On March 4, 1903, the engineer for the First Lighthouse District wrote to the Lighthouse Board in Washington: “At my inspection yesterday of Portsmouth Harbor, N.H., Light-Station, I found the oil for both that station and for the range lights at Little Harbor stored in an old wooden building belonging to the garrison at Fort Constitution. It is very desirable that the oil for the two range lights at Little Harbor be kept in an oil-house at Jerry’s Point, and that an oil-house be provided for the oil at Portsmouth Harbor Light-Station. The estimated cost is $980, $490 for each oilhouse.”
Funds were allotted from a general appropriation that had made for oil houses at lighthouses, and small brick buildings for the storage of kerosene were soon erected at Portsmouth Harbor Light Station in New Castle, and at Jaffrey Point (also known as Jerry’s Point) at Little Harbor. Both of these buildings still stand. Their use for the storage of kerosene ceased in the 1930s as the lights were electrified, and both oil houses were eventually abandoned to the elements. The 1903 oil house at Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse has now been refurbished through the efforts of the Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, a chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation. The oil house will be used to house displays and will be open to the public during the monthly open houses held at the site from spring through fall.
The oil house repairs were carried out in May 2004, by the Campbell Construction Group of Beverly, Massachusetts. This company has performed renovations at 16 lighthouses and related buildings, including Brant Point Light on Nantucket and Point Judith Light in Rhode Island. The project supervisor was Marty Nally. About 30 roofing slates were replaced, some of the exterior brickwork was repointed, some minor wood restoration was performed, and all the exterior woodwork was painted. The oil house, which had not had a door in many years, received a new door matching the one that had been on the building for many years. The renovation was done at a cost of about $5600.
The Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse hold open houses on one Sunday each month from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. This year’s remaining open houses will be on July 18, August 15, September 19 and October 17. For more information on these and other events, see the web site at www.portsmouthharborlighthouse.org.
This story appeared in the
July 2004 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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