What ensued was several hours of delightful conversation. A very special occasion for me.
Harold and Johanna returned the following summer with one of his daughters. He again reminisced about the years the Almquists lived at the Light Station and got together with an old schoolmate. This was his father's last posting in the Light House Service. A side note: in the last issue of the BEACON, the quarterly magazine of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association, there was a feature article on Arthur Almquist and his tenure at Little Sauble (sp?) and Chicago Light. The information had been supplied by Harold's brother and sister, Alice and Raymond. Alice resides in Michigan, Raymond in Sarasota, Florida. When I read the article I was reminded of the times Harold had shared his memories with me, and regretted that I had lost touch with he and Johanna. The last I had heard, Harold suffered a severe stroke four years ago.
Harold graduated from Port Washington High School and went directly into Service. I believe he served in the Navy during WWII. When he and Johanna arrived on our doorstep, about 50 years had passed since he had been in Port Washington. Harold's family had occupied the first floor apartment at the station, but Harold and his brother made their bed in the small lamp room in the attic. I which he had had the opportunity to see the restored lamp room.
As I work on the Restoration, I'm asked why I donate so much time to this project. First, I consider it a privilege to be allowed to participate in preserving a part of Port Washington's maritime heritage. But second, and equally important, I do my work as a tribute to those individuals and families that kept the light burning in our community. We owe a debt of thanks to all of these people and hopefully we will keep their memories alive as we continue and complete our restoration.
To Dennis and Cheryl Almquist Atkins, thank you for calling me. Please extend my sympathies to Carolyn, Christina, Johanna and the rest of your extended family. Dennis and Cheryl have requested that, in lieu of flowers, memorials to Harold be made to the Port Washington Light Station Restoration. On behalf of the Port Washington Historical Society and the Light Station Restoration, thank you. I hope I have the opportunity to meet you one day. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- The first word that must be circulated is that our restoration project is by no means done. I've heard that from numerous visitors, so I need to set the record straight. While the Light Station is looking fine, a lot of work is still in progress.
Fund raising: we have exceeded our original budget of $165,000 and have expended approximately $170,000 to date. That figure would be 50% higher, but vendors and contractors have donated nearly $60,000 in materials in labor and volunteers have contributed nearly 5000 hours of work! We wouldn't be where we are today without these generous contributions. Right now I'm figuring that an additional $60,000 is needed to finish the first round of restoration. Over half of this sum is for work already completed (plumbing, electrical and a bank loan). We are so much over budget because we simply did not know the scope and difficulty of the work that had to be accomplished and the true costs involved in this endeavor.
Ron Mans, our number one volunteer, has put in nearly 2000 hours of sweat since he came on board in January, 2001. Rick Smith, project co-chair, is not far behind.
The question often arises how many volunteers are working on the restoration. While we have had over 2 dozen individuals lend a hand from time to time, Ron, Rick, Larry Faust, Nancy Simpson and little old me are responsible for 90+% of the volunteers hours. That is not to say I'm not very grateful for everyone's efforts as they have come when most needed. In that category we have Jon Westphal, Francis Pierron, Roger Faldet, Habitat for Humanity (especially Joe Zurow, Tom Hudson, Harold Schachel), Lloyd Croatt and the Luxembourg Society and Jim Burmesch and his neighbors. I'm undoubtedly missing some names but these groups and individuals stand out in my mind.
Right now the Restoration Project is focusing on several critical components that are necessary for gaining a full occupancy permit. 1. The handicap ramp and entrance: all totaled this will come in around $21,000. The ramp, approaching the building on the west side, is brick and concrete and will have the same brass railing I selected for the front entrance steps. The ramp follows the basic plans created by Kathleen O'Donnell, but to accommodate local architectural review board concerns, we've created a concrete ramp rather than the proposed wood. Six brick columns support and mark the entrance to the ramp. The recycled cream city brick was carefully selected by master mason "Jay". Cook Construction of Brownsville, WI did the work. While our other mason contractor has done really great work and substantially donated to the Project, I just wasn't completely satisfied with some of the brick matching that was done in the tuckpointing. Also, as we deviated from the original plans, I needed someone that could help with the planning and execution. Chuck Cook, the contractor, Dennis Wiese, city building inspector, Randy Tetzlaff, Historical Society Board member and PW city planner, Rick Smith and I put our heads together, softly, and came up with the new plan, sort of. Some changes were made on site, to accommodate the contours of the land and meet building codes.
2. Ah, the building codes. Because our Restoration started basically from scratch, with no 1860 interior original components still intact (tower, lantern, walls, doorways, stairs, etc.), and because we chose not to do a complete restoration back to 1860 specs (necessitating tearing off the entire 1934 two story wood frame addition and gutting the entire second floor), Our architect (Kathleen) and I have been walking a tightrope between Historic and current building codes. Kathleen has done the balancing act for 95% of the Restoration. It's just these last details that are proving to be a challenge. After our plans were submitted to the WI Department of Commerce, and approved, the state building inspector made some demands on the project. We, I hope, hope, hope, have accommodated all of her requirements except one. A fire door is needed to separate the tower from the main building. Here's the catch. Our original plans called for an open landing on the second floor, with an enclosed closet surrounding the first of our three ladder stairs leading to the lantern. When we realized the lightkeeper's office, found on the 1860 blueprints, served as part of the bearing structure for the tower, we rebuilt the room and left the ladder stairs open to take advantage of natural light. My hope is that I can obtain a variance and install a fire resistant trap door at the top of the ladder. It accomplishes the same goal, but isn't in the plans. Specs mean everything to building inspectors I've found out. I've inquired about hatch covers (steel) and received one quote: $6,000. Ouch, is right. The city building inspector has been most helpful, so once more I'll knock on his door.
3. Door hardware is almost all purchased but not installed. Tom Gahan has offered to do the work, but has a habit of offering and not showing up. I'll keep working on this. With the proper jig it's fairly easy to install the mechanisms and door knobs. Tom has the jig. Without the jig it takes Rick and Ron 3 or more hours to do one door.
4. Storm windows for the entire Light Station. I've managed to purchase 7 used storm windows of which 3 are installed. Old basement storm windows, cut to fit by Rick many years ago, can be reused but have to be reglazed and painted. I've reglazed one whole window and primed three. That took me an entire day. Nancy S., you know how I love painting, and there is definitely an art to glazing. For the uninformed, glazing involves the putty that holds and seals each pane of glass in place. And, it is supposed to look good when you're done! Fifteen storms have to be custom ordered. I have not done this as I'm not sure what our fund status is right now. Figure $100 per storm window. Are their 15 of you out there that will contribute $100?
5. Storm doors: the beautiful and custom made 5 panel Stallion doors donated by Dan Wright, president of Stallion Doors, St. Cloud, MN include the 3 exterior doors. These three doors are not actually exterior, insulated doors, so we have to install some type of storm doors on the inside as the doors are out swing. The front door measures approx. 87"x38", so would have to be custom made ($$). Right now Ron, Rick and I are planning to place some of our left over pink board type insulation and plastic wrap in the door cavities when the building isn't in use. Not pretty and not permanent, but it should help keep out winter's cold.
6. New thermostats. The old mercury thermostats have no time of day settings to efficiently manage the heat, especially on the first floor. Also, the old thermostats were installed incorrectly, vertically instead of horizontally, rendering them useless. The heating season is fast approaching, so this can't be put off much longer.
So much for talk of the restoration.
Since the Dedication in June, visitors continue to stream to the Light Station. Regardless of the hour, if Rick, Ron, Larry or I are at the Station working, we try to accommodate our guests. In late September we even hosted a bus tour that spent the night in PW. The tour was visiting maritime sites along Lake Michigan's western shore. The hotel manager, Kathy Wilger, put the tour director and Rick together and the next morning the group ascended on the Light Station. Several commented that our lighthouse might well be the highlight of their tour as it was an unexpected treasure.
We can continue to expect visitors from near and far. There is a short article on our Restoration Project now appearing in Midwest Express's September/October Inflight magazine. Thanks to Midwest for giving us the publicity. Another article was run in the 4 July issue of LUXEMBOURG NEWS, an English language magazine published in the Grand Duchy. Author Wendy Winn, wife of photojournalist Luc Rollmann who accompanied the Luxembourg delegation to the USA in June, conducted a telephone interview with Mary Flierl, Bea Krier and me. To Dunc Roberts, editor of Luxembourg News, and Wendy Winn, thank you. We'd like to purchase some additional copies of this issue. Could you send me the needed information?
In the last few weeks we have had guests from Louisiana, France, Minnesota, Illinois, Connecticut to name just a few. Wick York and his wife, both involved in the living museum that is Mystic Seaport, CT, stopped by on their way to a meeting of the US Life-saving Heritage Association. A pleasure to meet both of you. Rick followed them to the multi-day event and was a speaker at the conference. The connection was made through Kim Mann, historic architect at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. Wish I could have joined in, but my knee and my CFS said no.
Eva Struble Johnson, daughter and cousin, made a surprise visit to our lighthouse. Eva and her family lived at the Station, 1935-1941, during Arthur Almquist's tenure. Eva's father, Lester Struble, passed away, last winter, at his home in California. Lester was 102 years old. Almost 10 years ago Eva conveyed to us photos of her father at the Station and at his home. In both photos he was wearing his Light House Service pea coat. She is going to send us the jacket for display. We also have a LHS dustpan donated by the Strubles. Eva had not been back to Port since the family left in 1941. For all these years she has been in contact with Port native Anna Lanser. They had to do some thinking, but finally decided the way they had met was in Girl Scouts. Unfortunately I was immersed in handicap ramp discourse and didn't get to send all the time I would have liked with Eva. Hopefully she and her family will return next summer.
I missed a visit by the Cornell family. From the note they left, the Cornells lived at the station 1941 to 1976. Lee and Katie, I hope we'll meet in the future. Any photos or info you can supply would be greatly appreciated. I know that one of the Cornell daughters married in St. Mary's Church, just a hop, step and a jump from the Light Station. If anyone wants to contact the Cornells, let me know. I have an email address and a telephone number.
Others that lived at the Station over the years have also stopped in, but I don't have that info at hand. Besides, I think I've rambled on long enough. Commemorative bricks, at $65 each, are our latest fundraiser. Send you checks to LS Restoration Fund, P.O. Box 491, Port Washington, WI 53074. Up to three lines of inscription, 14 spaces each line. Remember, every dollar brings us that much closer to our goal. If you'd like some brick forms, call or write us and we'll send them your way.
Thanks to everyone that has kept this Restoration going forward. Tom H., I will get new photos to you so you can update the photo section of our website. Please let me know if I should drop the photos at your home or if you'll pick them up at the lighthouse.
Keep the Light Burning!!
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This page updated Saturday, November 16, 2002