Cape Cod’s Sandy Neck Lighthouse has been headless since 1933 when the government discontinued the lighthouse near Barnstable, Massachusetts and removed its lantern room.
The fact that the lighthouse had a wonderful history of family life, a former keeper who had also served at the famous Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse, and the school teacher who was boarded there to teach the keeper’s children was not enough reason for the government to keep the lighthouse active as shifting sands and the change in shipping needs made the structure no longer needed.
Over the years the ownership of the lighthouse changed hands and remained a topless lighthouse and has appeared so in thousands of photographs, paintings and even some souvenir products.
Ron Jansson, a local lawyer, recalling the memories of his childhood, said as a young child he recalled asking his grandfather what was wrong with the lighthouse and if it would ever be fixed. His grandfather replied, “I don’t know, but maybe someday you can fix it.”
Finally, 50 years later, Jansson decided that time had come. The Sandy Neck Lighthouse Restoration Committee was formed and with the help of Jim Walker of the Cape Cod Chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation, which restored Race Point Light and also maintains Long Point and Wood End Lighthouse, formed an official affiliation with the American Lighthouse Foundation to bring the lighthouse back to its glory days.
Jim Walker, a retired Coast Guardsman, who has worked on lighthouses nearly his entire adult life, went on a search for a new lantern room. He finally received help from the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keeper’s Association. It seems they had created a mold for a lantern room from the remains they found of one at Michigan’s St. Helena Light Station.
While he and other volunteers began working on making a replica the group started the all-important fund raising, something that was much harder than they ever imagined.
Saving and restoring a lighthouse takes time and it took the group five years to accomplish their goal of getting a lantern room back on top of the Sandy Neck Lighthouse. Even when the time came to install the lantern room, things didn’t work out the way they were supposed to. The panels they built for the lantern room didn’t fit correctly. But through some ingenious reworking back at the shop the final day came for the installation, which then took more than the days work they expected, but in the end accuracy was assured right down to the ventilator ball at the top. Finally, the long project was completed and the Sandy Neck Lighthouse, thanks to dedicated volunteers, was restored to its glory days.
Although they still need to raise $50,000 the group hopes to soon be able to install a light in the lantern room and finish the restoration of the lighthouse and the stations oil house. Donations can be sent to the Sandy Neck Lighthouse Restoration Committee, P.O. Box 147, Barnstable, MA 02630.
This story appeared in the
August 2007 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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