First phase of lighthouse restoration complete

Thu, 10/03/2019 - 4:45pm

Keith Lescarbeau was literally pointing to the tiniest of details that made the restoration of the Southeast Lighthouse so satisfying to his team, which has been working on the project for the past year.

Lescarbeau, who owns Abcore Restoration out of Narragansett, was describing the difference between the original mortar between the bricks and the new mortar that had been added to the exterior of the lighthouse. The thing of it was, there was no difference. In color and in texture, the old and the new blended perfectly. Lescarbeau and his team, which included his son Everett, and Jared Hartley, had added just the right amount of lime and cement so that the new cement “not only looks the same but acts the same.” The attention to detail was so great that Lescarbeau said his team had spent two months of the project getting that just right.

The year-long project extended to not only the base of the exterior but to the deck outside the encasement of the old Fresnel lens. “We braced up the deck so that it wouldn’t fall,” said Lescarbeau, and team member Hartley designed and fabricated new metal deck plates to match the old sections that needed to be replaced, as well as railings and ladders and other installations. Lescarbeau, who was wrapping up the project on Friday, Sept. 27, said they had imported metals from as far away as California and used 3-D software to design and build the new deck plates. He pointed out that the series of finials hanging below each section of deck were not there only for decoration but that each one was a “glorified nut” holding the deck sections in place.

As they waited for metal parts to be designed and fabricated, Lescarbeau and his team moved indoors, this was also during the colder months, to scrape off the paint that covered the winding staircase taking visitors up from the ground floor to the top of the lighthouse. Lescarbeau said the coating of paint was about a quarter-inch thick and it was scraped down to the metal “to get all the detail back. It took three months to remove all the paint from top to bottom, and it was discovered that each step was identified by a Roman numeral, which told the original builders where each step needed to be placed.”

The stairway was repainted with a color named “mysterious blue.”

Then, in March, when the weather started turning warm, the metal pieces for the deck started to arrive and were installed. There were 1,280 separate battens holding the deck together, said Lescarbeau, and again he said “you can’t tell the difference between the old deck and the new deck.” 

Southeast Lighthouse Foundation Director Lisa Nolan said that she hoped there will be a second phase to the restoration project, but had not yet received a proposal from Abcore. She praised the work the team had done so far. “They’ve been fantastic. We love their work,” she said. Nolan also said the project was finished early and was on budget.