York ME Nubble Lighthouse Restoration Tour by Jim Leslie underway

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CAPE NEDDICK, Maine – Restoration specialist Jim Leslie has worked on over 21 lighthouses, including locations along the Maine coast such as Whaleback, Boon Island and Monhegan Island.

But none of those other projects have been as fulfilling, he said, as working on his lighthouse in his hometown: Nubble Lighthouse.

Looking up at the tower in admiration as he stared out the lighthouse window during a recent on-site work visit, Leslie said he grew up in York, so the Nubble has always been a special landmark for him.

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As the owner of JB Leslie Company Inc., Leslie now has the honor of being the contractor tasked with repairing and restoring the building connecting the house to the tower, replacing the back deck and restoring the windows in the tower said York Parks and the director of the Recreation Department, Robin Cogger.

Ongoing efforts to preserve and restore the popular Nubble Lighthouse were well underway over the summer, Cogger said.

Voters approved $ 42,000 for work, completed in the summer, that completes the fifth phase of a restoration plan.

People protect the lighthouse, and rightly so, said Leslie. Visitors to the Nubble often ask him what he does with a boat, why he goes to the island and whether he is allowed to do so, he said. People even threatened to call the police.

“I tell them, ‘Come on!'” He quipped.

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That day, on his visit to the island, Leslie was accompanied by Cogger, York Board of Selectmen member Robert Palmer, and budget committee chairman Nan Graves, who inspected the new repairs.

Robin Cogger, Director of Parks and Recreation, waits on the mainland as contractors for the Nubble Lighthouse take Selectmen vice chairman Robert Palmer and budget committee chairman Nan Graves to make new repairs on the lighthouse in Cape Neddick on Thursday , Maine, to tour and inspect.  September 16, 2021.

“Old houses are like people. Once you have someone who knows her, you keep her with you, ”said Graves of Leslie, who has been working on the Nubble restoration project for nearly five years.

A tram between the mainland and the island, carrying a maximum of 400 pounds, carried ladders on September 16 so workers could replace the Christmas light holders before the “Lighting of the Nubble” event on November 26, the lighthouse and other buildings that will be used for the Holidays illuminated again.

Nubble needed delicate care

In 2017, the city hired the Groundroot Preservation Group of York to conduct an external condition assessment. The report, which outlined widespread “exposure to the saline marine environment,” was submitted to the Maine Historic Preservation Commission for approval before work could begin.

All work requires prior approval from MHPC as the light station, built in 1879, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Leslie said. The MHPC wants the original materials to be preserved where possible, he added. If wood has to be replaced, it has to be the same type of wood, for example.

Leslie said he had to use careful methods, like sandblasting walnut shells, which removes rust and corrosion from an object without damaging the layers below.

The subcontractors for Jim Leslies Crew, Jake Johnson, Kevin McNamara and Greg Odiorne, carry their gear after work at the Nubble Lighthouse on Thursday, September 16, 2021 in Cape Neddick, Maine.

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Phase 1 included external work on the keeper’s house, the connecting building to the lighthouse, the red generator building and the small white keeper’s workshop. The work included replacing and repairing rotten or damaged wood, renewing some of the cladding work, repairing and replacing the gutters, and repairing the foundation.

The original gingerbread ornament was too lazy to fix, so an exact replica of the cedar was made in the company’s shop and brought across the water to be installed.

For this work, Leslie was awarded a $ 103,000 contract with funds already approved by voters and coming from the proceeds of the Sohier Park Gift Shop.

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In phase 2, the old paint was removed and the lighthouse itself, which was made of cast iron with a brick interior, was repainted, the railing around the lamp was replaced or repaired and some interior work was carried out on the workshop building. Funding for Phase 2 will also come from gift store income, a total of $ 135,000 for the work.

Phase 3 brought in new roofs for all buildings, structural repairs in the keeper’s workshop, replacing windows, and rebuilding the picket fence – which cost about $ 80,000, Leslie said. At this point, Leslie’s team also installed a flagpole and celebrated by hoisting the traditional skull and crossbones flag. The flag was only hoisted for about an hour before people complained to the town, Leslie said.

Old pieces of wood from the picket fence outside at the Nubble Lighthouse are in the warehouse.  The fence was replaced during the third phase of the restoration plan.

Originally from the Oakland Raiders soccer team, the flag was about 3 feet by 5 feet and says “Commitment to Excellence,” Leslie said.

“It was a commitment to excellence … even though they were the bad boy team in the NFL,” said Leslie.

For months, Leslie had waved a tiny version of the same flag on scaffolding while they made major repairs. It is less visible and therefore less of a thorn in the side, he said.

The tradition of hoisting a skull and crossbones flag began about three years ago when a Leslie employee brought it to work. Now they take it to every lighthouse they’ve worked on since, about nine lighthouses and more, Leslie said.

“We just laugh about it,” he said.

The glass of the original porthole in the battery room of the Nubble Lighthouse was replaced during the fourth phase of a restoration project.

In Phase 4, Leslie’s crew painted and repaired the inside and outside of the house, replaced glass windows, painted the battery room in the tower, and replaced glass in portholes, which cost about $ 45,000, Leslie said.

Leslie said he wasn’t sure what projects will be happening next summer. He anticipates that the next phase of the plan will not be a “phase” anymore, it will likely just be routine maintenance and preservation.

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In the coming weeks, Cogger said the department will be working to prioritize items for next summer.

“We expect to move projects into the ongoing maintenance line of the operating budget unless we identify a project that is more capital-intensive,” said Cogger.

Branda Knapp, chairman of the Sohier Park Committee, said the committee recently met to assess its goals for the park.

A public safety project proposed in 2007 but submitted when the country entered recession the following year is being re-examined by the committee, Knapp said.

The Nubble Lighthouse is currently undergoing a restoration and conservation project.  In the summer of 2021, the city of York completed the fifth stage with the restoration of the windows.

The committee wants to be able to create some kind of walkway in Sohier Park so people can walk around safely, Knapp said. The proposal was approved by the Electoral Committee and the Planning Committee at the time, but the committee needs to modernize its plan to keep up with current city laws, Knapp said.

In addition, Knapp intends to work with Leslie on a 15-20 year maintenance plan to ensure the lighthouse’s upkeep.

“The Nubble is special in people’s hearts and minds,” she said. “It’s something special thanks to several generations who decide to come year after year.”

Recently, a woman named Katharine Winter died and donated $ 50,000 from her estate to the friends of Nubble Light, Knapp said. The donation is to be used for all work.

“We are very blessed that people love their lighthouse,” said Knapp.

Leslie said he plans to write a book about all of the adventures he has accumulated over the course of his career and if he can no longer do the work he will stop working, even though his wife would like to have retired today walk.

“It’s hard to give up, it really is,” said Leslie.


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