The frost has loosened its grip on the soil just enough for building movers and excavators to get to work. They're fixing the foundation of a lighthouse that sat perched over Lake Champlain's Colchester reef for more than sixty years, until the abandoned property was moved to the Shelburne Museum in the early 1950s.
Keith Parker of Green Mountain House Movers explains, "The lighthouse itself is in excellent shape." He continues, "The fellas that [moved the lighthouse here] 50 years ago really knew what they were doing. It was done correctly."
But after more than half a century, now the base of the lighthouse is in bad shape. It needs to be dug deeper into the earth and be better protected from drainage. Cosmetically, not much will change.
Chip Stulen, the director of the Shelburne Museum's buildings and grounds, says, "The main thing they'll notice is the entrance will be different because now we'll have a wheelchair-accessible entrance."
The project won't be finished in time for the museum's May opening. But it should be done by July. The museum plans to use the lighthouse for an exhibit of work by Brandon artist Warren Kimble.
Stulen says, "This year we'll have [around] 20 pieces of his art in the first floor gallery space."
Kimble actually took inspiration from the Colchester Reef lighthouse and used it in a painting, but his work will only fill some of the restored building. The top level will still be a place for visitors to learn about 19th century life on Lake Champlain.
The $130,000 effort was largely funded by the estate of a man whose grandfather once served as the light keeper in the late 1800s. Keith Parker says, "There's a lot of history. It's really nice to see a building saved like this."
With this work, the Colchester reef lighthouse can keep watch over its current home for years to come.
The Shelburne Museum hopes to salvage as much of the stone as it can from the lighthouse's old foundation to use for landscaping projects around the grounds.