Extreme Makeover – Lighthouse Edition

Back in August the Utility room here at the Lighthouse went under the surgeon\’s knife. Needing more than just plastic surgery, this room had been the neglected Cinderella of the house since 1930.

 Take a peak at this link to a You Tube video to watch the transformation. Then click back to read the rest.

The project had a great number of challenges. There needed to be a coordination of efforts on the part of the general contractor, the plumbing contractor, the electrical contractor, and the heating contractor. Working around an historic site was another. Each party had to be aware of the potential to discover a relic or a clue to how the room was used over the years. We had evidence of the store on site in the records from the twenties and thirties. We eventually found a LaSalle Club Orange Soda bottle cap and a advertisement for Schraft chocolate.  The Schraft sign was an astonishing find as I was digging below the floor.  It somehow survived there more than 70 years. There was also evidence as I noted in an earlier post that the room had been a cobbler\’s shop.

I also found several names carved into the wall boards and the studs. Iggy and Belz had a dart board and Vareika\’s ace foreman cut out those boards for me while working on the shingling of the western wall.  You will see that next time you visit along with a piece of sheet rock I cut out from the years that George Downton was marking the storms and the cats here at the Lighthouse.

The name Roy was also carved into that same wall and a little digging revealed that in the 1920 census Roy Spear lived here with Captain Cushman. Roy was the brother in law of Cushman\’s daughter and he and his family were listed alongside the Captain\’s as boarders. I am thinking the Belz noted above was a nickname for Ellsworth Spear.

The biggest find of all came when Wood Electric needed access to a stairway that had been blocked off when insulation was added to the cellar floor in the mid 90\’s. I had been told to leave that door alone, but when we had to open that path for the project I jumped at the chance to take a few pictures. While taking my snaps of as old a door as there is in this place, I noticed that the stairwell walls were lined with cardboard. Peeling a piece back I found printing and my adrenalin began to climb. Retrieving a staple puller, I popped out light nails to reveal movie posters from the Satuit Playhouse. I eventually uncovered seven of them, four in pretty good shape. A quick trip to the Google machine uncovered that the August in question was 1945. These were posters from the week the Second World War ended.

In the last few weeks that stairway has been reworked into a closet. My brother in law took on the task for us and gave us a way to tuck a few things behind a door when the need arises. Deciding to retrieve the last of these movies posters I found another one. A week earlier, different movies, and a date that no history teacher forgets: August 6, 1945. Hiroshima. The Atomic Bomb.

Though not in as good a shape as the prior finds, this one will share a spot in the renovated room. The stories we have to tell are growing still.

A major part of this project was the replacement of the heating system. Shawn Harris Enterprises arranged for the donation of a boiler, an oil tank, and an indirect water heater for the Cottage. We are ever grateful to Shawn and to Smith Boilers and Roth Tanks for their generosity. 190 feet of copper were used in the rebuilding of the heating system. Having researched the burst pipes that Betty Foster and her family lived with here, this upgrade was 30 years over due. What had been a mess of crossed and corroding pipes is now akin to a perfect copper sculpture.

 I can say the same about the work Tom Galligan and his plumbers did on their side of the job and Charlie Wood and his right hand, Charlie B. on the wiring. There was Knob and Tube in the walls of this room. Prior to this project I would have told you Knob and Tube were an 80\’s Punk band, but I found out that it was an old and currently (pun intended) dangerous kind of wiring. The junction box that was created to clean up this mess is a plain masterpiece of organization and efficiency. I was dazzled as I watched him work on it.  We were very fortunate that Charlie was available as our neighbor Jerry Houghton originally was awarded the job in the bidding and had to withdraw at the 11th hour when he broke his wrist.

The room also had the floor taken up, planed and finished and reset in place. Above is the diagram that the star of the whole project, Vareika foreman Chuck, drew early on and worked from as the floor came back in. The floor is amazing now and a review of the video at the top of the post would prove me out.  What was a blueish gray painted floor, in part covered by a white vinyl tile and an odd navy mesh rug, is now a glowing  in the afternoon sun pleasure to slide across in your stocking feet.  If the restoration did only that it would have been stunning.  The ceiling was raised roughly 6 inches, light fixtures were found that fit the period when the room was once a store, new wall and trim colors went up, our washer and dryer were united side by side in a new spot, as at the start the washer was against the shingled wall and the dryer in the corner by the electrical panels.  Current codes have that as a no no and I was thrilled to bring them together as a Siamese match.

What had been an eyesore and a hazard is now a room we can enjoy, work in, and use to teach the story of this amazing place. I have already brought a bunch of books into the house that I had dragged away to storage.  Through the hurricane of late August and the subsequent power outage, through the looney tune wedding guests who came strolling up the walk to use the damned Porta Potty, through the unexpected need to replace half the roof when we discovered ceiling boards drenched through like sponges,  through the search for a plasterer who could abide the regulations that came with the job, through the who knows how many welds it takes to snake 190 feet of copper and the patience of pulling wire after wire to a new destination, through the fun of speculating just what secret the place would spill in a given day, the project was never boring and always teaching.  What\’s next in year 201?  Check back here to find out.

3 responses to “Extreme Makeover – Lighthouse Edition”

  1. Amazing!! Thank you so much for sharing these, Bob!


  2. Roy Spear was my grandfather…thank you so much for sharing


  3. Roy Spear was my grandfather…thank you so much for sharing


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