Digest>Archives> Mar/Apr 2017

Graves Light Gets First Order Lens Again


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Looking up into the “new” first order Fresnel ...

For the second time its history, the 133-foot tall Graves Lighthouse in Boston Harbor, Massachusetts has a first order Fresnel lens in its lantern room.

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The small structure to the left was the former ...

When the Graves Lighthouse was built in 1905, the government installed a magnificent first order Fresnel lens in the tower. But in 1976 when the lighthouse was automated, the lens was removed from the tower and reportedly given to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. where it has remained crated and in storage ever since.

In 2013 the General Services Administration auctioned off the Graves Lighthouse and for a high bid of close to $934,000 the historic structure became privately owned. Ever since them, the new owners have been diligently restoring the lighthouse. And as part of their plan, they wanted to somehow bring the glory of a Fresnel lens back to the lighthouse.

But first order Fresnel lens are extremely rare, and the only complete ones left in existence are in the hands of various governments and to the best of anyone’s knowledge none exist in private ownership.

However, by working through Chance Brothers Lighthouse Engineers in Australia they were able to purchase enough English made prisms that had been made between 1880 and 1920 to fill 15 panels of what would generally be 45 panels of a first order lens. They did not attempt to build an entire first order lens, nor could they. It appears that no more pieces could be found. Their primary objective was to illustrate the wonder of a first order Fresnel lens, a mission that they accomplished.

Getting everything to the lighthouse was no easy feat. Each crate had to be brought to the lighthouse by boat, then winched up to the lighthouse entrance, and then carried up the tower by hand to be installed.

To learn more about this project and view other photos of the lens being installed and the restoration work being done at the lighthouse, you can visit their web site at www.GravesLightStation.com.

This story appeared in the Mar/Apr 2017 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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