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Shining Out: Nobska Light Transforms for the Future

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Sam Houghton / WCAI
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Members of a Falmouth-based non-profit recently kicked off a project to renovate the interior and exterior of the historic Nobska Light in Woods Hole.

The project is focused on what used to be the living quarters for the lightkeepers, who made sure the beacon was shining for ship traffic.

No work is being done on the lighthouse tower. Crews are instead replacing the house's windows, shingles, and even making some structural changes.

Part of the building dates back to 1876, including a brick column in the basement that will need replacing.

The overall project is to make the space open to the public as a museum. Catherine Bumpus, executive director of the Friends of Nobska Light, says the group is working with the Coast Guard and Town of Falmouth to preserve the historic building.

Bumpus says the museum will tell the maritime history of the area through the eyes of the people who lived in the lighthouse quarters.

At the time of the lighthouse's construction, Vineyard Sound was a lot busier with boat traffic than it is today. The Friends have logs that show hundreds of boats used to pass by Nobska every day.

This was before the Cape Cod Canal was built, so any boat traveling down south from Boston, or north from mid-Atlantic coast, had to pass by Nobska Light.

The Friends coordinated a renovation of the actual lighthouse in 2017 and 2018. Contractors then repaired peeling lead paint and corrosion on the outside of the tower.

The Friends are now in the middle of an approximately $5 million capital project planned for the museum's opening. Funding will make the building structurally sound inside and out for years to come, and it will fund ongoing expenses for the museum.

In the short term, crews are sealing up the building before winter. Bumpus says preserving this landmark is crucial for the town – not just for visitors and tourists, but also for locals.