Current Project Description
from an article in the
Merrimack River Current
entitled: “Lighting up the house(s)”
With all the utility-pole replacement work going on around the city, the sight of a cherry-picker reaching for the sky above Newburyport raises nary an eyebrow of passersby. But the equipment perched over the Water Street lighthouse in Newburyport this week should be cause for pause, because it’s been brought in to accomplish part of a very ambitious improvement project for the two vintage lighthouses within view of each other in the South End of town.
Jay Hyland, president of The Lighthouse Preservation Society, says there will be a new look for the 5-story, four-sided brick lighthouse on Water Street as well as the one half its height on the river at the Coast Guard station. The shorter structure has been repainted white; the larger red-brick lighthouse will have a whitewashed side facing the river, a look that has been gone since perhaps the 1950s. It was decommissioned in 1961.
This week, the bricks are being re-pointed and paint is being applied inside and out. Costly de-leading of interior space already has been done. Yet to come is new foundry work that will put brass finials on the outside and brass ventilators inside. New railings will be installed to bring the lighthouses up to safety code.
Hyland explains the two lighthouses aren’t as redundant as they might seem today; both were built in 1873 to act in tandem. When entering the harbor, seamen could line up the two lights for safe passage through the rocky mouth of the river. There these vintage structures have remained as nostalgic landmarks into two new centuries, but some have suggested the landscape should be altered to tidy up an access issue.
Security concerns keep the public from the riverside lighthouse that is on land leased from the U.S. Coast Guard station. But the Guard has given its okay to move the structure to some other more public place. That’s not something The Lighthouse Preservation Society considers an optimal resolution, and representatives were expected to make their case before the city’s Historical Commission Thursday night. They were prepared to refute the contention that the little lighthouse ever had been moved before.
A deal could be in the works that would make the move a moot solution anyway. Hyland says the city has struck an understanding with the Coast Guard to use a portion of the station grounds closest to Water Street to extend the bike trail. Lighthouse preservationists believe the little white 1873 structure on the water would make an ideal terminus for the city’s boardwalk, and they are proposing public access to at least the front side of the site, which would reduce the security risk to Coast Guard interests. “The little lighthouse would be like a punctuation mark for the boardwalk,” Hyland declares.
The ambitious improvement projects underway for both lighthouses has some wondering where the bankroll can be found. Ironically, its’ the public’s appetite for a unique dining experience that has netted the $40,000 being put toward the work. It’s the proceeds gleaned from a steady parade of diners that has climbed to the top of the Water Street lighthouse for an intimate meal.
Hyland says the $350 dinner bill for two hasn’t deterred those eager for an entirely different supper ambiance. He says with some awe and considerable pride that every evening of the week throughout the season has been sold out, May through October, for the past several years. (With the recent addition of a newly installed heat pump, the season for lighthouse dinners will now be extended to year-round reservations.) If you’re contemplating a very special occasion on high, make your reservation by calling 1-800-727-BEAM.
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