Emergency shoring of island lighthouses in Maine and Massachusetts, a new way into a lighthouse in New York, and a first step for the rescue of a lighthouse in Michigan will happen because of grants made by the United States Lighthouse Society in the third year of its Lighthouse Preservation Grants Program.
A total of $20,000 was awarded this year, drawing on the interest from a still-growing investment fund that the Society has committed to increase through the years so that more and larger preservation grants can be made.
The largest single grant, of $8,500, will help a preservation group on Isle au Haut, Maine, replace badly corroded support beams that imperil the lantern of the Point Robinson (Isle au Haut) Lighthouse. Friends of the Isle au Haut Lighthouse will use the USLHS grant to install galvanized steel beams in place of two failing beams under the watch room and lantern floors. The project will relieve some of the structural stresses that have caused tower cracks, and will serve as the needed first step in a longer effort to restore the brick tower and its granite base.
A $7,000 grant will help the experienced Thacher Island Association keep the Cape Ann Light Station’s South Tower from suffering the same fate as the North Tower, which had granite pieces fall from its gallery deck last year due to rust-jacking between the iron rails and the tower stone. Stainless steel bands will be installed, as unobtrusively as possible, around the original stone bands circling the gallery and lantern decks. The full cost of the work will be $17,900, and longer-term plans call for replacing the anchor elements of the iron rails with stainless steel fittings to curtail the stone-fracturing problems.
At Keweenaw Waterway Lower Entrance Light in Michigan a new non-profit group that took ownership through the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act will use a $3,500 USLHS grant to help fund a $12,000 condition assessment report, a needed first look at the problems of the light and a document essential to planning its restoration. The USLHS grants program considers such professional assessments an extremely important and solid investment in any lighthouse restoration project. The Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program will provide a 2-to-1 matching grant toward the Keweenaw Waterway Lighthouse Conservancy project.
Finally, a $1,000 assist will go to the Huntington Harbor Lighthouse Preservation Society, as not only a small measure of financial help, but an expression of support for the Long Island group and its efforts. The lighthouse has an exterior railing system that needs a combination of restoration and replacement, but the USLHS grant will help with a needed watch-deck-level door replacement.
The grant committee’s review of 30 first-round applications, and its detailed study of six selected finalists, were stark reminders both of the problems facing America’s lighthouses and the deep financial needs of the preservation groups trying to save them. While funds now are still too limited to meet all those needs, or even to fund every selected project at the full amount requested, the United States Lighthouse Society remains committed to using all the available money generated by fund investments to provide whatever help it can now – while striving still to build the fund through donations so more projects can be funded in the future.
Previous cycles saw $25,000 in competitive grants awarded last year, and $21,000 awarded in the 2015 launch of the program. Assistance was provided to lighthouse groups from Florida to Alaska, on all four coasts. In addition, the program worked closely with corporate partners Land’s End and Sea Pak to provide targeted assistance to mutually selected lighthouse projects; Sea Pak provided a $10,000 grant for the Morris Island Lighthouse last year, while Land’s End provided $10,000 to Alcatraz Lighthouse in 2015 and a significant commitment, starting last year, to support restoration of the Boston Lighthouse.
The United States Lighthouse Society’s program is the first formal and continuing aid program with an open application process funded within the lighthouse preservation community itself. At this point the program is open only to not-for-profit groups, with a maximum grant amount of $10,000. As the dedicated preservation fund grows, more grant money will be made available for future projects. Information on donating to the fund or applying for future grants may be found on the Society’s website.
Submitted by Mike Vogel, U.S. Lighthouse Society Board Member, August 2, 2017
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