fb-pixelScituate lighthouse gets a million-dollar face-lift - The Boston Globe Skip to main content

Scituate lighthouse gets a million-dollar face-lift

‘People travel hundreds of miles to see it.’

Bob and Julie Gallagher live at the historic Scituate Lighthouse, which is undergoing renovation. It was built in 1811 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, and the lantern room was last renovated 93 years ago.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

SCITUATE — The big renovation at her unusual, landmark home here has not yet begun, so Julie Gallagher invites me into her living room and talks about what it is like to live in the most famous house in town.

It’s a cozy place — warm and inviting — and the view of the Atlantic Ocean that laps against the seawall just steps from her front door is a real estate agent’s dream, the stuff of glossy color photographs.

When they applied to live here in 2009, Julie and Bob Gallagher could only imagine the adventures that would accompany life in a lighthouse — to be the 19th lightkeepers since Scituate Light’s beacon began to sweep the restless sea in 1811.

Advertisement



Crews have removed the 92-year-old lantern room from the top of the structure for the restoration. David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

”Oftentimes in the summer, people will knock at the door and ask to use the bathroom,” she told me the other day as Scituate Harbor sparkled under a pale late-winter sun. ”Brides ask to use the bathroom.

”The town owns the lighthouse,” she explained. ”We live here. And we are required to be the ambassadors.”

And what an ambassadorial posting it has been.

The stuff of local lore and warm memories that stretch to the far-off blue horizon where the sparkling ocean meets the cobalt sky.

And now, it’s time to spruce up the old place.

Crews have removed the 92-year-old lantern room from the top of the nation’s 11th oldest lighthouse. A new lighthouse top is being fashioned off site.

And, the other night, local selectmen awarded a $1.1 million contract to a Peabody construction company, Campbell Construction Group LLC, which will place staging around the tower, rebuild its core, and reconstruct the lighthouse’s top.

”Due to exposure to the salt elements over many, many years, the lantern room structure was severely deteriorated and at risk of toppling over,” said Rick Pomroy, project manager for Pomroy Associates, which has been hired to manage the project.

Advertisement



”So, the town made the decision to have the lantern room removed to prevent it from falling and injuring anybody.”

Pomroy said he and his company have learned how much passion people have for the lighthouse.

”And not only from the town but the whole Eastern Seaboard,” he said. ”It is a national landmark. People travel hundreds of miles to see it.”

And what a sight it is. An ageless symbol of seafaring New England. A silent sentinel atop a rocky outcropping.

Aryner Rodriguez with Mass Bay Tree of Whitman dangled from underneath the lighthouse during the removal of the lantern room on Oct. 2, 2022.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

The picturesque backdrop for brides and grooms, teens on prom nights, and moms and dads walking by the seashore, holding the hands of their little kids who gaze out to sea to watch the sailboats and the freighters.

The Gallaghers seem to know how lucky they are to have become the latest stewards of the place. Some 100 people applied for the lightkeeper job that they got.

”The lantern room has been in place since 1930 and it’s getting on 90 years,” Bob Gallagher told me. ”I’m beyond excited to get the new copper and the improved electric sources.”

He knows every corner of the place.

”I vacuum the light,” he said. ”I fight the spiders about every two weeks. It’s me against the spiders, doing battle.”

And now, a battalion of contractors will be joining that fight as construction begins. Work is scheduled for completion shortly after Labor Day.

”There’s a great old note here that says, ‘The town will be judged by the quality of its public buildings.’ I try to bottle this up,” Gallagher said. ”I try not to get too effusive about it. But, yeah, it really matters. To take care of it. To be a good custodian.

Advertisement



”All of that matters. For people who visit here, that might be the only time they come. And there’s something about this place that can really grab you.”

It certainly has grabbed the citizens of this picturesque town — people who consider the lighthouse a municipal treasure, a local legacy to polish and preserve, and to show off to visitors from Florida — or France.

There is a romance about the place. And a magnetism.

And a monument of local identity and pride.

”When we told our family we were going to live here, they just couldn’t believe it,” said Julie Gallagher.

Their daughter Haley was just 8 when they made the move to the edge of the ocean.

”She said, ‘I don’t want to move,’ and my husband said to her, ‘You’re going to meet people from all over the world.’ And he had her. She was hooked,” said Julie Gallagher.

And that promise has held true.

People from all over the world have found their way to the doorstep of the lighthouse.

To watch its steady beam. To patrol its rocky grounds, carefully hopscotching their way along the breakwater that stretches out into the harbor.

”We are tenants at will. It’s open-ended,” Julie Gallagher said. ”We can stay as long as we like. We are happy to represent the town. My husband says they’ll carry us out feet first.”

Advertisement



But if ever that happens, it won’t be for a long time.

Project manager Richard W. Pomroy walked around the Scituate Lighthouse. The $2 million restoration is a work in progress. David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

The lighthouse isn’t going anywhere. And, shortly, it will shine anew at its post here on the edge of Scituate Harbor.

”They’ll put the new top on and it will be beautiful,” said Julie Gallagher. ”It’s wonderful. There are no downsides. We’re surrounded by the ocean. The sunrise from our bedroom window is amazing. We’re honored to be here and do this job.

”It’s not like the old days when you had to carry the whale oil to the top. When the light goes out, as it has over the years, we simply call an electrician.”

Not even the summer crowds can dampen their experience of this life measured by tidal charts.

”They can wake us up, and we don’t like that,” Julie Gallagher said. ”They’re always shocked that people live here, and they might be trying to sleep.

”But then you can also hear the seagulls. And that sound comes right down to us,” she said.

”And it’s very, very cool.”


Thomas Farragher is a Globe columnist. He can reached at thomas.farragher@globe.com.