Renovation of the Nobska Light keeper’s house is on hold while the US Coast Guard works to remediate contaminated soil on the property.
Beginning this week, Coast Guard contractors will be at the site to remove lead that has seeped into the ground over the years from the paint used on both the lighthouse and the keeper’s house. The site will be closed to the public for the duration of the project, which is expected to take about a month.
In the meantime, Friends of Nobska Light continues planning for refurbishing the house into a maritime museum. Phase I of the construction plan is complete; the structure is now weather tight. This phase included installing a new roof built to withstand hurricane-strength winds; and replacing the cedar shingle siding and the windows and trim. This work, which was completed in the fall, was significantly tested with heavy rain and wind this winter, said Catherine O. Bumpus, the Friends of Nobska Light executive director.
Phase II, which includes interior and site work to allow public access to the museum, will commence when more funds are raised.
The final stage is to turn the former home into a maritime museum. It will chronicle the contributions of the Coast Guard to the community, educate the public, bring the region’s maritime history to life and feature exhibits on weather and navigation.
“The museum planning committee started work in earnest, thinking about what will be of interest to Nobska’s visitors. They sought out advice from a broad range of the community, volunteers, visitors and our professional museum designers,” Ms. Bumpus said.
Stewardship of the lighthouse was passed to Friends of Nobska Light in 2016 after the Coast Guard, its former overseer, licensed it to the town. Restoration work began in fall 2017 with the refurbishment of the 40-foot lighthouse. The work included stripping down and repainting the tower, removing the rust, rebuilding the wooden windows and rehabilitating the masonry that supports the interior staircase.
Perched on a bluff next to a hairpin turn on Nobska Road overlooking the entrance to Woods Hole Harbor, the light was placed there in 1876. It replaced a light station built in 1826. Until 2012 the light keeper’s house served as the residence for the commanding officer of Coast Guard Sector Southeastern New England.
While the museum is still in the works, the lighthouse saw a lot of foot traffic last summer, with more than 2,500 visitors signing the visitor’s log. They came from 49 states and 26 countries. For some visitors, Nobska is the only lighthouse they have ever seen or been in; for others, it is one of many, Mr. Bumpus said. Once the soil remediation is complete, the expectation is to open the lighthouse again to the public when it is safe to do so under the pandemic.
To date the nonprofit has raised $2.17 million of its $5 million goal. When work began on the building the nonprofit learned there was more structural rehabilitation to be done than originally anticipated, costing more than originally planned. Major support has come from the Falmouth Community Preservation Fund, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Cape Cod Foundation, Woods Hole Foundation and many private donors.
Ms. Bumpus noted the world is currently experiencing a widespread pandemic and what that will ultimately mean for the community is unknown.
“What we do know is as an organization the Friends of Nobska Light will continue our commitment to care for Falmouth’s beloved icon. We are proud of what the Friends of Nobska Light have accomplished over the last year and want to celebrate those accomplishments with the community that made them possible.”