One of the country's oldest lighthouses has gone dark — at least for now.

The lantern room at the top of the Scituate Lighthouse was removed Thursday after an inspection uncovered severe corrosion that threatened the stability of the glass enclosure that contains the lighting system.

"We pulled some of the trim boards off and looked at how it was attached to the actual tower of the lighthouse. It was really in bad shape," said Robert Chessier, acting president of the Scituate Historical Society. "The copper was deteriorated, and we had saltwater get in, and it actually rotted away the bars that went into the concrete underneath. So, it was basically not held on by much. We were afraid it was going to blow off."

After receiving a condition report by the architectural preservation firm Spencer Preservation Group, the town of Scituate enacted an emergency order and set aside $2 million for the renovation work. Pomroy Associates was hired as the project manager and a construction crew with Cenaxo LLC removed the lantern room with a crane, depositing it near the light keeper's house for future inspection.

The tower was temporarily closed to visitors so workers could complete the removal. It is expected to reopen within a week.

Scituate Town Administrator Jim Boudreau said he was glad the removal operation was a success.

"It didn't fall, it didn't break, it didn't drop," he said. "So, we're off to a good start."

The lighthouse tower was built in 1811. Coincidentally, removing the top brings the lighthouse closer to one of its earlier configurations. According to the Scituate Historical Society, a previous lantern room was removed in 1860 after the contruction of Minot's Ledge Light in Boston Harbor. The town acquired the lighthouse from the U.S. government in 1916 and built the just-removed lantern room in 1930.

Three people stand at the top of a lighthouse, one standing on the ledge outside the glass-window dome that houses a lantern, and the others standing inside.
Several workers inspect the lantern room at the top of the Scituate lighthouse earlier this year.
Courtesy of the Scituate Historical Society

Still, Boudreau said Spencer Preservation Group will draw up a design with the goal of having a new lantern room built and installed on the tower by next summer.

"It is the iconic vision of Scituate," Boudreau said. "Any time we have a storm, any time people come, they want to see the lighthouse. It's an absolutely beautiful place to be. And we're going to have to work really hard to make sure we keep the project on schedule and make sure it's something that everybody can be proud of."

Chessier said the lighthouse has a colorful history, which includes the story of "the American army of two."

"During the War of 1812," Chessier explained, "the lighthouse keeper's two daughters saw British long boats coming into the harbor. They grabbed their fife and drum kit behind the dunes and played 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' louder and louder and louder. The British thought there was an army waiting for them, and they left."

Chessier says a lighthouse keeper continues to live on the property. The current caretaker of the light is a Marshfield history teacher.

He is one of many lighthouse enthusiasts. The United States Lighthouse Society says it has more than one thousand members and the organization offers tours at many of the roughly 700 lighthouses around the country.