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Help Needed in Support of the Cape Hatteras Lens/Pedestal

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Postby vacastle » Tue Aug 15, 2006 11:54 am


The National Park service is now requesting public comment before this can take place. Help is now needed from the Lighthousing community as a whole to respond.

The following is a copy of an email received from Tim Harrison this morning. He has given me permission to post it here.

Please take time to read this. Please ask questions. And please send a response to NPS. I, along with Shirin and Beth Deese (COTA) and others, was one of the lucky few who worked as an "apprentice" along side Jim Woodward last year when this lens was restored and reassembled, so this is near and dear.

Help needed in support of the Cape Hatteras lens/pedestal project.

As stated in the documentation below, this is the last chance to redeem 140 years of abuse and neglect of one of the nation's most important lighthouse artifacts. As is currently stated at the exhibit at North Carolina’s Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, of some, but not all, of the historic Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Henry-Lepaute Fresenl lens, “It is our hope that this remarkable symbol of America’s lighthouse history, having served seafarers in two lighthouses and saved countless lives over two centuries, will serve for centuries more by guiding future generations on a voyage of discovery and understanding of our rich maritime past.”

The publics help is needed to encourage the National Park Service to allow the original and neglected pedestal of the Cape Hatteras first order lens to be removed from the tower and reunited with the remains of the lens for an interpretative display at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras, North Carolina.

We encourage the lighthouse community to stand up to support this effort by sending your favorable comments to the National Park Service's Public Comment website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/ . The public comment period ends on August 31, 2006.

To give you some background information . . . .

In 1854, Cape Hatteras LH received a first-order lens and pedestal from Henry-Lepaute & Co. In June 1861, Confederates removed the lens but left the pedestal--it was much too difficult to remove. In 1862, a temporary second-order lens was placed on top of the 1854 pedestal. In 1863, a new Henry-Lepaute lens and pedestal were installed--this is the entire apparatus now at Pigeon Point, CA. The original pedestal, without its missing lens, was transported to Staten Island where it remained until the Hatteras lens was recovered in Sep. 1865. After the Hatteras lens was repaired in France and returned, it was reunited with its pedestal and was shipped back to Hatteras to be installed in the new, 1870 tower (this is when the replacement H-P lens was sent to Pigeon Point).

In 1936, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was abandoned and over the next 13 years, the lens was vandalized. In 1949, the USCG decided to reactivate the 1870 tower but the lens was destroyed and unusable. The USCG removed the 1854 H-P lens but left its pedestal (an odd, ironic similarity to what occurred in 1861) in order for it to support the modern DCB beacon. There it has remained to this day, painted over with dozens of coats of gray paint.

The pedestal has not been interpreted nor preserved. As you know, Kevin Duffus, the director of the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum succeeded in having the remains of the lens conserved and reconstructed at the museum in 2005 but not all of the components were made available by the NPS. Five upper catadioptric panels were kept at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse bookstore, but they were improperly bolted together by the NPS conservator and further damage has been done to that part of the artifact and prisms are now in danger of falling out and the panels are warping.

In 2004, Kevin Duffus submitted a request to the then superintendent of the seashore asking that the entire lens apparatus be made available. He refused. Now, his successor, Mike Murray (formerly of Cape Cod NS) has approved the request, pending a public comment period. Mr. Murray spent a lot of time considering our request and even visited other lens exhibits where the pedestal is included, such as the Cape Charles lens at the Mariner's Museum. He agrees that the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum can preserve the pedestal and what's left of the lens in a much better manner and so all can appreciate it and its tragic history, even people with disabilities.

Jim Woodward has been retained to complete the work in October. To accomplish the removal of the pedestal, the CG DCB beacon will have to be temporarily removed and new supports will be installed to do the job the historic 1854 pedestal has been doing for 56 years. The lighthouse may be extinguished for a couple of days at most.

The remaining phases of the project, which include removing decades of paint, completely restoring the pedestal and placing its lens back on top will take about 3 weeks.

While there are some who may be opposed to the project, that is not relevant to this request for your help to support this project, which we feel is in the best interest of preserving history for the future..

The old lens could never again serve as an aid to navigation. But, it can serve a much greater purpose. The facts are clear, having the pedestal at the top of the lighthouse supporting a modern optic, without interpretation, and other parts of the lens in a bookstore, simply continues the tragic legacy of the lens. It would be like tearing the original copy of the Declaration of Independence into three pieces so that it could be displayed at multiple locations.

Finally, the museum is about to begin a public relations effort to recover the remaining parts of the lens that are possibly in the possession of the public. This fall will be the last practical opportunity to return missing prisms to the lens.

We encourage the lighthouse community to stand up to support this effort by sending your favorable comments to the National Park Service's Public Comment website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/
The public comment period ends on August 31, 2006.

However, as often occurs on some web sites, you may encounter difficulties in emailing your comments. If so, please send your written letter in support of removing the original pedestal from Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and reuniting it with the remains of the first order lens for its restoration and proper interpretative and educational display at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum to:

Superintendent
Outer Banks Group
1401 National Park Drive
Manteo, NC. 27954
Tel: 252-473-2111
Fax: 252-473-2595

Remember, letters must be received by August 31. They can also be faxed to 252-473-2595.


Thanks Tim for stating the case so clearly, and thanks to each of you who respond!

Judy
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Postby COTA » Tue Aug 15, 2006 12:22 pm


I hope those of you who are in support of this project will forward you thoughts to the NPS through the website provided.

This is near and dear to me as well, since I participated in the restoration project in March of 2005. I would love to wish that a long time ago the lens could have remained intact, to have shone brightly to this day in one of America's most known treasures along the NC coast. That would be what most of us would want, at the top of the Cape Hatteras Light. But...that is wishful thinking. We cannot change what happened when the Civil War took place, or what happened when the Cape Hatteras light was abandoned, but we can try to preserve, maintain, and educate others through one last opportunity to reunite the pedastal and lens for an exhibit that is not offered anywhere else along the NC coast. To see such a display, any North Carolinian would have to go to S. Carolina or Virginia. We have a chance to have such a wonderful display here in the "Old North State". Would you please consider your thoughts and let the NPS know before the deadline? Again, this may be our last chance to allow the lens to be positioned in its rightful and resting place, the pedastal, as obviously we cannot place the lens back in the tower.
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Postby epona » Tue Aug 15, 2006 12:39 pm


Having never visited North Carolina or seen part of the south part of the East Coast. How and what should one say in a letter of support. Is it appropriate to say how lighthouse preservation is?

So whatever ideas and suggestions anyone has would be great.

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Postby vacastle » Tue Aug 15, 2006 12:53 pm


Carole, I hope you will get to visit these lights some day in the not too far distance.

Until then, you are someone who cares about preserving our lighthouse heritage.for future generations...and you know of Cape Hatteras, the tallest lighthouse in the US.

This first order Fresnel lens has been restored and is on display at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. It's pedestal is at the top of the lighthouse. The lens can never be returned to the lighthouse, so we are in hopes that the NPS will agree to have the pedestal returned to the lens.

The NPS needs to see possitive comments from the public, from all over, not just North Carolina.

Thanks Carole,

Judy
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Postby Leah Loar-Mays » Fri Aug 18, 2006 7:42 am


I submitted my comments a week or so ago. I hope we can all make a difference here.
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Postby beachbum1616 » Sat Aug 19, 2006 8:24 am


I guess I am a bit confused as to why they want to take it out of the tower. I know when we were in the lantern room at Cape Romain, the pedestal is still in the tower, and with the lens gone, it makes up the majority of the "floor" in the lantern room, except around the edges of the room, of course. Now if they take it out, what are they going to put the current optic on? Some ugly silver thing like they have at Assateague?

And will the museum be able to put the lens on the pedestal? Is the roof tall enough? And how will they get it out of the tower? Take it apart?

I am not necessarily against the idea, I am just curious as to why they are wanting to do this.
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Postby vacastle » Sat Aug 19, 2006 9:29 am


The hope/plan is to remove it from the tower and reunite it with the lens that belongs with it, Stephen.

If the lens could be reunited with it's pedestal at the top of the lighthouse for eternity, that would be anyone's preference, but, it's too late for that. The lens can never again be used as an aid to navigation.

The pedestal as it sits in it's present location has been abused, and neglected.

Jim Woodward, of The Lighthouse Consultant, L.L.C. http://www.lighthouseconsultant.com/index.htm has been retained to do the work on both ends, remove it from the tower, restore it at the museum and rebuild the lens, sitting it on the pedestal for permanent display at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. A new support will be built to hold the modern day optic that now resides in the Hatteras lighthouse.

Yes, there is ample room to display the lens on top of the pedestal at the museum, and it will be displayed at the center front as you enter, moved from the sidewall where the lens now sits.

Yes, the museum is equipped to maintain it in it's proper condition.

Reuniting the pedestal with it's lens at the museum, per Kevin Duffus,
is a worthy, important, and morally correct project that will be a last chance to reunite components of a nationally significant lighthouse artifact and make it available to the entire public, including the elderly, the infirmed and those with disabilites.


I can't answer how it will be removed from the tower. That's why a nationally renowned lampist, has been retained to handle the job.

I hope this answers your concerns,

Judy
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Postby Hersh » Sat Aug 19, 2006 11:20 am


I can see wanting to have the lens mated with the original pedestal, but on the other side of the coin, I like the fact that a piece of that original apparatus is still at the top of that tower fulfilling it's function. Maybe it has been neglected, but it's basically a big piece of cast iron, I wouldn't think there would be much work that could be done to it other than stripping and re-painting it.

Like Stephen, I was less than thrilled with the utilitarian metal base in Assateague, I think the original pedestal would look much better in there.

Just my two cents worth as a lampist layman but lighthouse lover.
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Postby Rob143 » Sat Aug 19, 2006 11:45 am


While I understand the desire to place the lens on the pedestal she was meant to sit upon, I find myself leaning towards Stephen & Mike.

What would be wrong with commissioning an exact duplicate of the original pedestal be cast upon which to display the lens, AND allow the original pedestal to do the job it was meant to do? Surely if there are monies available to remove, and replace, the original pedestal and move it then sufficient monies exist to cast a new pedestal.

Either way not everybody gets what they would most prefer. I however like to see our lights left as close to how they were built, and intended to be, as possible. Sadly for those which prefer relocation, that means leaving everything possible where it belongs. That IMHO is in the lighthouse itself.
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Postby epona » Sat Aug 19, 2006 1:39 pm


I hate to join in on this band wagon but I have been doing a bit of reading about this situation and I agree with what Mike, Stephen and Rob have said.

In a former life time I was in to saving Carousels and issues like this came up. Some times putting a replica's of one part of something with a part that is original, can work. I have not written my letter, but have been attempting to put some ideas down. Now I have a great deal more to think about on this topic.

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Postby beachbum1616 » Sat Aug 19, 2006 2:09 pm


I will have to apologize if my questions sounded out of place or a bit ridiculous, but I (speaking for myself only, not trying to start a band wagon) just don’t see the need to spend all of this money taking this thing out of the tower, repairing it, putting it in the museum, moving the lens back on top of it, and building a new display thing to hold it when my favorite lighthouse just 40 miles to the north sits in wait of some where in the neighborhood of a $2 million dollar restoration. While this pedestal thing may be a great and worthy project, I just think that this NPS money which would do better helping to restore Bodie before it falls to the ground. That IMHO would be a more prudent investment for the lighthouse community. If they decide to move it, great, I will still go and see it. I just think the money should go to a more far-reaching or significant project, IMHO.
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Postby Hersh » Sat Aug 19, 2006 2:23 pm


I hadn't thought of that Stephen, but now that you mention it, I agree that the money would be much better spent stabilizing Bodie. The pedestal isn't going anywhere... Bodie's falling down.
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Postby vacastle » Sat Aug 19, 2006 2:54 pm


Some assumptions are being made that money would be taken away from Bodie Island Lighthouse, should the Cape Hatteras lens/pedestal project be approved.

This is a project promoted by The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum and they will be footing the bill if this project goes through, just as the Museum also footed the bill to have the lens restored and now has it in their care.

It can not be assumed that any of this money would have gone to BILH in the first place. The Museum has plenty of work of it's own to take care of.

The National Park Service is in charge of the restoration of the Bodie Island lens and tower. If you wish to make a donation to that effort, it should be directed to the NPS with a specific notation that the donation shall be used toward the restoration of the Bodie Island lighthouse.

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Postby epona » Sat Aug 19, 2006 4:39 pm


First of all Stephen, you did not start of create a bandwagon. However, the postings have at least caused me to take a closer look at the given situation.

This get's back to what I have said in the past. Many lighthouses and other historical places need various types of support. Time, treasure and talent is not always available in amounts needed to create and support such projects. Some lighthouses will be saved, restored and have on going care and support. The reality is not every lighthouse will be saved. Nor should they be. Time, treasure and talent is needed for more basic human issues, like health care etc...

It is good that we are able to have a discussion on this board about various issues concerning lighthouses.

I close with respect for everyone opinions,

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Postby Kevin » Mon Aug 21, 2006 5:10 pm


Hi everyone. I figured it was time for me to "appear" and make a few points. First, the Hatteras Henry-Lepaute (H-P) pedestal project will not take any restoration money away from Bodie Island. Judy is correct in that the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum (GOAM) is funding the preservation and exhibition of the pedestal, not the NPS. The money is coming from a HUD-EDI grant that has already been designated for the project.

More importantly, we need to understand why we feel that removing the pedestal from the lighthouse, and preserving it, is the right thing to do. The "long-lost" Hatteras apparatus (the lens and its pedestal) represents one of the most significant artifacts of American lighthouse history. That's true, because the exquisite machine was one of the first commissioned by the U.S. Lighthouse Board for what was considered one of the most important lighthouses on the North American continent. In 1861, when Confederates were ordered to disable the light at Hatteras, they took the easy way out and only removed and hid the lens. The pedestal was just too big and heavy. (By the way, in doing research for my new book, "Shipwrecks of the Outer Banks," I have determined that the pedestal for the 3rd order lens from the second Bodie tower is today submerged in the ocean a few hundred yards to the east of the NPS Oregon Inlet campground!)

For seven years, the two matched components were separated--neither being of any use without its other "half." Finally, in 1868, after the lens had returned from Paris after being fully restored, the H-P lens and pedestal were reunited. It was a joyous event for the LH Board for they were able to resurrect what they considered a valuable piece of lighthouse history and return it to its proper home, albeit in a newer tower, the 1870 Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

Of course, as we all know, the 1870 tower was abandoned by the Coast Guard in 1936 because of the threat of beach erosion. When the beach began to build back seaward, the lighthouse was reactivated in 1950. The only problem was, the beautiful lens had been brutally vandalized and was no longer functional. When the Coast Guard decided to install a modern rotating optic they had to remove what was left of the lens. Once again, like the Confederates in 1861, they took the easy way out. They only removed the lens. The pedestal was just too big and heavy. For 56 years, the historic pedestal supported the beacon, painted by untold coats of gray paint and passed by tens of thousands of lighthouse climbers, oblivious of its historic significance and remarkable function.

This generation of lighthouse stewards, all of us today, have an opportunity to right a series of wrongs, dating back 145 years. What should we do? It is inarguable that the lens and the pedestal were designed and constructed as a matched pair, intended to function as a single machine. Regrettably, the apparatus will never function as its designers and builders expected. But it can have a far more important purpose. As Jim Woodward, at my request, so eloquently wrote in his first evaluation of the broken, battered and neglected lens while it was in storage at the NPS warehouse on Roanoke Island in 2003, "The lens can serve future generations as a lesson in what greed and a lack of consideration for history and heritage can do to a fascinating machine crafted during the industrial art age."

Should the thousands of people who climb the lighthouse continue to be able to see the pedestal where it was intended to work? Sure. But could tens of thousands of people, even hundreds of thousands of people, including the disabled, see the pedestal in a restored state, supporting its lens that it was paired with in 1854, complete with interpretation, in an environment where no harm or decay will further damage the artifact for centuries to come? Yes. Will the exhibit teach untold thousands about an amazing part of our lighthouse heritage. Absolutely! Will the $35,000 investment by the GOAM be worth it, in terms of the historic lesson it will tell? What do you think?

Doing the right thing is often the harder of two choices. Change is never easy. The watch room in the Cape Hatteras tower will not look the same with the pedestal removed (I've been told that a pair of horizontal steel I-beam supports will support the CG's DCB beacon). I remember how passionate opponents were to moving the lighthouse prior to 1999. They loved the lighthouse as much as supporters of the move. It was change they didn't like. Now, I doubt you could find anybody who thinks it was a bad idea.

As much as I would like to end on that thought, I need to respond to a couple of other suggestions. A historically-accurate reproduction of the pedestal would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars--a terrible waste of the public's money.

The replacement supports should not appear to be a "modern" version of the pedestal. The 1854 pedestal will be removed in pieces, but the greater part of its castings will be lowered by a block and tackle inside the tower.

Was what was done at Cape Romain the right solution? I don't think its lens and pedestal have quite the national significance as the 1854 apparatus of Cape Hatteras.

What will future generations think of us? Will they think we took the easy way out?

I appreciate all of your thoughts and ideas, and whether you are in favor or opposed, I hope you'll send your comments to the NPS.

Warmest Regards,

Kevin Duffus
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