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Inspect, repair the lighthouse immediately

By Staff | Sep 23, 2010

To the editor,

As a former long-time resident of the Sanibel Island Light Station, and an author who has penned a best-selling popular history of the facility, I am delighted that the tower is getting some overdue — albeit expensive — attention. 

The light tower and the quarters need more than sandblasting, metal replacement and repainting. As I’ve related publicly and to the near-deaf City of Sanibel in the past, the underground wrought iron pads that rest on the lighthouse’s concrete footer have not been inspected and refinished since 1923. 

The city should not wait for a funding grant – the buried section should be inspected and repaired, etc., if necessary, immediately! There may be an additional half-million dollars worth of required repairs buried under the sand they don’t even know about yet!

If permissible, under the City of Sanibel’s agreement with the U. S. Coast Guard, when the tower is repainted it should not remain a monotone brown as it is now. It should be returned to its original 1884 color as a day mark – black above the bottom of the lower gallery (at the watch room level) and brown below. It may be addressed in the proposed contract, which I haven’t seen, that there are other details like; the skylights in the floor of the lantern room should have the paint removed that lazy light keepers and later contractors painted over after 1949. 

While they’re at it, the city should begin the process, in incremental stages, of replacing the wrought iron pilings that support the quarters with precast concrete pilings manufactured to exactly duplicate the originals. The new pilings can be painted the same color as most of the light tower to maintain historical accuracy, not coated with the historically-wrong white paint the city applied shortly after they took over management of the land and buildings from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in 1982. 

Before they decided to reach out for buckets of money the city should have considered including, in the scope of contractual work, reinstalling both original porch to lighthouse landing platform stairways in their proper configuration and location. The stairs were removed because of rot in the early 1950s, and modern construction materials would curtail that problem. After the asbestos siding is removed from both quarters, faux cisterns and brick bases positioned, and the compound grounds are devegetated with the final touch of a new like-original perimeter fence, we would get very close to having a Sanibel Island Light Station we could all be proud of.

Charles LeBuff

Fort Myers