Restoration of First Assistant Keeper's Dwelling The First Assistant Keeper's dwelling undergoes restoration.
In late 2011, the interior restoration of the First Assistant Keeper dwelling, the Gladys Meyer Davis Building was begun. Named for life-long Ponce Inlet resident and a daughter of the Light Station's last civilian keeper, Gladys Meyer Davis was born in the small bedroom of this cottage. Visitors can sometimes find Gladys and her husband Earl seated on the front porch telling stories about the Lighthouse Service and the early days in Ponce Inlet.
As always, our goal in restoration is to retain as much of the original fabric of the building as we can while making necessary repairs and upgrades. We try to carry out as much of the work as possible using the same methods that were used in the 1887 construction along with materials that are either identical to or compatible with the historic masonry, wood, plaster, and wall coatings. The majority of restoration work is carried out by the Museum's own Maintenance Department.
Our plan was to restore the kitchen and living room first. The kitchen fireplace required some special care, and the iron lintels that support the arch were removed, cleaned and repaired. These lintels had rusted badly. When metal items such as these become enlarged with rust, the result is a displacement of the surrounding bricks, and parts of the fireplace had to be realigned and repointed.
While restoration work was being carried out on this fireplace, the walls, ceiling, and woodwork of the living room were addressed. All of the walls in this building had been painted in the 1980s with white texture paint. This had to be carefully removed to allow the plaster walls to breathe as they were originally intended. Plaster cracks were repaired, and special compatible filler was added to smooth over any repairs or previous damage to the walls. Our goal is not to hide old damage or repairs but rather to allow the "ghosts" of this history to show through. Wood trim is also treated in this manner. Only loose or cracked paint is removed, and visitors can observe areas that have been painted over without removing the stable paint layers underneath.
In the pantry, the original shelving had been altered by the Coast Guard, probably during World War II. The shelves were removed and their original locations were studied. All the shelf material was numbered so that it could eventually be reinstalled exactly as it had been by the Coast Guard.
Electrical upgrades were made to the building, and the windows were removed and sent out for restoration. The doors, including the living room front door, the pantry interior door, and the kitchen exterior door were restored by Museum staff.
When the kitchen fireplace and hearth were completed, the living room fireplace underwent similar work, while the kitchen and pantry walls were cleaned of texture paint, repaired, and repainted with a special mineral coating. Wood trim in the kitchen also underwent repairs and repainting where needed.
The last part of the work was to lightly sand the floors, stain them, and coat them with marine spar varnish to protect the wood. We were then ready to re-install the artifacts that had been carefully packed away for the duration of the work.
Changes have been made to the kitchen and living room exhibits. In the living room, donations of late Victorian furniture have greatly enhanced this room's visual appeal. The Light-House Establishment keepers were required to provide most of their own furnishings, and although these were usually modest, most families had a few good pieces that had pride of place in the parlor. When you view the living room, note that above the piano and close to the kitchen doorway, an original wall sconce with oil lamp has been installed. On the sofa, you will see an original Lighthouse Service wool blanket.
In the kitchen, note the oil lamp on the kitchen table. This is an early Light House Establishment lamp made especially for use in keeper dwellings. The pair of kitchen dressers are original to the Light Station and were provided by the Light House Establishment for use in the kitchens at this lighthouse.
In the coming months, restoration work on the bedrooms and hallway will begin, but for now these rooms provide an interesting contrast to the living room and kitchen