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Baby Steps To Lighthouse Repair

White Island Lighthouse

Thanks to the fundraising efforts of North Hampton 7th graders, the state of New Hampshire is finally stepping up to the plate to begin repair of the crumbling White Island lighthouse. But before workers and equipment can do their work, White Island needs a landing.

Exclusive Photos

SEE: White Light Still Crumbing

SeacoastNH was the only media to accompany engineers and DRED officials on a recent strategic visit to design a landing site on the island. The group of 10 made the trip to the Isles of Shoals on a perfect June afternoon aboard the Uncle Oscar out of Rye Harbor.

Active as a lighthouse since 1820, all previous landing sites were wiped out by Mother Nature. The trick now is to build an affordable, flexible landing spot in a very rocky area strewn with shifting boulders and covered in seaweed. Since the Island is owned by the state of New Hampshire, the landing site also has to meet all state accessibility regulations and building codes.

Engineers from Louis Berger Group of Manchester, NH gathered "on island" to scope out the situation in June 2004. They will submit their recommendations and DRED officials hope to begin the project in 2004. The governor’s council needs to approve all funding. That means the cracking White Island lighthouse will have to survive another harsh New England winter before repairs can begin.

White Island lightWhile the state has gained access to $250,000 in federal funds, the grant requires matching income. That match is coming -- not from the state which owns the historic island and its crumbling buildings -- but from the efforts of the middle-schoolers. The Lighthouse Kids of teacher Sue Reynolds have so far raised about $60,000 to kick off the first phase of the project.

Meanwhile, the rest of the island buildings under state care are suffering too. The wooden walkway that leads from the keeper's house to the light is no longer workable and capped off at both ends. The lighthouse keepers house is leaking and the interior kitchen wall has begun to peel away. The exterior is badly in need of paint and clapboards and roofing are peeling away. The roof of the generator room, used and repaired under the Coast Guard only a few years ago, has now broken completely through. Unused generators, abandoned with the departure of the Coast Guard, stand idle and rusting in the deteriorating concrete bunker. An old oil house adapted into an outhouse provides poor sanitary conditions.

The former lighthouse keeper’s house now offers shelter to three NH Fish and Game employees who are monitoring a tern restoration project on nearby Seavey Island. Severe winter weather can age the buildings dramatically and no funds are currently coming from the state of New Hampshire. White Island structures continue to deteriorate at warp speed while the state moves slowly toward a stop-gap solution funded by dedicated local children.

READ: The story that started it all
VISIT: Jeremy's Lighthouse Guide to White Island

White Island Lighthouse

Landing at White Island

Engineers discuss landing site

Damaged Generator Room at White Island 2004

Generator Room at White Island

Lighthouse Keeper's House at White Island

Engineers at White Island, June 2004

All photos by J. Dennis Robinson,
SEE: Exclusive photos inside the lighthouse
VISIT: Isles of Shoals section



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