Light, Tight, and Bright

The Noble Crew in action at Robbins Reef Lighthouse

This restored window is located in the curved stairwell, outside the sitting room.  Stripped of a century’s worth of paint, the window casement and sill are made of oldgrowth heart pine. PHOTO: Peter Yuschak

This restored window is located in the curved stairwell, outside the sitting room.  Stripped of a century’s worth of paint, the window casement and sill are made of oldgrowth heart pine. PHOTO: Peter Yuschak

Last summer and fall were productive at Robbins Reef.  With the help of the folks at Miller’s Launch and the skill of their great captains diving through wakes, we went out often.  We restorated eight casement windows that had been shrouded in plywood and steel since the Coast Guard automated the light in 1966. The round rooms on the first three levels and the landings in the stairwell are full of light. It is astonishing.

With funds from the New York Landmarks Conservancy, coupled with matching funds from the museum’s art auction and the extraordinary help of the Noble Crew under the supervision of craftsman Roger Sherry, we ground down and painted the exterior casements, removed the paint from the interior casements, and removed the windows. Sherry then brought them to his studio in Virginia to restore them. As expected, the window frames and the old-growth heart-pine interior casements and sills had withstood salt air since 1883. Most of the glass is intact, and some panes have a faint pattern of light-blue pitting. The copper slides, the tracks the windows travel up and down in, and original pins that hold the windows open that we carefully retrieved are testaments to 19th century craftsmen.

The light that fills the kitchen, sitting room, and Kate’s bedroom is amplified by the walls and ceilings, which we scraped and painted white. Kate said she had to keep the place “bright with paint,” and we will too. We also removed the interior doors and stripped them. (Try doing that in a place with no running water). Under the many layers of paint dating back to Kate’s time we found heart pine and oak.

We are so grateful to Crew members Gerry Barton, Andrew Blancero, Cooper, Laura Kennedy, Greg Orlando, Peter Patron, Barbara Pezzengrilli, Tim Pouch, Annie Rech, Nan Smith, Chris Steffins, Damon Urban, and Lisa and Peter Yuschak—and to our trustees Brian De Forest, Kevin Mahoney, Eileen Montanez, and Sam Turvey. They endured some mighty dirty weather!