Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Rock Island Lighthouse Reopens At Last!

A moment long-awaited by enthusiasts of Rock Island Lighthouse came the morning of Tuesday, June 4th, when a Grand Reopening ceremony took place there, marking the official opening of the fully-renovated lighthouse station.

Renovation work began in 2010 using a combined $1.5 million in federal and state grants, and consisted of a complete refinishing and strengthening of the lighthouse and all buildings on the island, lead remediation, installation of sewer and electrical service from the mainland, and rehabilitation of the grounds throughout the four-acre island including replacement of century-old concrete walkways.

The invitation-only event was organized by officials from New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, which owns the site.  Opening remarks were made by Kevin Kieff, Regional Director Thousand Islands State Parks, who championed the project from its inception, followed by speeches from Rose Harvey, Commissioner of New York State Parks, Harold B. Johnson II, New York State Parks Commission Chairman, and Gary DeYoung, Director of Tourism for the 1000 Island International Tourism Council, all of whom praised the fine work done to restore the station and looked forward to the anticipated economic and cultural benefits to the local community.  Mark Wentling, Founder & Director of the Rock Island Lighthouse Historical & Memorial Association, spoke about the station's place as a work site for former Keepers like Willard Cook and Michael Diepolder, and as a home for the families who lived at the lighthouse with them.  A class of 3rd grade students from LaFargeville Central School also sang "America the Beautiful" for the more than 50 guests and officials in attendance.

Manny & Vicki Jerome, who in 1983 led a community effort to repaint and relight the tower, and who for 30 years since have volunteered their time each season to beautify the lawns, maintain the buildings and raise the American flag in front of the Keeper's house, spoke passionately about the dedication of hundreds of local volunteers who helped care for the station with them over the years.  The Jeromes were then recognized for their service by Kevin Kieff who presented them with a framed 1st edition William Christopherson art print of the lighthouse.  Kieff also named the Jeromes co-presidents of a new "Friends of Rock Island Lighthouse" group.

The Jeromes and all of the speakers then participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the foot of the lighthouse pier to officially mark the reopening. 

Guests were able to climb the lighthouse stairs all the way up to the lantern room to take in a bird's eye view of the station and the surrounding islands, and even the part of the Thousand Islands International Bridge that stretches from Collins Landing to Wellesley Island.

The Keeper's house was given a fresh coat of red paint with bright white trim for the event, and is accessible by wheelchair ramp.  Inside, every room has been completely stripped and repainted while leaving intact period architectural details such as wooden fireplace mantles, sculpted moldings and railings, cast-iron vents, window locks and door fixtures.  Even damaged 36-pane windows have been replicated in exacting detail to match those that had survived the years unharmed.  Each room on the first floor contains textual and photographic exhibits based on the themes of: growth of the Thousand Islands region, history of Rock Island Lighthouse, the lives of the Keepers who tended the station, nearby shipwrecks, and development of the St. Lawrence River as a shipping thoroughfare.  The breezeway and attached kitchen have been converted into an understated, yet well-stocked gift shop offering local history books, plus art prints, mugs and plates depicting Rock Island Lighthouse.  Upstairs, two bedrooms have been repainted and lushly decorated with furniture, mirrors, lamps and flowers to serve as dressing rooms for the weddings Parks officials anticipate will become a popular use of the island.  A third bedroom serves as an office for staff.

According to the new Site Manager, Deb Spry, Rock Island Lighthouse State Park will be open to visitors between the hours of 10am and 5pm Thursday through Sunday from June 6th until June 21st, increasing to seven days per week through Labor Day, and then weekends only through Columbus Day.  Admission to the buildings on Rock Island will cost $3 per person.  Special arrangements have been made with Clayton Island Tours to provide shuttle service as well as specialty tours to and from the island at a small cost, and private boats are also welcome at the floating dock.  Full restrooms for guests are located in the restored Workshop and picnic tables are available for public use.

Visit New York State's Rock Island Lighthouse State Park website for official contact information and the latest details on visiting:  http://nysparks.com/parks/188/details.aspx

Numerous media organizations were on-hand to record the Grand Reopening; here are links to some of their reports:

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Saturday, August 13, 2011

2011 Restoration Photos from NYS OPHRP

Kevin Kieff, Director for the Thousand Islands Region office of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, has provided a new collection of photos illustrating the work down this work season restoring Rock Island.  Several photos illustrate the dramatic transformation of the upper story of the Keeper's Dwelling.  Careful attention had to be paid to removing all traces of lead from the interior before any work could be begin, so it has been a long process.  


Thanks to Mr. Kieff for great pictures of the work at Rock Island once again this year!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Restoration Photos for 23 July 2011

This week Donna Gorrell provides photos taken by her friend Dan around the island, including views of work inside the Keeper's house! It is evident that a lot of work has gone into carefully replacing the crumbling plaster on the walls, and putting up new trim around the doors and windows, while retaining original features like the fireplaces. It is also clear that a lot of work is left to be done!


Thanks Donna and Dan for the "inside" view!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Restoration Photos for 1 July 2011

Donna Gorrell has provided us with a glimpse of progress at the island so far this summer.  Notable changes include historically accurate windows on the upper level!

The tower continues to deteriorate and bidding is scheduled to be opened for the restoration of it this month.


Thank you to Donna Gorrell for sharing these photos! 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Newspaper Reports on Construction Progress

The Thousand Islands Sun newspaper ran a story on June 8 by Pamela McDowell describing the current renovation activity at Rock Island Lighthouse, as relayed by Kevin Kieff, with the New York State Office of Parks, Restoration and Historic Preservation.

Key details include:

- lead is being removed from the interior of the dwelling
- National Grid is installing electricity
- an underwater sewer line is being laid to Fisher's Landing
- a water treatment system will be installed on the island
- the bid request process for restoring the tower has started
- the project is on schedule to complete in 2012
- the end result will include restrooms, a museum, and gift shop

A photograph depicting the tower as well as the house with the porch completely boarded up is included.

Special thanks to Donna Gorrell for sharing this article!

Friday, November 12, 2010

2010 Restoration Photos from NYS OPRHP

Kevin Kieff, Director for the Thousand Islands Region office of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, has provided a collection of photos illustrating the work down this work season restoring Rock Island.  These photos show the severe dilapidation of the interior of the house and also give a glimpse of the excellent results of renovations to the interior thus far.

Thanks to Mr. Kieff for these great pictures!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Restoration Photos for 7 October 2010

New photos showing results of the restoration thus far as the work season as the summer ends.  The house has been reboarded, and the lawns show benefit from the attention they've received.  The total picture is beginning to take shape!


Thanks to Donna Gorrell for these great pictures!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Restoration Photos for 19 September 2010

New photos show progress setting the Carpenter's Shop on its new supports, and activity restoring the Dwelling House.  Doors and windows are unboarded!


Thanks to Donna Gorrell for these great pictures!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Restoration Photos for 20 August 2010

This week's photos show completion of some of the walkways, and the Carpenter's Shop has been raised.  The site of the old tower and the accompanying walkway have been preserved.


Thank you Donna Gorrell for these great photos!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Restoration Photos for 15 August 2010

This week's photos show continued progress on the walkways as well as preparations to raise the Carpenter's Shop.


Thanks to Donna Gorrell for contributing these pictures!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Restoration Photos for 8 August 2010

This week's photos from Donna Gorrell show new forms laid for walkways behind the house and dirt pathways where additional paths will be laid.


Thanks, Donna!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Restoration Work Receives Coverage on WWNY TV

On July 27, the WWNY TV station in Watertown provided coverage of restoration work at Rock Island.  Included in the story is footage from around the island as well as interviews with Kevin Kieff and Dan Pease.  Watch the video above, or read the story online here.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Restoration Photos for 11 July 2010

 This week's photos from Donna Gorrell show close-ups of the house exterior, details of the old well hand-pump, and more progress on the walkways.


Thank you, Donna!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Restoration Photos for 2 July 2010

This week's photos show progress on the new walkway near the dock and gorgeous views of the day lillies in full bloom around the island!


Thanks to Donna Gorrell for donating these photos!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Jim Grabb's visit to Rock Island, 27 June 2010

Jim Grabb, USCG (Ret.), went on a fishing trip to Rock Island with his grandchildren recently, and shared these photographs of the current state of restoration work at the lighthouse.


Thanks, Jim!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Restoration Photos for 25 June 2010

Check out Donna Gorrell's photos of changes at Rock Island in the last week, including the makings of the new dock!


Thanks again, Donna!

Restoration Photos for 18 June 2010

Donna Gorrell, long-time member of the Rock Island Lighthouse Historical & Memorial Association, and summer resident of Fineview, has taken some excellent photographs of Rock Island showing the state of restoration work as well as some of the beautiful scenery around the island:


Thanks, Donna!

Restoration work receives coverage in local newspaper

Commencement of restoration work at Rock Island Lighthouse was recently covered in the Watertown Daily Times newspaper online. Read the article here.

Welcome to the new Rock Island Lighthouse Blog!

This blog has been established as an extension of the website of the Rock Island Lighthouse Historical & Memorial Association. Rock Island Lighthouse, originally built in 1847, is currently undergoing a restoration by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, supported by both state and federal grants. You'll find news and photos as the work progresses right here on this site!