Annie Potts, accompanied by Alex Klahm, arrived in Marsh Harbour on October 6. They continued on to Hope Town, where they assessed repairs to the Elbow Reef Lighthouse and met with officers of the Elbow Reef Lighthouse Society to share their findings. Ms. Potts is the US Coordinator for the Elbow Reef Lighthouse Society. Mr. Klahm is with Architectural Metal and Design Inc. and is a specialist in restoring metal historical structures.
Rust, salt-air and wear have taken their toll on the 150 year old lighthouse.
As they arrived at the base of the old structure, on the morning of October 7, Ms. Potts and Mr. Klahm immediately examined the ground to locate the lightening rod, which seemed to be disconnected, and to check the paint that was peeling all over the building.
The structure was repainted in 2008. According to Mr. Klahm, the type of paint used did not allow the walls to breath. A limewash would have been better.
The two experts were joined by Jackson Blatch, who had already performed work on the lighthouse: changing some of the glass panels in 2012.
As they ascended the 121 steps to the lantern room, the group stopped at regular intervals to assess the corrosion and possible construction anomalies that could be dangerous. Ms. Potts noticed an electric wire running along a kerosene line. The two lines will have to be separated.
At the top of the stairs, a heavy slab of slate has been dislodged. Mr. Klahm proposed to clean it and re-position it in its original place. In the watch room the ventilators that have been sealed by coats of paint should be reopened for proper ventilation. The metal under-flooring of the floor grills has been badly damaged by corrosion, however Mr. Klahm did not think it an area of concern, whether structural or esthetic.
The condition of the metal roof was deemed much more important. As they stepped out through the small door to the outside gallery, they noticed it was badly rusted. The metal will have to be sandblasted and repainted, including the finials on the railing, one of which could to be reconstructed with a titanium paste.
Armed with portable ladders and a harness, the Mr. Klahm decided to climb to the upper gallery to check the gutters and roof. Ms. Potts, Mr. Blatch and Ms. Kenyon, the Executive Director of the Elbow Reef Lighthouse Society who had joined the group, squeezed through the opening leading to that gallery. The ladder and trap door leading to the gallery had been removed in the past.
As they went around the building, checking roof, gutters and grounding system, Alex Klahm informed his colleagues of his findings. Some of the bolts holding the gutters were badly rusted and will have to be replaced. Part of the roof has to be fixed with metal plates that will have to be bolted to reinforce it. He mentioned that the lightning rod had to be connected all the way down to the earth.
Back inside, the three restoration analysts then climbed into the lantern room where Ms. Potts noticed cracked glass panels. By then, Kona, Ms. Kenyon’s Australian Cattle Dog who had been patiently waiting at the bottom of the last flight of stairs, decided to join them upstairs. Climbing up was easy, but she did not enjoy the way down.
The assessment to the upper part of the lighthouse included the following:
– Bolt down metal plates to the roof and change rusted bolts to gutters and roof.
– Ensure that the lightning rod was properly connected.
– Re-install the permanent ladder and a proper trapdoor.
– Remove the door to the outside gallery, lubricate it and put it back.
– Install additional security posts to the balustrade.
– Replace the cracked glass panels.
– Clean and replace the displaced stone slab.
Possible additional repairs included:
– Install grill on the windows
– Sandblast and repaint the entire lighthouse
It was close to noon when the group finally exited the lighthouse. Lunch at Captain Jack’s seemed like a good idea to rest and further discuss some of the findings.
A complete report on the assessment of the repairs needed to give the lighthouse a new lease on life was to be presented to the Elbow Reef Preservation Society and to interested Hope Town residents at a meeting.
The lighthouse is one of the few remaining light stations in the world to be manually operated and the only one to be hand turned and kerosene fueled. It is operated by two keepers, Jeffrey Forbes and Elvis Parker who nightly light the 100 year old burner and hand-crank up the counterweights which power the turning machinery.
This is done totally without the use of electricity – like it has been for 150 years.