Friends Celebrate Pomham Rocks Lighthouse Restoration
What does it take to restore a lighthouse? A lot of dedication, time, hard work, money and love. Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse in East Providence has recently completed a 14-year effort to completely renovate this historic New England landmark. The official opening was held June 10 at Squantum Association with a “Celebration on the Rocks.”
Pomham Rocks Lighthouse is the only surviving lighthouse of the five that once guided commercial and recreational vessels on the Providence River along the coast of Riverside. Built in 1871 on an island, it has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979. Thanks to the concern and dedication of a local group, Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse, the exterior has been completely restored, electricity has been once again connected and interior renovations have just been completed. The lighthouse will serve as a museum to preserve the rich maritime history of East Providence.
Many individuals helped to make the dream of restoration a reality. Current Friends Board Chair Joseph Estrella watched over the interior renovation process. With a background in construction management, he monitored the day-to-day progress of contractors and directed the hands-on work of Friends’ members in the building and on the grounds, logging in more than 150 work trips to the island lighthouse in this final phase of restoration. “It’s been a long journey made possible by so many people, companies and organizations, not the least of which is our membership, Board and committees,” he noted.
Nate Chace, Friends’ Director of Development, acknowledged the local group’s members – 96% of whom contributed to the capital campaign for the interior restoration. He thanked ExxonMobil Corporation for their continued support, Gilbane Building Company for serving as pro bono Project Manager of the restoration, and Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission for providing a $150,000 grant. With the help of these and others, the group was able to raise $1.2 million to pay for the project and Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse is debt free. Mr. Chace thanked Squantum Association for waiving their rental fee and Save The Bay for providing boat transportation at the Celebration for guests to visit the newly restored lighthouse.
“Anyone who has not been involved in the restoration effort will be very impressed,” he said,” with what a determined group of volunteers can do to bring an iconic piece of Rhode Island history - a working Lighthouse on the National Register of Historic Places - back to life.”
More than 200 guests gathered at Squantum Association to help celebrate the opening day of the lighthouse. They included Donald Doucette, the first Board Chair of Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse and other former Chairs David Kelleher and Jean Zunda. Dennis Tardiff, Board member and the last Coast Guard member to serve as a keeper at the lighthouse, shared stories of his experience at Pomham Rocks with guests. Keith Lescarbeau, President of Abcore Restoration Company, Inc., showed wood samples and before and after photos of the restoration. A canon firing of the Civil War canon on the grounds of Squantum Association marked the start of boat tours to the lighthouse, conducted by Save The Bay. Lighthouse Lantern Sponsors of the event included Save The Bay and Specialty Diving Services, Inc.
Public boat trips to the island lighthouse this summer are being planned by Friends of Pomham Rocks Lighthouse. Dates will be announced when the schedule is completed. Please check the website pomhamrockslighthouse.org for updates.
Board Chair and Captain of the group’s launch, “The Lady Pomham,” which will be transporting visitors, Estrella stated, “For those who visit the lighthouse, we hope you will feel the same sense of pride as we do about what has been accomplished.”