found it had one particular advantage. When handling
historic Fresnel lenses, Spinella said, it is very difficult
to clean the inner angles of the grooves between the
separate lenses. Star Prototype was able to sand and
polish even the hardest to reach corner within the rings.
The lamp’s frame was a project unto itself. There are
only five Coast Guard-approved lampists in the United
States, Spinella said. These are the only people allowed
to touch historic lenses. They make the supports for
lighthouses, including the lamps themselves, the pedestal
on which the lenses sit, and other accessories. One of
these approved lampists was called in for this work.
Spinella built the supports that connect to the glass
himself. He used a waterjet to cut the brass supports,
machined them, and assembled the finished prisms into
the supports. He also installed the new Fresnel lens in the
So what happens to the original lenses now? Legally,
they’re owned by the Coast Guard. They’re so valuable
there’s a Coast Guard mandate that no historic lenses
will ever be put back in a historic lighthouse. Some
lighthouses still have original lenses if they’re in very good
condition, Spinella said, but gradually they’re coming
down and being put in museums. Any new lenses must
be approved by the Coast Guard, too.
Now that it’s done, the lighthouse is once again
maintained by the Charlotte-Genessee Lighthouse
Historical Society and the Coast Guard. Star Prototype did
their part with 13 days of lead time, creating one set of 29
prisms in a variety of sizes and geometries. Their work –
and the work of Dan Spinella at Artworks-Florida -- enabled
the lighthouse to keep shining.