SUBMITTED BY JIM GRANT OF THE BARRIER ISLAND PARKS SOCIETY – The Barrier Island Parks Society announced this week that restoration of our Gasparilla Island Light (GIL) is proceeding on schedule … in fact, maybe even ahead of schedule. A week ago Jim Grant, BIPS’ representative heading up the project, and Sharon McKenzie, executive director of BIPS, met at the site with the “magicians” who are transforming the structure to its 1927 splendor: Alex Klahm, Architectural Metal and Design, Inc; Ken Smith, renovation architect; Jude Kostage, chief engineer, and Anthony Houlis, Razorback, LLC, our general contractor and paint company. This team is pictured below with the original vent ball from the roof which was stripped to pure copper prior to painting and replacement (it’s now back on top of the structure in its original black color).
This article, and others to follow in coming weeks, is to keep everyone informed of progress on this exciting island restoration.
- Actual onsite work commenced on September 14, 2016, with final clearances and permitting completed (“finally in my lifetime”).
- Initial tasks of clearing the adjacent land to enable construction access and security fencing are complete. The temporary fence is environmentally friendly and actually sits on footers that keep it raised off the ground to protect our native vegetation as well as the construction equipment.
- The five plexyglass windows were removed to allow access to the scaffolding that now encases the range light. Each window took three men working together for an hour to remove; the windows were 1/2″ thick and caulked in with 5,200 marine adhesive, which made them very difficult to remove. This made the new breeze inside the lighthouse all the more appreciated and afforded a nice shot of the sunset taken from one of the lighthouse windows.
- A 100-ft.-tall scaffolding system was installed by Spirit Scaffold of Orlando. This system, uniquely engineered for unique structures such as GIL, was manufactured in Germany. With this in place, our engineers and metal technicians are able to safely access both interior and exterior space for examination, repair and replacement of structural components.
- Over the next few weeks they will bring in large equipment and continue to add to the 500 rivets already replaced. In all, there are about 2,000 rivets that need to be replaced, all exacting reproductions of the original solid steel rivets.
- The lighthouse is also getting its pediment repaired! They have hand- sanded and painted the area where the upper and lower cornices normally reside inside the pediment. The pediment is the artifice over the door with the year 1927 on it.
- Hundreds of feet of new custom interior handrails have been created and attached to custom brackets going up the steel stairs from the entry lantern room.
Each handrail section had to be customized at the lighthouse to match the irregular curves inside the structure. The railings are temporarily installed to enable safe access by workers, but they will be removed and painted before final installation.
- The copper vent ball has now been painted and added back to the roof where it belongs. The needle-like nose is actually a lightning rod. We had to replace our lightning rod, and Alex actually found a piece of original 1870 wrought iron from another lighthouse to use to replace it.
What to expect in coming weeks?
- When all metal structural integrity is repaired/replaced, the entire structure will be tented, and sandblasting of both the interior and exterior structures will commence inside the tent, all dust fragments to be vacuumed out of the air. The structure will be bare steel when finished, enabling painting. To get your attention, the exterior paint costs about $400 a gallon, so keep those checks coming in.
- Much of the entire original cement pad the structure sits on will be replaced, although some portions might be salvaged. Concrete bollards will be recreated or repaired, and connection piping replaced and painted.
- When additional funding is secured, interpretative signage will be added, the inner nature trail will be created, and ADA pathways will be completed to the parking lot.
We look forward to continued progress and the transformation of this great icon. Upon completion, all donors will be recognized on site, and appropriate opening ceremonies are being planned. It is anticipated that public-controlled access from time to time will be enabled. The view from the top is as good as it gets.
The entire BIPS and construction partner team have requested that we all report any trespassing on the property in the coming weeks, as workers are not there on weekends and some weekdays, and there already has been evidence of forced entry to the worksite.
Larry Hannah, head of restoration fundraising, reminds us, “We are still short of our goal of $1.8 million to finalize all aspects of this inspiring Boca Grande effort. We still must raise $400,000 in order to complete the lighthouse, protect the 7.4 acres of beach front property given us in the bargain, provide safe and landscaped access to the light structure from the adjacent state park parking lot, and to guarantee a perpetual endowment for preservation and maintenance of both our island lighthouses.”
Call (941) 964-0060 to make a tax- free donation to this magnificent effort, or go online to barrierislandparkssociety.org or mail your check to: Light Keeper’s Fund, PO Box 654, Boca Grande, FL 33921. Stay tuned for future progress reports.