You Can Help Save Our Lights!

The iconic Thacher Island Twin Lights have graced the Cape Ann, Massachusetts coast for more than 160 years, historic beacons of beauty for all to enjoy.

But the harmful effects of harsh weather and salty ocean air have taken a toll, and the lighthouses now require extensive reconstruction if they are to continue to stand tall and remain open to visitors.

The Thacher Island Association (TIA) has launched a $400,000 Capital Campaign to fund the crucial repairs.

The Challenge

The Cape Ann Light Station on Thacher Island off the coast of Rockport, Massachusetts is home to the only two operating twin lighthouses in America. Completed in 1861, the North and South Towers are constructed of solid granite on the outside and a two-foot thick inner wall of brick. Each block of granite weighs over 10 tons.

The Twin Lights are each 124 feet high. Historically, a highlight for most visitors to Thacher Island has been climbing the 156 steps to the top to walk around the observation decks for spectacular 360 degree views.

Sadly, since a large piece of granite fell from the North Tower parapet in 2016, the North Tower has been completely closed to visitors. Luckily, no one was injured. In response to that incident, the TIA hired ICC Commonwealth (ICC), a leader in the maintenance of tall structures that has performed work on the Twin Lights in the past, to perform an in-depth inspection of both towers.

Close-up of South Tower parapet
Close-up of South Tower parapet

ICC discovered that since the lighthouses were built, the iron rails and their stanchion anchors on the granite lantern and gallery decks surrounding the parapets have been "rust jacking," a process in which the rusting iron expands and cracks the granite blocks into which each anchor is inserted. Over the last 160 years water and ice have infiltrated those cracks causing further damage.

As a result, walkways on the lantern and gallery decks have been structurally weakened. If the situation is not addressed, both towers will have to be permanently closed to visitors.

And because the parapets support the upper portion of the towers, continued disintegration could result in a catastrophic loss of the lights, the lantern rooms and decks, and the gallery decks below.

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Close-up of the gap in the North Tower parapet gallery that was created when a 400 pound piece of granite cracked near one of the stanchions and fell 125 feet. In 2018 the piece was reattached and the parapet temporarily stabilized with a stainless steel corset band.

Close-up of crack on a gallery deck that extends from the stanchion to the tower exterior.
Close-up of crack on a gallery deck that extends from the stanchion to the tower exterior.

The Solution 

ICC has proposed the following extensive work to SAVE OUR LIGHTS.

  • Remove and replace the iron rails and stanchions with new Type 316L stainless steel
  • Replace the walkway granite where needed and perform crack injection on the stone as necessary
  • Install new railings utilizing custom-made flush-mounted stanchion bases

All fabricated parts and repairs will adhere to the US Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Preservation, Rehabilitation, Restoration, and Reconstruction of Historic Properties.

This work is estimated to cost $400,000 per tower. As owner of the North Tower*, the US Fish & Wildlife Service has committed to providing the funds to repair it, and plans to have the work done in 2024.

However, as owner of the South Tower*, the Town of Rockport bears the responsibility for its repair, and the TIA is committed to raising the funds by 2024, so the work on both towers can be performed at the same time, thus reducing expenses by sharing some costs.

Detail of proposed work
Detail of proposed work
Original 1860 Thacher Island lighthouse architectural drawings that will be used to replicate all required parts.
Original 1860 Thacher Island lighthouse architectural drawings that will be used to replicate all required parts.

If you would like to HELP SAVE OUR LIGHTS, please Click Here to Donate, or send a check for your tax-deductible donation to Thacher Island Association, PO Box 73, Rockport, MA  01966. A donation of any size will be very much appreciated. Thank you for your support!

* In 2002, the southern 28 acres of Thacher Island and its structures (which include the South Tower) were deeded over to the Town of Rockport by the federal government. The north end of the island, including the North Tower, is owned by the US Fish & Wildlife Service and managed by the Town on its behalf as a wildlife refuge.