Project restores original glow inside Portland Head Light

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Outside, Portland Head Light is the most photographed lighthouse in the world.

But inside, the lighthouse was far from photogenic.

That is, until the walls and stairs in the tower were recently stripped of a coat of crumbling lead-based paint, and received a new coat to restore the structure’s original colors. 

Greg Marles, the town’s facilities director, said the project took a month to complete and nearly six months to receive approval from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.

He said the renovations were necessary because the paint was flaking off and there was mold growing along the bottom of the walls.

“The majority of the time wasn’t spent painting, it was scraping,” he said. “All of the paint was removed by hand.”

The job was completed by Abatement Professionals of Westbrook, and Marles said workers removed the paint without disturbing the brick. The wrought-iron stairs are now their original blue-gray color, and the new coat is expected to last up to 12 years.

It was a $50,000 job, but was completed under budget, Marles said, and the funds came from the town’s Portland Head Light account. 

“They will come back to touch up the paint a little in the spring,” he said. “But it’s too cold for it to stick now.”

The interior renovations aren’t the only recent changes at the lighthouse.

Marles said the bell display outside the Head Light was redesigned by the facilities department about a year ago, and has been changed from a non-historic brick that was painted white, to one made of granite. The bell weighs 1,008 pounds, and was made in 1901.

“I love (working on) old buildings,” Marles said. “They have real character.”

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @amy_k_anderson.

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Cape Elizabeth Facilities Director Greg Marles was in charge of a project to repaint and restore the stairs and walls inside Portland Head Light. He enjoys the view from the top of the lighthouse overlooking Casco Bay after climbing the newly painted spiral, wrought-iron staircase.

The wrought-iron stairs leading to the Portland Head Light tower have been repaired and repainted to restore their original appearance.

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