Digest>Archives> Sep/Oct 2011

Dan Hallinan Builds His Own Lighthouse

By Timothy Harrison


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When most people who love lighthouses want one for their yard, they might build a small one from scratch, purchase a blue-print for a five or six foot tall lawn light, or purchase a small pre-made replica of the types offered from one of the advertisers found in the pages of Lighthouse Digest.

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But every so often an individual like Dan Hallinan from Teaticket, Massachusetts comes along who really shows their love of lighthouses and does something spectacular. And that’s what Hallinan did; he did something spectacular. The 73-year old former Naval Officer built a replica of Cape Cod’s Nobska Lighthouse. His replica is the same dimensions as Nobska Lighthouse, except that his tower is about an inch and half taller than Nobska.

Hallinan used 23,000-plus bricks in his construction, all of which were hauled up the rising tower by him and his son. The tower has a 29-step circular staircase that was constructed by his son. The watch room has a seven-foot plus ceiling with an old ship’s ladder that leads to the lantern room, which sports a rotating beacon that was built from a variety of spare parts found here and there. The ten windows in the lantern room came from a hockey rink, and the porthole windows came from an old Coast Guard vessel named the Corsair.

Instead of a fog bell, in the watch room Hallinan has installed a fog cannon. It’s a 1 3/4” bore muzzle-loading black powder bronze Naval cannon. Yes, he’s fired the cannon - something the neighbors are aware of when it goes off.

Hallinan says for the most part he had to build and design the lighthouse from the seat of his pants. But he had some help with the brick tower from a friend, Eugene MacDonald, who Hallinan describes himself as an OLD Master Mason, meaning that as well as being an experienced mason, MacDonald is eleven years older that Hallinan.

Getting the bricks up the tower as it progressed in height was a bit of a challenge for Hallinan. He said, “When I was up seven or eight feet, the trip wasn’t so bad, but as it got higher, I was using a 40-foot extension ladder and it got a little dicey. I figured if I fell at this age, I was going to break whatever it was that hit first.” He went on say, “As it turned out, I only fell once, ending up in a pile of bricks, sand, mortar, tools, and buckets, all of which I had grabbed for on my way down.” Fortunately he was not seriously injured but he was mad, not for falling, but because it took him a half of a day to clean up the mess.

Being creative, Hallinan took the finished project one step further. He has a G-scale train set with a steam-sound locomotive that travels around the inside perimeter, seven feet up. The train travels from the attached building, out through a tunnel and into the lighthouse, around its perimeter and out a second tunnel, and then returns to the attached building.

Hallinan says he did not build the lighthouse for any type of notoriety, but, “to let those elder statesmen who have become Q-tipped couch potatoes to Get Up and burn the surrender flag. If you like lighthouses, build one, even if you never finish it, you’ll climb into bed at night feeling the best tired ever, and then wake up with a reason to get out of bed and get on with it!”

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This story appeared in the Sep/Oct 2011 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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