WELLFLEET, Mass—Cape Cod National Seashore Superintendent Brian Carlstrom announces that the rehabilitation of Highland Light in Truro will commence in late summer or early fall, allowing national seashore education partner Eastern National to offer tours starting in April 2019 and in the months leading up to the start of construction. Initial plans called for the tower to be closed for the entire 2019 operating season, which runs from April to mid-October.
“This is an extensive project with significant contracting,” said Carlstrom. “Since we know the contract won’t involve on-site work until after the height of the visitation season, it makes sense to keep the tower open and tours operating for as long as possible.” Highland Light is one of the national seashore’s most iconic historic structures. Over 30,000 people climbed the light and visited the Keeper’s Shop and exhibits in 2018.
This will be the first major rehabilitation project at the lighthouse since the United States Coast Guard conveyed it to the National Park Service in 1998. The rehabilitation follows several years of analysis by preservation specialists and engineers who determined that accelerated deterioration of the lighthouse—evidenced by exterior cracks, spalling bricks, and corrosion—is due to excessive moisture caused by changes to the tower’s ventilation system. Ventilation was a critical design element of the 1857 lighthouse. Three rings of masonry walls and air space in the lower tower area facilitated air being drawn up toward the vent at the top of the lighthouse. When the lighthouse was relocated back from the eroding cliff in 1996, these air spaces were filled with a cement-like material to provide stability during the move. This action, combined with layers of non-breathable coatings applied to the exterior, significantly reduced venting, promoting excessive moisture, and causing deterioration to the masonry tower and corrosion to its metal components.
During the rehabilitation project, venting will be reestablished; masonry will be repaired; exterior coatings will be removed and a new breathable coating applied; windows will be replaced; corroded elements will be repaired or replaced; and safety improvements will be made. The project is funded by National Park Service funds aimed at reducing the agency’s deferred maintenance backlog.
Once the contract start date is determined, announcements will be made via social media, the national seashore’s website, and Eastern National’s Highland Light website.