Back To Schedule
Saturday, May 31 • 10:30am - 11:00am
(Architecture Session) Preserving an Endangered Lighthouse: Balancing the Needs of Natural and Cultural Resources

Sign up or log in to save this to your schedule, view media, leave feedback and see who's attending!

A Texas Gulf Coast lighthouse provided an opportunity to explore options for preserving an historic cast iron structure in an environmentally sensitive area. The lighthouse is located on a barrier island that is co-owned by state and federal agencies and operated as a wildlife management area. Constructed of cast iron plates in 1852, the history of the lighthouse is noteworthy. It was dismantled during the Civil War, and then rebuilt in1873. Restoration work on the lighthouse, completed in 2003, included construction of a new foundation, rebuilding the lantern and roof, and applying new protective coatings. However, concerns about severe corrosion of the cast iron plates prompted a non-profit “friends” group to seek our advice.

Our involvement with the lighthouse project began with a review of its history, including documents related to the 2003 restoration work. During March, 2013, we visited the site to inspect conditions and discuss possible treatment options. Corrosion of the cast iron plates and peeling and flaking paint were observed on exterior and interior locations. Several types of corrosion were present, including pitting, exfoliation and crevice corrosion. Conditions were severe in many areas. Based on our inspection and additional research, we developed a report outlining possible preservation treatments, and provided our recommendations for moving forward.

We discussed relocating the Matagorda Island Lighthouse, but cautioned the friends group that relocation destroys the relationship between the historic structure and its site. However, our report acknowledged that relocating the Lighthouse to a less vulnerable site would help to stabilize corrosion and extend its service life.

Mothballing – or temporarily closing the lighthouse – was also outlined. Our discussion of this option emphasized the importance of recoating exterior cast iron in areas with corrosion and paint loss to prevent moisture intrusion. As a third option, we outlined procedures for removing all existing coatings and applying a new primer and finish coat system to protect cast iron plates of the Lighthouse.

For the fourth option, we discussed dismantling the lighthouse to investigate existing corrosion before moving forward with restoration work. We emphasized that understanding the sources of deterioration would help determine the best materials and methods for stabilizing and protecting the historic structure. Disassembly also would facilitate paint removal and repair or replacement of severely deteriorated cast iron plates.

Although the fourth option was the most costly, our report stressed the importance of further investigation, and strongly recommended dismantling the lighthouse. This presentation will review the options that were described in our report, and consider a project that required balancing the future of an endangered historic structure with the environmental concerns of the state and federal agencies responsible for a wildlife management area and limited funding provided by a nonprofit friends group.


Frances Gale

Conservation Scientist, UT Austin School of Architecture

Saturday May 31, 2014 10:30am - 11:00am PDT
Garden Room