Slideshows

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.

 

Last week, National Trust staffers took a field trip -- or, more accurately, a tunnel trip.

We descended into the steamy underground for a little-seen glimpse of Washington’s past -- the 75,000 sq. ft. trolley station and one-time fallout station that served DC’s popular Dupont Circle neighborhood until it was closed in 1975. (More on Dupont Underground's history here.)

 
Now, the Arts Coalition for the Dupont Underground (ACDU) -- a group of dedicated architects, designers, businesspeople, and community leaders -- is working to reinvent the unused space as “a world-class center for arts, design, and innovative entrepreneurship.”

Our enthusiastic guide on this shadowy tour was Julian Hunt, ACDU’s founder and interim chairman as well as a Principal at Hunt Laudi Studio. His aim is to get the community excited about the possibilities the space affords and fire up their imaginations about how it can become a civic hub.

 
And fire them up he did. We left our 90-minute tour buzzing about the impact such a vibrant, multi-use space could have on the surrounding neighborhood. The plans call for green spaces, arts, community space, and civic engagement -- all with a preservation-friendly through line of adaptive reuse.

I followed up with my colleagues after the tour to capture their reactions to and reflections on the project, and their comments are as multi-faceted as Dupont Underground itself:

Lauren B.: I would love to see the space used to showcase local artists and for underground art walks, installations, interactive plays, and a haunted house. Revitalizing the trolley tracks would set an example about recycling old spaces for new uses and hopefully inspire similar projects.

Andy G.: I hope that the space is easily accessible by the public without changing the appealing and historic aspects of the above ground Dupont Circle community. I’d like to see a space that is well-maintained, frequently used, and that enhances the connectivity of Dupont Circle.

Tanya B.: Dupont Circle is a gathering space for DC’s homeless population. Why not build on the fact that the underground space had been occupied by many homeless before Dupont Underground got access, cleaned it up, and secured it? Creating jobs with livable wages will help. Can there be some sort of job training attached to whatever employment system gets created with Dupont Underground?

Claire H.: I would love to see the space transformed into a public, cultural center through partnerships with the neighborhood’s museums and embassies.

Dennis H.: When Americans (and likely the rest of the world) think about Washington, D.C., they think of tradition, classical architecture, museums, and partisan politics. Cutting-edge preservation, not so much. But converting the abandoned tunnels into a vibrant, useful space would put D.C. in the global spotlight for innovation.

Ann T.: The tunnels are odd, but quite beautiful in a strange way. It’s hard for me to picture any sort of regular activity down there. So I think I’d hope for something bizarre and new and playful that I can’t quite imagine -- something arts-related or artist-inspired. I was actually most intrigued by the above-ground entrances to the tunnels and the accompanying revitalized public spaces and how they could knit the city together. The quality of the designs for both the tunnel and the above-ground improvements was high and had a real “big city, global city” feel.

John P.: The Tour was almost like being in a sci-fi movie of a great city’s archaeological find and we were touring the find and talking about its history -- what it was and why it was and why it ended. We knew the truth and facts of course, but it was still a fascinating footprint of local times gone by and history.

Priya C.: After walking through the Dupont Underground I can see the space becoming something vibrant, distinctive, and creative. I think that like anything that has been abandoned it has the potential to spur on conversation -- and I hope that it will become a place where residents and visitors alike can gather and mingle. The impact it could have on the city is boundless -- not only as a piece of architecture that puts the city on the map in a modern sense, but also as a way to take old memories of what the underground used to be into the next generation. I know that the project is immense, but it is brimming with possibility and wonder.

And what would I like to see? I hope the tunnels once again connect the city in a thoughtful, purposeful way -- not with trolley tracks as of yore, but with smart planning and people-friendly design. Watching this project evolve right in our backyard is a rare delight, and to one day be able to say “I saw it when …” would be a great sign of progress.

If our experience has intrigued you, we encourage you to stay in touch with Dupont Undergound on Twitter, Facebook, and through their mailing list. You can also join as a volunteer, share your ideas for the space, and donate to the cause.

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.

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi

Julia Rocchi is the associate director for digital content at the National Trust. By day she wrangles content; by night (and weekends), she shops local, travels to story-rich places, and walks around looking up at buildings.

[Slideshow] Lake Placid's Olympic Venues

Posted on: August 6th, 2012 by Elizabeth McNamara 4 Comments

 

Ed. note: The London 2012 Olympics have captured the imaginations and curiosity of the Preservation Nation team (along with the rest of the world). So what better time to visit places from Olympics past? Check out what Preservation assistant editor Elizabeth MacNamara saw during a recent visit to Lake Placid, NY ...

Just seven cities in the world have hosted the Olympics more than once since the modern games began in 1896. London tops the list, with 2012 being the third time Olympic hopefuls have competed for gold in the Square Mile. Back over the pond in America, the summer games came to the city of Los Angeles in 1932 and 1984, and the winter games to the mountain village of Lake Placid, New York, in 1932 and 1980.

I recently joined my family for vacation in Lake Placid and took pictures of the places “where miracles are made,” as they say. Here are some of the Olympic venues that I visited:

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.

 

Feisty oil heiress and theater star Aline Barnsdall would have been pleased to see the scene that unfolded on her lawn at Hollyhock House last Friday: throngs of people sprawled out on picnic blankets, sipping wine, catching up with friends, and watching the sun set over Los Angeles.

I know I was enjoying the revelries. When I received an email earlier this summer announcing the start of this year’s Friday Night Wine Tastings at Barnsdall Art Park, they had me at “wine tasting.” Imagine sitting with a glass of pinot in the shadow of Frank Lloyd Wright’s c. 1921 Hollyhock House, built for Barnsdall, who had bohemian tendencies and an affinity for supporting radical causes.

But throw in the opportunity to tour the iconic house, and I was sold. So last Friday, I drove to East Hollywood and hiked up the hill where Hollyhock House stands, overlooking the city.

 
Before we began sampling the libations, my friend and I lined up for our 7 p.m. tour.  It was quite a treat to be touring the house that night: It has been closed to tour groups since July 20, save for tours given during the Friday Night Wine Tastings, on account of ongoing restoration work at the site. (It is scheduled to reopen to the public in September.)

We were led through a side door and into a small room where we were instructed to put protective booties over our shoes to spare the flawless hardwood floors. Thanks to Wright’s open floor plan, I was able to survey a good portion of the house while waiting for the tour to begin. Sheets of plastic covering the various construction zones blocked some views, but the visible parts were breathtaking. I was excited to begin exploring. ... Read More →

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.

Lauren Walser

Lauren Walser

Lauren Walser is the Los Angeles-based Field Editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys writing and thinking about history, art, architecture, and public space.

Restoration Efforts Continue at New Jersey's Squan Beach Lifesaving Station

Posted on: July 25th, 2012 by David Robert Weible

 

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but 12 years after being purchased by the Borough of Manasquan, New Jersey, the Squan Beach Lifesaving Station is getting closer to being rescued.

 
Beginning in 1848 the newly formed U.S. Lifesaving Service, a precursor to the Coast Guard, began constructing lifesaving stations along the East Coast, West Coast, and Great Lakes to house volunteers, and later, paid employees, along with boats and equipment to aid in the rescue of seamen from sinking vessels. The 1902 Duluth-style structure -- at the time, one of 41 in New Jersey and hundreds nationwide -- represents the third generation of Lifesaving Stations on Squan Beach.

In 1915, the Lifesaving Service became part of the newly formed U.S. Coast Guard. As navigation systems, maritime engineering, and technology improved throughout the 20th century, the beach-launched skiffs of the Lifesaving Service were replaced with long-range Coast Guard vessels and the station transitioned into a Coast Guard communications hub.

 
The structure was decommissioned from service in 1996 and remained vacant until 2000 when efforts by local preservationists and over 2,000 signatures on a petition to save the structure prompted the Borough of Manasquan to purchase it for $1 and set a bond to raise an initial $300,000 for its restoration.

Efforts by the Squan Beach Lifesaving Station Preservation Committee ginned up additional funding for the project, including a $450,000 matching grant from the New Jersey Historic Trust.

 
Restoration work began in December of 2006 with the removal of asbestos. Since then, efforts have focused on the first floor and included reviving the original paint schemes, refurbishing the hardwood floors, and replacing the windows.

The floor of the boat room was also raised and leveled to match the rest of the house and its bay doors were either restored or replaced. Finally, cedar shakes were installed on the exterior.

 
Still, there is plenty of work left to be done. The next step in the process is the removal of the lead-based paint that covers the porches and trim of the entire structure. After that, the roof is in dire need of replacement and the second floor remains gutted.

In the meantime, the community is making use of the structure as a community meeting place and office for the Manasquan Borough historian. The structure also houses a small museum demonstrating the area’s connection with the sea and displaying photos, prints, and objects recovered from local waters by divers. Plans are in the works to expand the museum to include a tribute to the Coast Guard and Lifesaving Service veterans who were stationed there.

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.

David Robert Weible

David Robert Weible

David Robert Weible is an assistant editor at Preservation magazine. He came to DC from Cleveland, Ohio, where he wrote for Sailing World and Outside magazines.