Rich Cucé has taken on restoration of the decaying Hooper Island Lighthouse after buying it at auction for $192,000. “Why” might you ask? The same reason we all look longingly at the Chesapeake Bay and wonder, “What if?”
Cucé has always been interested in restoring historic properties. “There’s not much more historic than a 120-year-old lighthouse in the middle of the Bay. Some folks think I’m crazy to take on such a project, suggesting maybe I’ve romanticized the idea a little too much.”
The new lighthouse owner has always worked in the industrial painting business and worked with various metal structures as well as having rebuilt old houses.
“Hooper Island Light is basically a tall iron house, so I think it is a perfect project for me to take on,” he says.
The first thing on Cucé’s punch list is an inspection of the lighthouse to determine what needs to be done. “We’ll also build a dock for easier access from the water and to serve as an area for loading equipment and materials,” he says.
Because of his extensive experience, he believes that exterior restoration will be the easiest part for him; he has “the knowledge, equipment, and experience to do it, even though it is a large job.”
And the hardest part? “I think just getting out there and back and on and off the lighthouse during rough weather will be the hardest. I am a naturally optimistic person, so I am trying to expect the worst; but also, in many ways, I don’t know what to expect!”
Cucé hopes that by 2024 the 65-foot lighthouse will be open for public tours and special events: “It is my dream to repurpose the lighthouse into an environmental center where people can come and learn about the Bay and the creatures that live in it. That’s why we came up with the mission ‘Restore the lighthouse, Restore the Bay.’”
By Gwen Mayes, edited by Molly Winans