Since they had to register the lighthouse site with the Federal Aviation Administration, due to its proximity to the Summersville Airport, they contacted airport operators Mary and Jerry Rader, who became interested in the project. In addition to helping get the lighthouse registered as an aeronautical navigation aid, the Raders mentioned that they had an unused airport beacon light that could possibly be used as the beacon for the lighthouse.
"I heard what they said, but I let it go for months, thinking the odds were too small that their light would be usable," Keblesh said. "I kept searching eBay and looking for leads elsewhere, until I finally decided to take a look at their beacon."
Finally, on New Year's Day, the Kebleshes took advantage of some free time to look through the Raders' collection of assorted aviation gear in a hangar. There, they came across a 1942-vintage Westinghouse rotational beacon complete with a Fresnel lens.
"There it was, right across the lake from us, for all that time," Keblesh said. Electrician Ed Wood converted the beacon's energy-gulping 1,000-watt halide incandescent bulb system into a 400-watt multi-vapor system, capable of producing a beam of light that can be seen 30 miles away.
Foundation experts Roger and Doug Gerwig helped design and build an octagonal concrete foundation for the lighthouse, which includes a circular array of 20 threaded steel pins, to which the tower would be attached.
On Oct. 17, a pair of giant cranes from ALL Crane and Equipment Rental "picked the whole thing up and set it in place over the foundation pins," Keblesh said. After a few whacks with a ball peen hammer, "it dropped in place like a giant Lego brick."
The stairway to the light room atop the tower is complete, although some handrails still need to be installed.
"It's 122 steps to the top, with four landings for rest breaks," Keblesh said. In the observation room atop the tower, a three-foot-wide gallery deck extends 360 degrees around the tower, providing sweeping views of Summersville Lake and the Gauley River National Recreation Area.
A smaller lamp room, accessible only to Keblesh and his staff through a trap door, is perched atop the observation room. An 18-inch-wide "widow's walk" platform encircles the upper deck to accommodate the routine cleaning of the beacon windows.
Among tasks remaining to be completed is the installation of safety wiring by the Western Reserve Lightning Rod Co., and backfilling and landscaping adjacent to the foundation. A picnic pavilion will be built early next year and a visitor center is being planned.
The Summersville Lake structure is already listed, along with 750 other U.S. lighthouses, in the current Fyddeye Guide to American Lighthouses, which takes note of its Fresnel lens illumination system and public access to its inner stairway.
The grand opening ceremony for the lighthouse will take place on June 20, 2013, the 150th anniversary of West Virginia Statehood.
"We've got a huge birthday candle for the state," Keblesh said.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.