Monday, Aug 1, 2011
On Friday, July 22, more than 200 donors, volunteers, contractors and other supporters attended a donor recognition ceremony and the official ribbon-cutting and opening of the new Fresnel Lens Building at the Fire Island Lighthouse.
The building is the result of more than nine years of planning, five years of fundraising, thousands of hours of donated services and labor, and thousands of dollars worth of donated supplies and materials, in addition to the more than $500,000 raised by the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society (FILPS) for this project. FILPS Founder and President Thomas F. Roberts, III, and Fire Island National Seashore Superintendent Chris Soller presided over the recognition ceremony, acknowledging New York State Senator Owen Johnson for his role in securing an initial grant of $400,000. The Fresnel Lens Building’s contractor, former FILPS board member Kenneth J. Herman, presented more than two dozen special recognition plaques. The FILPS’s Tom Roberts and Ken Herman transferred the key to Superintendent Chris Soller and Stephanie Toothman, National Park Service Associate Director for Cultural Resources.
In her remarks, Toothman stated, “The building and the preservation of the light are outstanding examples of how partnerships can work. I was particularly touched by the pride of the community and all of the contractors and volunteers who worked on the project as I watched them watch the slideshow of the building's construction and the restoration of the light.”
The display building was designed to house the recently reconstructed first order Fresnel lens, which had beamed from the top of the Fire Island Lighthouse from 1858 through 1932. From 1933 to 2000, this artifact was displayed at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Since its removal from exhibition, the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society, National Park Service, and the U. S. Coast Guard have worked cooperatively through a rather lengthy, but steady, process to finally bring the lens back home, beside the 1858 Fire Island Lighthouse. The $360,000 project for the transportation, conservation, repair, reassembly, and installation of this rare, historic first order Fresnel lens was made possible through 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) funding. Several members of the reconstsruction team were on hand for the unveiling of the lens.
The Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society has a long history of partnership with the National Park Service. By 1986, the nonprofit group raised more than $1.2 million to facilitate the transfer of the Fire Island Light Station to the National Park Service and to restore and relight the Fire Island Light.