Editor’s Note: Part One of this story about the early stages of the restoration of the Water Works Tower appeared in the May/June 2018 edition of Lighthouse Digest. It detailed the removal and beginning refurbishment of this lighthouse-appearing structure at Presque Isle State Park in Erie, Pennsylvania. Although it may look like a lighthouse, this structure was constructed to house a hoist, which allowed opening of an underwater valve in the event the main water supply pipe from Lake Erie became obstructed. Water from the Presque Isle side of the bay would then supply the town of Erie.
Over the spring and summer of 2018 with the resources of the Dan and Sallie Shipley Charitable Fund, The Presque Isle Partnership, as well as many locals doing gratis and at-cost work, it was possible to complete the refurbishment of this historic structure.
Originally this was conceived as an on-site exterior job fully funded by The Shipley Fund. However, complexity and costs increased when it was decided by Presque Isle State Park officials that it should be moved to a land-based site. The Presque Isle Partnership (a private volunteer group that supports park improvements both financially and physically) came on board with support and additional funding. By moving it to the working Donjon Shipyard with gratis storage and free working access, a complete interior and exterior restoration was undertaken.
The tower was sandblasted and received five coats of marine grade paint, which is the same process used on saltwater vessels. Included were three undercoats, followed by an epoxy top coat and then a final clear coat. The dental work at the top of the tower was not salvageable. It was replicated by Alex Roofing and painted with the same five coats of paint as the tower. The sandblasting and painting was done by Donjon Shipyard with paint donated by Carboline Corp.
The cupola had a steel frame with wood overlay and a top layer of copper which was painted red. After stripping, the metal framework was anti-rust coated. Most of the original wood was retained, and all wood was sealed and then painted. Bright red colored Kynar coated steel main, and cupola parts were fabricated to match the original. The rotted cupola window frames were replicated and then clad in the same red Kynar metal followed by new glazing. The original weathervane was cleaned and reinstalled. This work was all done by Alex Roofing.
The oak second floor was not serviceable. It was decided that expanded metal matching the first floor would be installed to allow viewing of the second floor and the beautiful interior details of the roof. The seized block and tackle (chain fall) was dismantled and returned to like-new condition. This now permits demonstration of the original function of lifting and lowering the valve cover to open and close the emergency water intake.
The move back to the Park began with lifting the tower at the Donjon Shipyard and placing it on a Lakeshore Towing barge. After transport across Presque Isle Bay, it was lifted from the barge by ROGS Erectors and placed on a four-foot deep, round concrete pad which had been prepared by park personnel. This occurred in November of 2018.
The next phase has now begun.
The exterior light plan remains in the planning stage, and more funding is being accumulated to cover additional costs. As soon as the weather permits, they will be sealing the base of the tower to the concrete pad to prevent vermin and wind-blown sand from getting into the tower. A new T pipe with valve cover copying the original has been fabricated over the winter and will be installed under the first floor. This will allow demonstration of its function, adding interest for visitors.
The plan is to paint the interior concrete floor to look like the nearby water from which the tower was removed. Volunteer local art students are being recruited to do this as a community service project.
A circular five-foot perimeter concrete pedestrian walkway is to be installed along with two concrete walks extending from the adjacent boat docks. Grass will surround these features. External signage explaining various aspects of the tower are planned, as well as additional signage to be displayed when the tower is open for viewing.
Presque Isle State Park officials plan to open the tower for interior viewing at which time a docent will be present to explain the tower’s history and to demonstrate its function.
This story appeared in the
Jul/Aug 2019 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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