Simply stated, I love lighthouses and the embodiment which they represent - in the present and especially in the past. Living in the coastal section North Carolina, I’ve visited the seven well-known lights (including the grandest of them all, Cape Hatteras, which was the first light I ever visited). I was so amazed by its presence that my husband and I decided to honeymoon on the Outer Banks in 1981. Each year thereafter, we tried to visit a different lighthouse for our anniversary. To me, there is just something “majestic” about these man-made creations.
Where this admiration came from, I can’t truly say. However, I do give much credit to a man who I knew as my great-grand Father: Captain Thomas Daniel Hayman, “Papa Tom” to me. He was a tugboat captain on the Virginia and Carolina waters and worked for the Coast Wise Towing Company. When I was little told me of his many adventures, and other great sea stories. After he passed many years ago, I began looking into his history and discovered that he had served on the Cape Lookout Shoals 80 Lightship in the early part of the 19th century. That led me to research the history of lightships and lighthouses - hence the admiration for their existence and preservation.
Needless to say, my home is adorned with a few lighthouse collectables and the photographs of historic lights. However, I’ve always felt the need to have that perfect statement piece to display, that one piece that possessed the characteristics I admire most about my favorite lighthouses; but I could never find it. That was until I met Jefferson Garvey of “Recycling is for the Birds” at the Farmers Market in New Bern, NC.
Jefferson Garvey is a very humble man with a kind heart. He is a true craftsman with a passion for preserving the history of old structures (such as farm houses, general stores, churches, one-room school houses, etc.) by recycling the materials of these buildings into hand-crafted birdhouses. His business began in May of 2011 and has flourished in the past three years with patrons from numerous states. You will find whimsy and beauty in his pieces. You will also find symbolism if you look hard enough. As an example, he uses an old key as the closure for doors in the back or side of his birdhouses; this represents the thought that you have to “turn a key to open a door.”
The first of his pieces that came into my possession was a “patriot” themed birdhouse which was hanging from a tree located in the historic district of New Bern. It was a “free” scavenger hunt find that he had donated for the “Art Walk” event held that night. I was thrilled to have found it,and it wasn’t long before I purchased a large “two-story” bird house that was almost three feet in height. The wood was from the Tryon Palace (which was the English palace for Governor Tryon during the Revolutionary War period in New Bern) and the tin roof was made from an old farm house located nearby.
I began following the “Recycling is for the Birds” Facebook page and was amazed by his skills in crafting these beautiful pieces, each one unique. As I explored the site for more pictures, I noticed that not only had he constructed birdhouses but there were handcrafted replicas of churches and other buildings he had created as commissioned pieces. I knew then, with his creative style and vision, that he was the one to make my statement piece. But would he attempt to create a lighthouse? This type of structure had not, as yet, been attempted by him.
My first step was to determine which of the many lighthouses possessed all the characteristics that I admired: a Victorian period lighthouse keeper’s house, the light incorporated into the house’s structure; a “Widow’s Walk”; and then it had to have that “look” which reminded you of your childhood(where your family from past generations lived. For me, it was California’s Point Fermin Lighthouse.
The next step was to share my ideas with Mr. Garvey and hope that he would take on the challenge.
On May 23rd of last year, I sent him a photograph and sketch of the Point Fermin Lighthouse and asked if he’d be interested in creating a birdhouse that resembled the light. He was very much interested and agreed to speak with me the following day at the Farmers Market. We discussed the idea and he was intrigued by the challenge. I told him that the only stipulations I had were that it couldn’t be more than 33” tall to fit on a particular shelf and there must be access to insert a working light.
I also showed him a piece of deck board from the USS North Carolina, which my husband acquired when the teak decking under the gun turrets was last renovated, and asked that a portion of the wood be incorporated into the structure to truly create a piece containing nautical history, for the ship is of historical importance being that it entered service in WWII and took part in every major offensive in the Pacific Theaters of Operation. Her 15 battle stars made her the most highly decorated American battleship of WWII. I will never forget the look that Jefferson Garvey expressed when he was standing in front of me holding the plank of wood. Since it was actually on the ship during WWII, he knew he was “holding” history - not just history of buildings from our area, but from something that represented the history of the United States.
Needless to say, he was up for the challenge. I told him that there was no timeline and that I understood many artists need to be in that artistic “mood” to create their best work. His previous pieces showed me that he was very talented and loved each as though they were his children; but I had no idea how focused and precise he would be in producing such a replica.
He began the piece May 27th and from that date to the delivery on September 23rd, he spent more than 60 hours working on this gorgeous lighthouse. Additionally, he signed the piece and documented where the materials originated. In this case, the green wood was from a late 1800s farmhouse that was located in Grifton, NC and the white wood was from a 1927 farm house that was located in Pollocksville, NC, and the tin for the roofs came from a 1927 farmhouse and the glass for the windows and light were from old churches. The decorative drawer-pull in the back of the piece was from a late 1800s department store in the mid-west that’s long gone. Finally, the teak base of the lighthouse is the wood from the USS North Carolina.
This lighthouse replica is a true work of art and definitely that “statement piece” I will treasure forever. When examining it, you can’t help but be memorized by the intricate detail: the individual pieces of wood that make up the siding, the tiny spindles that create the porch and Widow’s Walk railing, the window details, the decorative under-hangs, the tiny door knob with plate and I can go on and on. You see something different each time you look at it. There are no words that can express how proud I am to own this piece and how appreciative I am to Jefferson Garvey for taking the challenge to create this beauty.
This story appeared in the
Mar/Apr 2015 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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