National Treasures

Full Speed Ahead: The Storied History of the Nantucket Lightship

Posted on: August 31st, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Written by Laura Wainman, Editorial Intern

In 1936, shipbuilders Pusey & Jones built a lightship to replace the ill-fated, 630-ton Nantucket/LV-117. The ship had been struck on May 15, 1934 by the Titanic’s sister ship, Olympic -- a luxury liner that was nearly 75 times larger than the Nantucket.  Four of the 11-man crew died instantly and three others died later from critical injuries and exposure. As reparation, the British government paid the US $500,000, and along came the Nantucket/LV-112 (one of our National Treasures).

Seeing as it was replacing a lightship that had been cut in half, and would be stationed in the most exposed, remote, and dangerous lightship station on the East Coast (known as a “graveyard of the Atlantic”), LV-112 was built to the specifications of a battleship. At 149 feet long, 1,050 tons, with a double hull made of nearly 1.5-inch armor plating and 43 watertight compartments, it was one of the largest U.S. lightships ever built; built to be virtually unsinkable.

For 39 years, longer than any other Nantucket lightship, LV-112 guided transoceanic traffic, including the Queen Mary, Normandie, and the SS United States, through the dangerous Nantucket shoals. The shoals had been the cause of more than 700 shipwrecks over the years, and even prevented the Mayflower from reaching her original destination at the mouth of the Hudson River.

Crews were required to stay aboard, regardless of weather, and the ship managed to weather hundreds of brutal storms. But no storm was worse than Hurricane Edna in 1954. LV-112 endured 110-mph winds and 70-foot seas which broke the ship’s anchor chain, lifeboats, and life rafts. Its signature safety features, lights and an ear-piercing foghorn, were rendered useless, as water spilled into the smoke stacks and put out the fires in the engine boiler room.


Meanwhile, fires broke out all over the ship. The crew managed to plug holes in the hull with extraneous debris, extinguish the fires, and throw out the spare anchor in order to control the ship long enough to get the ship back to its station. LV-112 finished its shift that night, and was taken in for repair the next day. Once again, she had prevailed in perilous circumstances.

In 1942, LV-112 took a brief break from its station at Nantucket Shoals in order to aid the United States in World War II efforts. Lights, bells, and fog signals were removed to make the ship more stealthy and its vibrant red exterior was painted battleship grey. Two machine guns were installed on its foredeck and a gun was mounted on the fantail.

Renamed the USS Nantucket, the ship was stationed in Portland, Maine for three years. When a German U-Boat managed to enter its territory and sink the USS Eagle-56, the Nantucket helped to save the crewmembers in distress.

Thirty-seven years after it was decommissioned, LV-112 still faces an uphill battle. The ship had been passed from owner to owner since 1975, and maintenance needs had fallen by the wayside, despite being designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989. In October 2009, the ship finally caught a break when the United States Lightship Museum (USLM) purchased LV-112  for $1 and began preparations to tow it home to Boston.

For seven months, volunteers at USLM spent their weekends commuting from Massachusetts and New Hampshire to Oyster Bay to get the ship ready for the tow. Bilges were pumped, temporary lighting was installed, and debris was cleared. A marine survey was conducted to ensure the ship was sea-worthy, which it passed, but the group had no way of knowing what the condition of the steel of LV-112’s hull would look like once they got it out of the water.

Though the hull has been stabilized and her exterior is 95 percent restored, there is still work to be done. The ship’s interior needs to be painted, plumbing and heating systems need to be made operational, and ventilation/fire suppression systems need to be restored.

“I’d say she is approximately 60 percent restored,” says Bob Mannino, founder and president of the USLM and leader of the movement to save LV-112. “Our goal is to have her operational again, so we can take her out maybe once or twice a year for special port visits. Aside from that, she’ll most likely be berthed and used as a floating classroom.”

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

 

We've written about the threats to our Woodlawn historic property before, and wanted to keep you updated on the latest news about the site.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is considering two alignment options for widening Route 1 in Northern Virginia, adjacent to Fort Belvoir -- and both of these alternatives would negatively impact the historic resources on the Woodlawn historic property, a National Historic Landmark site owned by the National Trust.

A privately-owned for profit business, Scanlin Farms, Inc., leases land and barns on Woodlawn -- and although Scanlin Farms’ current lease isn't due to expire until 2016, its representatives have asked the National Trust to commit to extending the current lease beyond 2016. The following is a statement by David J. Brown, executive vice president and chief preservation officer of the National Trust:

“The National Trust’s primary focus is to preserve the National Historic Landmark and to support the long-term sustainability of our historic sites, including Woodlawn and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House. As such, the National Trust must consider the best use of its property at the Woodlawn historic site in order to meet our obligations as stewards of the property and our buildings housed on the site.

“As a responsible organization, we are focused on Woodlawn’s future as a vibrant historic site, which includes consideration of all options for this land. Therefore, we will not renew Scanlin Farms’ current lease that expires in 2016. The lease is not sustainable and extending it would not be a prudent business decision. Once the effects of the highway project on Woodlawn are better understood, the National Trust will consider all options for the property, including proposals from public or private parties.

“The decision we ultimately make with this property will be consistent with the highest preservation standards, the public’s interests and the protection of the historic resources. The National Trust wants to work with the local community and county, state and federal government agencies to ensure the protection of the valuable historic resources in the Woodlawn Historic District and maximize the best potential uses of the Woodlawn property and buildings.”

 

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Washington National Cathedral Receives $5 Million Gift Toward Restoration

Posted on: August 23rd, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

Written by Nell Ziehl, Project Manager

Today, on the anniversary of the August 23, 2011 earthquake, Washington National Cathedral -- one of our National Treasures -- announced a $5 million leadership gift from Lilly Endowment to aid in the building’s restoration.

The Rev. Dr. Francis H. Wade, interim dean of the Cathedral, the Rev. Jean Smith, religion program director for Lilly Endowment, and Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust, participated in the press event and public ceremony celebrating the gift today.

Following the announcement of the grant, the Cathedral’s stonemasons set a newly carved crocket stone into the southwest grand pinnacle atop the “Gloria in Excelsis” central tower, the highest point in the nation’s capital. Today’s repair was the first significant restoration work done on the building’s structure; all work to date has been stabilization and documentation.

“The Lilly Endowment today calls upon all who are able to do their part in joining with us in financial support of the National Cathedral, which serves as a symbol of the important role faith plays in America,” said Lilly Endowment President N. Clay Robbins.

As part of the National Treasure partnership, National Trust staff have provided preservation, fundraising and legal expertise as needed, while the Cathedral plans for restoration. We recently awarded the Cathedral a $5,000 Preservation Fund grant for a seismic study and will continue to raise awareness about the Cathedral’s restoration needs, which exceed $50 million.

“The National Trust for Historic Preservation is proud to partner with both the National Cathedral and the Lilly Endowment to bring awareness to the damage caused by the earthquake of August 2011 and the pressing preservation needs facing this irreplaceable building,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Our goal is to ensure that the Cathedral remains a vibrant and beautiful place of refuge for all people.”

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Vanity Fair: Paul Goldberger on the Fight to Save Chicago's Prentice Hospital

Posted on: August 15th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 6 Comments

 

If you haven't ever seen Prentice Women's Hospital, the Modernist concrete structure that opened in Chicago in 1975, you can head to the Windy City -- or visit SavingPlaces.org, the new National Trust website about America's National Treasures.

There you'll discover that Prentice is much-loved and much-admired, but threatened with demolition by Northwestern University -- which is why the Trust is battling to save it alongside an impressive list of world-famous architects and Chicago-area preservation groups.

This week Paul Goldberger, the Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic (and National Trust board member since 2005) penned a blog post for Vanity Fair magazine where he serves as a contributing editor.  His post brilliantly captures Prentice's significance, and underscores the case for saving the innovative cloverleaf hospital.

Read it here: Paul Goldberger on the Fight to Save Chicago's Prentice Hospital.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Historic Opportunity at Fort Monroe: Fuel Local Economy with Historic Tax Credits

Posted on: August 9th, 2012 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

In November 2011, President Obama created the Fort Monroe National Monument to honor the 193-year-old fortress’s deep historical significance. This place literally bookends the slavery experience in America: In 1619, the first enslaved Africans in the New World landed at what is now Fort Monroe, and in 1861, the fort witnessed the beginnings of the Civil War-era freedom movement.

President Obama’s declaration -- the culmination of collaboration between national, state and local allies since 2005 -- hardly signaled the end of the National Trust’s work there (it's now a National Treasure). In fact, it could be argued, the most important work lies ahead: finalizing the plan for Fort Monroe’s future.

The Fort Monroe Authority and the National Park Service share stewardship responsibility for the 570-acre site, and the Authority has hired a planning and design firm, Sasaki Associates, to develop a master plan that will describe the new mix of economically sustainable uses at the site, including museum, housing, and commercial space.

David Brown, National Trust Executive Vice President and Chief Preservation Officer, recently made the case for rehabbing and reusing the fort’s vast number of historic buildings in an opinion piece published by the Virginian-Pilot. The following is an excerpt from "The Economic Power of Preservation":

Historic preservation is a true economic engine. Researchers have found that $1 million invested in historic rehabilitation produces more jobs, income and state and local taxes than $1 million invested in new construction, highway construction, machinery manufacturing, agriculture or telecommunications. This bears repeating: Preservation beats out new construction in creating jobs -- more and better-paying ones, and ones that can't be outsourced.

This message is especially relevant to the conversations concerning the reuse of one of our nation's most significant historic sites, Fort Monroe, which the president wisely designated a national monument last fall. The site consists of 180 historic buildings that, given preservation's role as an economic engine, should be the building blocks of a new future for Fort Monroe.

So while the future of the fort is being decided, we urge the stewards of this national treasure, both at the state (the Fort Monroe Authority) and the federal level (the National Park Service), to recognize the important role that our historic resources play in strengthening our economies. We urge them to seize the tremendous opportunity at Fort Monroe to preserve our history and revitalize our communities.

Read the full op-ed as well as our April 2012 Daily Press op-ed, A Vision for Fort Monroe, to learn more about the National Trust’s recommendations for historic Fort Monroe.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.