Digest>Archives> September 2006

Fresnel Lens Installation Turns Texas Water Tower Into Real Lighthouse

By Timothy Harrison

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It’s been said that the folks in Texas always do things on a grand scale and the community of Kemah, Texas are

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no exception.

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Kemah is located southeast of Houston on Galveston Bay leading to the Gulf of Mexico. When the city decided to replace an existing water tower with a new tower, they decided that it should serve a dual purpose and also act as a functioning lighthouse.

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Once the lighthouse/water tower was completed, they wanted a light to shine from the top to act as a private aid to

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navigation. Naturally, their first thought was to find a real Fresnel lens to install in the tower. They soon realized that obtaining a real old time Fresnel lens was out of the question so they did the next best think. They contacted Dan Spinella of Artworks Florida who has developed the technique of manufacturing Fresnel lens replicas.

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Naturally the people of Kemah wanted the largest Fresnel lens possible and the size of the lantern room atop the water tower was large enough for a third order Fresnel lens, so that’s exactly what they selected.

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The installation would be a unique problem since the entire tower is filled with water and the only way up to the top of the tower was via a caged ladder mounted to the side of the gigantic 144-foot tall structure.

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Thanks to modern equipment not readily available with the lighthouses of yesteryear, the entire 750-pound lens, pedestal and other equipment were hoisted to the top with a crane. However, getting the lens to the top of the tower was easy, compared to the work needed to slide the 48-inch in diameter lens on a wooden platform, built especially for the installation through the 49-inch opening where the window had been removed.

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Once inside the lantern room the lens then had to be hoisted to the ceiling and delicately lowered onto its new

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rotating pedestal.

The new lens is a rotating style with 8 flash panels. Two access doors had been built into the lens to allow for maintenance of the 1,000-watt lamp.

The lens rotates one revolution per minute, creating a flash every 7.5 seconds and is now registered as a private aid to navigation.

Town officials, who are very proud of their new lighthouse, have stated they are willing to share their architectural plans with other communities who would like to accomplish what they have.

For more information on the Fresnel lens replicas you can contact Dan Spinella at Artworks Florida, P.O. Box 470123, Celebration, Florida, 34747 or visit his web site at www.artworks-florida.com.

This story appeared in the September 2006 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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