Southeast Light getting its facelift

Thu, 04/25/2019 - 5:00pm

Restoration work at Block Island’s historic and iconic Southeast Lighthouse is moving ahead.

Since last September, Abcore Restoration Co. Inc. of Narragansett, R.I. has been on-site carefully bracing the lighthouse tower, preserving and restoring original cast-iron components on the lighthouse decks, the lantern drum, and tower’s internal staircase, and removing a number of severely deteriorated cast-iron deck plates. Those deck plates will be re-cast at a New England foundry and will be installed along with newly cast cornices and new structural batons.

The cost of this phase of the restoration will be a little more than $1 million.

All restoration work is being guided by the building’s original architectural plans (1873), enabling production of new cast-iron components when the original pieces were too damaged or deteriorated. Exterior railings around the lantern and watch level will be installed in the coming weeks, along with cast-iron pendants and an exterior ladder and door.

Because of its designation as a National Historic Landmark (1997), all restoration work is subject to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, which stipulate that best preservation and restoration practices be strictly followed. This phase of work is being funded by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, a Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission State Preservation Grant, and a National Park Service Maritime Heritage Grant.

Restoration work on the lighthouse tower will continue through the summer. During the upcoming summer season, a room in the lighthouse keeper’s cottage will serve as a staffed information point with a modest museum exhibit and shop and with free admission. Informational site tours will be offered for a small fee to help with operation and ongoing restoration costs. The most recent large-scale project at the lighthouse was undertaken in 1993, when the entire structure was moved away from the eroding bluffs.

Hours will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends from Memorial Day weekend, then daily in summer. Once this phase of restoration is completed, plans for completion of the building’s interior will proceed.

Lisa Nolan is Executive Director of the Southeast Lighthouse Foundation.