The Restoration of the USCG Light Station


The light station as it appeared in the late 1800's

The light station as it appeared in 2001

At first glance, as shown by the photos above, the most apparent need for restoration of the Port Washington Light Station is the replacement of the tower and lantern, which were removed in a general remodeling in 1934.  The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg will be providing the replacement tower.

First glances are rarely complete, however.  If you look closely at the photos, you'll notice that the roof has been extensively modified -- The original overhangs are gone, part of the 1934 remodeling that turned the station from a working lighthouse to a two-family dwelling.  These overhangs must be replaced and a new roof installed.  The original plain brick was painted white, and plans call for this paint to be removed.

As can be seen in the exterior photos, the back of the Light Station was altered in the 1934 remodeling. This addition will not be removed as it was structurally integrated into the original building and now provides access to the basement, second floor and attic (lamp room) levels. Perhaps the next generation of our Light Station's keepers will pursue a complete restoration.

The current project, as approved by the National Park Service and the Wisconsin State Historical Society, encompasses the cleaning and repair of the exterior masonry and rebuilding the infrastructure, walls, roof, tower and lantern room. So, while the exterior will still bear the scars of the 1934 renovation, the dwelling will once again stand as a complete Light Station. Most of the other Great Lakes Light Stations that still exist were remodeled during the early part of the 20th century to provide housing for a lightkeeper, an assistant keeper and their families. Ours was no exception.

First-floor stairs, Rock Island light station

First-floor stair location, Port Washington light station

On the inside, the first floor has been completely gutted and is in the process of being rebuilt to the original specifications.  A stairway in the southwest corner of the building will be rebuilt (see photos above).  Note that on the old exterior photo above, the southernmost first-floor window on the west side is bricked-in, while it's an active window in the current building.  This is because it is behind the stairway.  The crew restoring the station is using the Rock Island light station, which was built on the same design as the Port Washington station, as a reference.

The second floor of the light station, which was being used as a rental unit, is being remodeled.  It will have a new access ladder for the tower and lamphouse, as well as a restored landing for the stairway from the first floor.

The Rock Island station's stairs to the
tower and lamphouse
Port Washington station's tower
stair location

As you can see in the photo above, the Port Washington station's tower access stairs are missing and will need to be rebuilt.  These stairs lead to the attic, where another set of stairs will wind up into the tower itself.

The Port Washington Light Station's attic, south end.
This is where the stairs from the second floor enter the attic,
and where the stairs that run into the tower and lamphouse
will go.

This is just a quick overview of the project, which encompasses a wide range of repairs, including carpentry, roof work, interior structural repairs, electrical system upgrades, masonry work, and many more.  The unfortunate decisions of the past have had a terrible impact on the Port Washington light station, but with effort of volunteers and the generous assistance of the public, we will see the station return to its former appearance.

Below, you'll find a diary of sorts, listing some of the major (and minor) milestones in the restoration of this important building.  Please read through these items -- They'll give you a better idea of what is involved with a restoration of this type.

If you'd like to help with the restoration of the Port Washington light station, please look at our contributions page, where you'll find information on how you can help.


Light Station Restoration Diary
As written by the people working on the restoration.
Unless otherwise identified, the diary author is Linda Nenn,
Co-Director of the Port Washington WI 1860 Light Station

May 14, 2007

My how time flies! The snow is but a memory and the daffodils are almost done blooming. The lilac bush next to the Station is trying to burst into bloom and the day lilies and hollyhock are coming up rather nicely.

The Station officially started its season on Saturday. A church youth group was the first to cross our threshhold. Really nice kids and adults. I know some of you that read this work at lighthouses that regularly greet hundreds of visitors on a regular basis, but being a relatively new kid on the block and rather hidden by new construction between our site and Lake Michigan, we consider it a good day if a couple dozen people find there way to our doorstep. Most, but not all, really appreciate the personal tours we offer. Some just rush in and want to climb the tower ladders to get a shot of the harbor. That's okay, too, as long as they're willing to wait their turn.

John E. came to assist with the tour and stayed for the day. Thanks to Mary Kay S. for keeping the light on Sunday. I have an idea this is going to be another summer of a very few individuals doing the lion's share of the work that goes into operating an all volunteer museum site. Thank you to each of you!

To any of you Coast Guard or USLHS families that lived at the Port Washington site. I'm trying to put together short bios on YOU! Well, actually, information about your family and the time you spent in Port. I've met most of you and taken haphazard notes, often after you've left, so my memory is rather hazy at best. Family photos? I'd like to add more photos to our front entryway of those that served or lived at the Station.

Breaking news! I recently purchased a Lothrop box foghorn. It needs new bellows. Anyone familiar with this old type of boat horn? I want to add it to my eclectic collection of hand held and pump foghorns that currently reside in my living room and the foyer of the Light Station. I've gotten pretty good at replacing the leathers in the Tyfon pump horns, but this new horn is a new challenge. Gee, I wonder what Rick Smith could come up with...

Just received an email from Cheryl, who visited the Station this weekend. When I showed her husband and her our TAG display, I said I really didn't know what arachide oil was. Ask and ye shall be answered! The oil is also called groundnut oil, aka peanut oil. Thanks, Cheryl. You are now an honorary keeper of the Port light.

I look forward to seeing any of you this summer at the Light Station.

Thanks for, "Keeping the Lights Burning!"

 

April 20, 2007

Well, for now the snow is almost gone and the cobwebs have been swept out of the Light Station. A new season is upon us and a winter of work is of necessity coming to an end. Thanks largely to the creativity and endless toiling of Rick Smith the Light Station continues to evolve.

The watch shack/generator building now contains a steamboat's wheelhouse with a full compliment of equipment, including the binnacle and pilot house telegraph from the whaleback CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS. Step up to the wheel and gaze out over Lake Michigan (between the trees!) and take time to sign the logbook recording the date and weather conditions during your time at the helm.

New displays also in the generator building are a collection of vintage sports apparel and related items. Anyone out there remember Port Washington's title winning Maroons basketball team? How about the Chair Company baseball team with their distinctive gold and blue uniform jackets? Take note of the wool bathing suit. Perhaps the wool helped hold the body temperature of a young lady willing to take a dip in the cold waters of Lake Michigan or, after 1935, the city pool below the Light Station bluff. I've heard many a shiver come from those retelling what it was like swimming in Guenther's Pond on a Monday when the mud and sand bottom "pool" was refilled with artesian water.

Take a look into the corner closet next to the uniforms and a host of artifacts and photos of the Wisconsin Chair Co. will greet you. Once Port Washington's foremost employer, the sprawling lake front company produced fine furniture for over 60 years. 2007 marks the 90th anniversary of one of the Chair Co.'s more ambitious offshoots. Following in the footsteps of Edison and Victor the Chair Co. created a subsidiary company, the New York Recording Laboratories or NYRL. The parent company had been manufacturing victrola cabinets for Edison, Victor and Brunswick phonograph companies and decided to take their own foray into the music business. Vista, Paramount and Puritan talking machines began appearing in showrooms primarily in the midwest and northeast. Looking for a niche market, the NYRL bought the rights to numerous ethnic music and musicians. Polkas, foxtrots, waltzes, Hawaiian ukeleles, Norwegian folksongs, etc. could now be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home or dance hall. Reaching beyond white America the NYRL made a risky move and entered the largely untapped world of race recordings. Black Swan Records was bought out. Ambitious agents went to Chicago, New York and into the deep South to sign unknown blues and jazz singers. In all but a few cases the artists ended up with a pittance of the profits the NYRL realized. Hey, want to learn more? Come to the Light Station where shipwreck artifacts and the blues share the same room. Also check out ParamountsHome.Org It's a great website operated by a Grafton, WI couple and Alex van der Tuuk of the Netherlands. Alex has written a wonderful book on the history of the Paramount label. Grafton, just 6 miles down the road from Port Washington, was where the phonograph pressing factory was located. Grafton has its first blue festival last September and will continue to promote this fascinating aspect of its history.

Leaving no space to spare, Rick has created another new display of local business memorabilia. Digging into our boxes of Port Washington stuff he's come up with a representative sample of the gifts and items every business used to give their patrons to assure their loyalty. Cast iron banks, ash trays, matches, rulers. The gamut is too long to run.

Entering the Light Station proper you'll have to climb the stairs to the second floor to view our newest lighthouse acquisition. Thomas Tag and his wife chose our Light Station as the recipient of an amazing collection of lighthouse illumination devices. Light bulbs powerful enough to give off 1000 watts of light, a xenon gas bulb, a bulb changer, small vials of the oils once used before the days of electricity. Tom and his wife have written extensively about most if not all the technical aspects of lighthouses. They were also most generous with their knowledge throughout this restoration project. When I'd have a question about how to recreate something or what certain Lighthouse Service language meant, Tom and would answer, usually immediately. It was a particular pleasure for Rick and I to meet this great duo. Hope the new grandchild is hale and hearty!

February 6, 2006

Greetings to one and all! It's high time to share with all of you what's been happening at the Port Washington WI 1860 Light Station since the last update.

Very Special Visitors! On Wednesday, 01 Feb 2006, a very special group visited the 1860 Light Station. A delegation of Grand Duchy of Luxembourg dignitaries and their American hosts arranged to stop at our site, some for the first time and some on return visits to see what has been accomplished since the 2002 Dedication of our tower and lantern which had been built in Luxembourg as a gift to the people of the Port Washington area of Luxembourg descent and as a memorial to those American Service men that liberated their country from German occupation in 1944.

It was my great honor and privilege to greet this fine group of people and show them how the restoration of this historic site has progressed over the past 3 years. I hope all left pleased with what they saw and that I adequately expressed the gratitude we at the Light Station have for the Duchy's role making the Restoration a reality. Honored guests included Secretary of State for Culture, Higher Education and Research, Octavie Modert; retired (but still active) Director of Sites and Monuments, Georges Calteux; Director of Population for Luxembourg City, Jean Ensch; Guy Dockendorf, General Director, Ministry of Culture, Higher Education and Research, of Luxembourg; Paul Schmit, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Luxembourg, Washington, DC; Peter Schroeder, Chancellor of the Luxembourg Consul, Chicago, Illinois and several others. In October 2005, Duchy dignitaries, including the Minister of Culture and Education, François Biltgen, were also in Port Washington. In August, 2005 Arlette Conzemius, then the Luxembourg Ambassador to the United States, and Gerda Hansen, Luxembourg's Cultural and Public Affairs Attaché in Chicago stopped at the Light Station.

The Grand Duchy's relationship with the Port Washington, Wisconsin USA area is a long one, going back over 150 years and the early settlement of this section of SE Wisconsin. But the reason for this recent flurry of visits is a new, huge project being planned by a new organization, The Luxembourg American Cultural Society. Here's a link to provide more information on this exciting collaboration. Cultural Center Plans and a recent news article JS Online: Georges Calteux 'Takes Five' The architect that planned and oversaw the Restoration of the Light Station, Kathleen O'Donnell, Tripartite, Inc., Chicago, Illinois, is the principal architect for the planned Luxembourg Cultural Center. Congratulations, Kathleen. I'm sure the center will be fantastic.

While we enjoy sharing the Light Station and its history with every child and adult that visits our site, it gives all of our volunteers a special treat to meet and speak with those that have traveled great distances to reach our little lighthouse on the hill.

Our 2005 Season As summer slipped into autumn, fewer visitors "knocked on our door." Final tally, over 2,000 guests crossed our threshold while we were open during our regular weekend hours and with prearranged weekday tours. Leroy Bley and, to a lesser extent, Joan Bley, came up to the Light Station at a moments notice if our city's tourism office called saying someone wanted to see the Station, when we weren't open. A historical site can't be much more accommodating to visitors than that! The number of bus tours dropped off in 2005, but the number of walk in guests grew. I hope 2006 will shown growth in both areas. School and scout groups also took advantage of our tours geared towards children.

SITE IMPROVEMENTS We have an oil house! We let a contract to Paulus Construction in early July for the recreating of our 1894 oil house. The original structure was demolished in 1934 when the 1860 Light Station was gutted and converted to a two family dwelling.

Using original National Archives blue prints, the oil house was reconstructed on the 1894 brick footings. Prior to construction, Rick Smith meticulously dug out the oil house site, exposing the remains of the brickwork and taking copious notes and measurements. I took my normal dozens of photos, recording the color and size of the bricks and mortar that had been used. By comparing the remaining bricks with the bricks that had been used to rebuild the 1934 chimney in the keeper's dwelling, we were able to verify that the existing footing bricks were the same as the main body of the oil house.

We made a decision to use modern brick and mortar as our goal was to recreate rather than restore the oil house. Pete Paulus took one of the original bricks and searched for a good match. I think he came up with a great replacement brick that should stand up to the elements for another hundred years. The mortar selected is a much stronger "mort" than the original formula which had a higher lime and sand content. Our intent was to find a mortar that color wise looks the same. Again, I think Paulus came through for us with flying colors, a slight pun intended. National Park Service personnel suggested that we could use modern materials while documenting what had been used in 1894.

Rick Smith and Ron Mans framed in the roof, so the exterior brick work including the distinctive cross shaped ventilation opening, could be finished. When the hollow interior walls were completed and the cement floor poured, the duo completed the roofing. We used 5/4 tongue and groove fir decking covered with "felt" and capped the structure with the same Victorian red shingles used on the Light Station, generator building and well house. The oil house historically had a variety of roofing materials, so we decided for consistency's sake we'd use the red shingles.

The inside of the oil house was whitewashed by Ron and he and Rick built the shelving that would have held the lamp oil and other flammable materials. A salvaged 5 panel door was refinished and hung, and the eaves and gable framed in and painted. While I was pondering how to open the building for public viewing but secure the oil containers on the shelves, Rick and Ron came up with an ingenious idea. They hinged two 3/8" Plexiglas panels and attached this clear Dutch door to the jamb. This way the wood door can be unlocked when the site is open but visitors cannot actually enter the building. Hope you can download the attached file and see the project from start to finish. Final cost of the oil house, without artifacts, approximately $11,000.

Concomitant with this project we had Paulus quote us on rebuilding the chimney on the Light Station from the roof line up. The 1934 chimney was showing its age and started leaking this past winter. The Paulus crew had a challenge accomplishing the rebuilding/repairing job as the metal roof couldn't be scaled to reach the chimney. A SkyTrak fork lift was brought on site and a platform constructed that laid over the ridge of the roof with padding between the wood platform and steel shingles. Using 1860 blueprints and archival photos the guys installed new flues and rebuilt the chimney with cream city bricks. The finished size is larger than the original as we did not want to have to reroof the area around the chimney. But the profile created matches the historic profile. A few chimney photos are also attached. Cost of this project: $3,000.

So, where did the money come from to complete these projects? About 2/3 of the funds came from visitor admissions to the Light Station. Additional donations from about two dozen friends of the Restoration assured the work could be done. Since the beginning of the Restoration in 2000, the Port Washington Historical Society uses only restricted monies to finance the ongoing Light Station project. Unrestricted donations are used to pursue other mission objectives of the Society such as maintaining a local history and genealogy research center.

2006 Goal The Light Station Restoration Project has set its sights on purchasing an acrylic replica of the 4th order beehive Fresnel Lens that was the active beacon in the Light Station lantern 1860 through 1903 when the light was disestablished in favor of the 6th order wooden pierhead lighthouse. I've searched for over seven years to track down what happened to the lens that was removed from the 1860 light, to no avail. It may have been shipped back to a Light House Depot, most likely Detroit or Milwaukee (yes, Milwaukee was a district headquarters for a short period of time.) or it may have been broken and met an unceremonious fate as so many lenses did. I'll keep looking, but having an acrylic lens produced will allow us to return a lens to the lantern room which was designed and built to specifically house a 4th order lens. Our ability to interpret the form and function of our nineteenth century light station will be greatly enhanced.

Put as delicately as possible, what we need right now are donations! The acrylic lens, standing approx. 25" high and supported by a brass frame and cast iron pedestal has an estimated cost of $25,000. Right now the Restoration has $10,000 in its coffers. So we're slowly moving in the right direction. Contributions of any amount are always greatly appreciated and I especially need to thank each of you that has continued to support this Restoration Project year after year. You know the drill: please send donations to the Port Washington 1860 Light Station Restoration Project, P.O. Box 491, Port Washington, WI 53074, USA.

Recent Acquisitions The place one could always get a great perch sandwich, planked whitefish or Lemon Meringue Pie, for over 65 years, Smith Bros. Restaurant, closed its doors for the last time in late November when EVERYTHING including the kitchen sink was sold at auction. The Light Station Restoration, thanks to the last minute generosity of Phillip and Betty Schmidt, was able to purchase the binnacle from the whaleback passenger steamer Christopher Columbus. The CC was the only passenger whaleback on the Great Lakes to the best of my knowledge. Light Station Co-Director Rick Smith purchased the wheelhouse and engine room telegraphs and will be displaying same at the Station. Several other smaller items were bought through donations made by members of the Smith Bros. family and Alice Horton, a historical society member and Light Station tour guide. As the Smith family sold the restaurant over a decade ago, those present at the auction had to bid on what was once their own property. (Lloyd, Dan, Toni, Margaret Ann, it never was the same after the Smiths left Smith Bros.) These new acquisitions have been cleaned, repaired, polished and mounted for display this coming season.

Seeking We're looking for a fairly large ship's wheel (a double wheel would knock us out!!) as we'd like to create a mock wheel house setup in the back generator building. Figure we'll have the wheel house facing out towards Lake Michigan (to the East) or angled so one can look through the pilot's windows at underwater artifacts strewn over a sandy "bottom." I have my minions of men, actually usually just one, Rick, that will begrudgingly take to the road to pick up "things" for the Light Station. The wheelhouse idea is his brainchild, so please send your suggestions to him at the Light Station, 1-262-284-7240. Thanks.

Opening Day 2006 Tentative plans are to reopen the Light Station, weekends only, beginning the first Saturday in May. While we have the BEST tour guides on the Great Lakes, they and we could really use a few more friendly faces. Please contact Linda or Rick at the Light Station, 1-262-284-7240 if you're willing to roll up your sleeves and pitch in. Five hours on Saturdays or four hours on Sundays, twice or more each month.

I would also like to take this opportunity to mark the passing of Alice Almquist, daughter of Port Washington Light Station head keeper Arthur Almquist, 1934-1947. I've had the pleasure of meeting several members of the Almquist family, starting with Harold almost 10 years ago. I never met Alice, but received a copy of a newspaper article, from Michigan, in which she recounted her days living in a lighthouse. My condolences to the family.

That's all for now or the sun will be coming up before I get back to sleep.

Thanks for helping to Keep the Lights Burning!

 

March 31, 2005

Spring has been tantalizing us with furtive glimpses for the past few days, reminding those of us that have been working quietly at the Light Station that its getting near the time that we must throw open our doors, shake out the rugs, seek out the cobwebs and put out the welcome mat once again.

While, from the outside, the Light Station has appeared to be in slumber since the open sign came down the last weekend in October, much has been quietly accomplished during the winter months.

New displays have been organized and set up by Rick, with Linda acting as sidewalk superintendent. A portion of the Generator Building now is Dr. Siewert's Dental Office. Siewert practiced in Port Washington for almost 40 years and his family spent 3 generations in our city. Our shipwreck artifacts have been rearranged. Some have been put back in storage and others combined with new items donated by the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society. Photos and drawings of the lost vessels now hang on a divider, along with descriptions of the boats. A collection of vintage photos of Port Washington comprise a new wall display. We've tried to use views of the lakefront and city that haven't been put on public display previously.

A big project inside the Station has taken shape over many months. Basing our work on three plates (drawings) of implements, provided by Candace Clifford, used by the United States Light House Establishment circa 1892, we've recreated and collected a fair portion of the type of tools, canisters, cleaning materials, lamps, chimneys, etc. that a light keeper would have had hand to maintain the light house and lantern. With authentic Light House Service artifacts scarce and at a very high premium, Rick and I have put together a collection of items that are similar to what was actually used. Everything from brass jugs for measuring the oil for the lamps; oil fillers; glass chimneys (Thanks, Wayne and Tom for providing photos of the lamps and chimneys. Still looking for some red ones); red, black and white rouge and Tripoli polish for cleaning brass, tin, iron and glass; files, hammers, pliers, pincers, glazing tools in many sizes and shapes, and the list goes on and on. My new levels have arrived from Italy. A brass circular level and 2 sizes of bullet levels were used to make sure the pedestal, lamp and lens were seated properly and focal plane maintained. Yes, I said Italy. Rick and I both spent hours on the Internet searching out sources for some of the implements. The brass jugs I've collected come from an English manufacturer that produced every size of jug or pitcher imaginable starting in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Our smallest is 1 pint and the largest 6 pints. I now know what keepers did all day long. Polish, polish, polish.

We've added items to each room in the Light Station. Some have to be sought out when you come for a visit. The candlestick telephone sits in the dining room exactly where Jeannette Lewis Dallmann says it was when she and her sister lived at the Station with Grandfather and Grandmother Lewis, in the early 1920s. Even the authenticity of the lantern room configuration has been addressed, and accomplishing this has been one of my biggest challenges. Curtains protected the Fresnel lens during daylight hours, in most 4th order lanterns, so, with great input from NPS personnel, plus Tom Tag, Jim Woodward and a few other sources, I am sewing curtains for our lantern. Being possibly the least domestic person in town, sewing is a skill I never mastered. Generally I'd rather buy buy a new blouse rather than sew on a button that has come off. My sewing machine, actually I have two, are both Singers from around 1920 or so, the one having belonged to my grandmother. Note to all potential curtain makers: do not try to use 50 year old thread. It breaks every other stitch! If you want to see my handiwork, you'll just have to come to the Light Station. Rick is sewing on the brass rings and leather loops as specified in curtains recreated by NPS at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. We will hang the curtains in the lamp room along with the hanger pole with brass hook on the end and Minot's Light affixed as an emblem. Another tool recreated through Rick's ingenuity.

We're awaiting warmer weather so that the restoration of the lifeboat can continue. Randy Lange of Lange Bros. Woodwork has promised to return to bend the new oak gunwales and rub rails into shape and we continue to search for the proper sized oarlock sockets and more oarlocks. The rudder donated by Great Lakes Carferry, home of the BADGER, will be put back on display and the rudder Rick fabricated will be attached to the lifeboat. We're still looking for the appropriate type of mast bracket, meanwhile searching for documentation that this carferry lifeboat did or did not carry a mast. Any other lifeboat implements, such as a lamp, water container or oil can will just be icing on the cake. We took many, many photos during our last visit to the CITY of MILWAUKEE, thanks to Jed, so we have a pretty good idea of what to look for.

Rick and I have spent a lot of time gathering the information necessary to recreate the oil house that was built on site in late 1893 or early 1894. The plans are in hand, the bricks researched, the mortar examined, the site plotted and the necessary funds half raised. The re-creation will cost approximately $18,000. Grants have been sought, but so far the money raised has come the hard way. Admission fees to the Light Station, additional donations from visitors and a few direct donations to the Restoration Project this past 6 months.

If you are in a favorable frame of mind and able to help us reach our goal of rebuilding the oil house the summer of 2005, please send your contribution to the Light Station Restoration Project, P.O. Box 491, Port Washington, WI 53074. We are again selling iinscribed bricks that will be laid on the walkway to the oil house. Each brick is $75 or 3 for $200. Also, a bronze or brass plaque will be attached to the oil house naming donors that give $1000 or more specifically earmarked for the Light Station Restoration (Oil House).

The attached photos tell their own story. In the past year all the private open land around the Light Station has been sold for development. The first home is going up, directly to the south of the Station. The view of Lake Michigan that existed since Captain Cyrus Worth lit the beacon in Port Washington's first light house in 1849 is lost forever, but the house, albeit quite big, should be architecturally pleasing. Of course I'm disappointed the open land couldn't be preserved, but all one has to do is read a copy of Preservation or similar publications and its evident development wins out over historical preservation most of the time. The homes that will be built bring in added tax dollars and the people that live in the homes will hopefully enjoy having a light house in their midst, but I can't help feeling that in the end the public loses out. Our present and future is built on the foundation of our past. I know my opinion is the voice of a minority, but I believe that when we lose sight of the history of our people, places and events we lose direction in our communities and our nation. Nuff said.

The Light Station will open for the Season Saturday, April 16, 2005. Hours of operation: Saturdays 11-4 and Sundays noon to 4 p.m. Volunteer tour guides are really needed.

Please help keep the light burning.

November 16, 2003

Summer and fall have flown past so fast with nary a word from me. So, let's see if I can compose an update that doesn't take two days to read.

We've closed the door on our first season of being open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays. Tour donations totaled nearly $5000 with over 1500 adults and children touring the station. Very good numbers considering this is the first year we've been on the Light House map so to speak. Our guests ranged from near and far. During the midst of our summer tours, concerns from our landlord the city of Port Washington, and Historical Society Board members, regarding liability issues, compelled us to close the tower and lantern from tours. Hopefully a clearly written safety policy, perhaps including a signed waiver, will allow us to once again take visitors up the ladder stairs to the lantern. Time will tell.

Our summer and fall guest list includes some very special visitors. Brian McCutchen, National Park Service Architectural Historian from the Omaha Office stopped by. Brian had last seen the Station in June, 2002, so we had a lot to show him. Brian, it was a pleasure to see you again. Looking forward to getting a CD from you that has the photos from the 2002 Dedication and your latest visit. Please?

Katie Cornell and husband Tom(?) arrived from California. Katie and her family lived at the Station when her father, Marvin Cornell was Assistant Keeper in the 1940's. Marvin replaced Lester Struble as Asst. Katie shared quite a few memories.

Ray Almquist and wife of Florida visited us and they came bearing gifts. Ray is the son of Arthur Almquist, head keeper of Light Station Por Washington 1934-1947. Port was Arthur's last posting before retiring. The gift they brought was a wonderful collection of photographs and light house documents that I have just now finished copying. So, the originals WILL be returned shortly.

Work continues on the Restoration. In September we had a small but energetic work crew take brush and paint in hand and put a new coat of paint on the windows, soffits, eaves and wood siding. Where needed, the six over six windows were reglazed. About half of the generator building siding also was painted. Led by Lloyd Croatt and Jim Burmesch, the crew included Francis Ansay, Jeff Wozniak, Leroy Bley, Paul Hansen, Wes Blumenburg, Clyde Weiland, Rick Smith, Keith (?) Jacoby, Mary Burmesch and me. Loschel Pierringer worked on the window glazing ahead of time. Mary B. showed up bearing lunch and sodas and ended up with a paint brush. Jim Poull supplied ladders and Pete Paulus very generously pulled his Sky Trak off a job in Cedarburg and had his son-in-law bring the beast of a machine over to the Light Station so that Rick and I could be hoisted up to paint the eaves and soffits on the front of the Station. NEW paint brushes were donated by Darren Stoddart, a neighbor of Lloyd's. You can't imagine how grungy our old brushes were.

With the weather being rather wet and cold these days, Rick has taken his talents indoors. For the last two weeks he's been working to recreate the curtain hooks that would have protected the lens and lantern from the heat of the sun. Using as a template a curtain hook recovered from the debris that is all that remains of Green Island Light, he's fashioned nine brass hooks that are almost identical to the original. The hooks are mounted directly into the lantern roof spiders.

If anyone knows the specs of the canvas shades that would have hung in the lantern, please let me know.

A special note of thanks goes out to Alyce Appleman. Besides being one of our most reliable and frequent tour guides, Alyce did a very special task for us. I spent months looking for crocheted shade pulls, to no avail. So I stopped at the Senior Center to see if I could cajole someone into making the pulls. As luck would have it, I stopped in while Alyce was teaching a crochet class. When I explained my quest, Alyce said she'd make the pulls if I had a pattern. So, back at home I searched the internet and found a shade pull pattern book on eBay. The result is we now have the most beautiful off white crocheted shade pulls I've ever seen. Rather than make them all alike, Alyce made around 20 pulls, using various pattern. She also educated me on the meaning of the pineapple as a symbol of welcome in Victorian days. So the pineapple shade pull will go in one of our front windows.

Yesterday, taking advantage of the relative heat in the generator building, meaning it was around 50 degrees, Rick removed 5 of the old windows and painted the iron frames red to match the roof color. Hopefully we'll have time to clean the windows and repair any glass panes and hinges before reinstalling them. Two storm windows that are jury rigged with half sections of old wood storms will have to be replaced with new aluminum inserts, but that may wait until spring. I've been sanding the L shaped pieces that hold the glass panes in place. Tedious work to say the least but I've been unable to find authentic replacement pieces.

Ardy Ahsmann and Nancy Mersereau did an outstanding job of recruiting tour guides to greet our summer visitors. We're still operating on an all volunteer basis, so many, many phone calls had to be made to make sure we had enough warm bodies at the Station. I'm hoping we'll be able to expand our hours of operation next summer.

Following a very successful fund raising campaign in July and August, our outstanding debt on the Restoration has fallen from $27,000 to around $10,000. We're still selling commemorative bricks for $65 each, with approx. 125 sold so far. Approx. 60 were installed by Treetop Landscaping in early June. Those bricks that were bought after our June Open House will be ordered and installed in the spring of 2004. We're waiting to place the order, hoping we can garner more requests so that this, our second order, will exceed 100 bricks. We'll save about 3 dollars per by doing that. Thanks to all of you that have ordered bricks or made another donation. Whether the donation was $10 or $500, each is greatly appreciated. Our total cost of the Restoration, so far, is hovering around $250,000!

Special thanks to the Schowalters and Port Washington State Bank. Two years ago the bank paid for the reproduction of our Light Station pewter ornament with the understanding the Restoration would reimburse this expense when money became available. Mark Schowalter has told me the bank is donating this $3000 cost. Thank you, Steve and Mark. The Port Washington State Bank has been the Restoration's largest contributor.

The Light Station's tenant, Richard Burton, has proven to be a great light house keeper. Richard has stepped in when needed and given tours, hung shades, sundry other tasks and kept the grounds in tip top condition. Richard and his fiancée Chamange have raised the spectre that their are others inhabiting the 1860 dwelling, but you'll have to talk to Richard to hear those tales. I prefer not to think about things that go bump in the night.

I know I've missed mentioning so many people that have contributed to the Restoration during this past summer. My thanks go out to each of you. As I said earlier, our work continues. Rick Smith is at the Station almost every day, painting, varnishing woodwork, cleaning and adding to the decor of the station. We're looking for some iron stone dinnerware to grace the kitchen and dining room tables. Anyone have any they'd like to share?

Oh, and before I forget, a huge thank you goes out to Bill Heard of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore in Michigan. Rick and I took the carferry Badger over to Michigan at the end of September. Bill, a colleague of Kim Mann, at very short notice gave us a tour of the boat house at Sleeping Bear and then we ventured on for a tour of the life saving station. Exceptional!!! If you haven't visited the eastern shore of Lake Michigan you must see the sites and sights one day. Heading north from Sleeping Bear we traveled on to Northport and were greeted by Stef Staley, director of the Grand Traverse Lighthouse. Even though I was fighting and losing a battle with a cold, the time we spent there and the time Stef spent with us was wonderful. Thanks, Stef! Between the two sites I snapped about 150 photographs. Heading back to Ludington my cold won out and we stopped in Manistee for the night. Unbelievably, the motel we pulled into is owned by the Foundation that is restoring the carferry City of Milwaukee. The next morning when I emerged from my room to find out how Rick had wiled away the hours the night before, he informed me we were invited to tour the City of Milwaukee. While I and my kleenex had slept, Rick had spent the evening swapping stories with the curator, Jed Jaworski. We met Jed at the S.S. City of... and toured every nook and cranny of the carferry, a National Historic Landmark. I photographed every lifeboat so that we have a better idea how to restore the interior of our lifeboat. Climbing up and down the ship's ladder stairs made the idea of ascending and descending our Station's ladders seem like a walk in the park! Thank you, Jed. Hope to see you again.

But our week long odyssey was not finished. Leaving Manistee we headed back to Ludington and met once again with Bob Manglitz, CEO of the Carferry Badger before boarding the BADGER. Bob graciously donated 3 oars and a rudder to be used on the lifeboat we have on site. One of the oars is marked MIDLAND, a sister ship of the BADGER. While the lifeboat would have been fitted with more that 3 oars, our intention is to show how 2 of the oars were mounted and the third used as a steering oar. Talk about a great end to a great summer! Had a little health problem crop up after 3 weeks of battling my "cold," but that's another story.

Time to sign off.

Keep the Lights burning.

More to come...


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May, 2001 Diary Entries
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January, 2002 Diary Entries

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April, 2002 Diary Entries

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October, 2002 Diary Entries

November, 2002 Diary Entries

December, 2002 Diary Entries

March, 2003 Diary Entries


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This page updated Monday, May 14, 2007