To be completely candid, there really is no "us" here. American Lawn Lights is the legal "DBA" (Doing Business As) name for Steven Wright. I'm the sole proprietor / small business owner / artisan / crafter / photographer and web site designer. I'm a relatively down to earth guy who wanted something fun to retire to after serving 25 years as a police officer.
Having been a Birder as well as an American History buff I accidentally became hooked on lighthouse history in 1993. While touring Virginia's Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on a spring vacation, my wife Beth and I hiked the refuge's Lighthouse Trail. Anticipating scenic views and nature we also got our first close-up visit to the Assateague Lighthouse. The majestic 142 foot tower had recently been repainted and was not showing any sign of aging to my inexperienced eye. That's when we discovered that the lighthouse had actually been completed in 1867- with construction starting just before and being suspended by the Civil War! Until that point I had never paid much attention to lighthouses or realized just how historic they are. Bad puns aside, I'd now seen the light! Researching lighthouse history and visiting lighthouses became our new hobby and soon grew into more of an obsession for myself.
If you've ever visited Chincoteague Virginia when it's not swarming with mosquitoes and tourists I think you'd agree it is one of the most beautiful and relaxing places in the world. Returning home to the stress of police work, a rotating schedule and also serving as a volunteer firefighter, I was soon looking for a way to recreate the relaxed mood from our vacation. Using an exterior light fixture and my woodworking skills, my very first replica of the Assateague Lighthouse was erected to light a small backyard pond that summer. It was, by comparison to my current replicas, a crude structure but it still succeeded to remind us of one of our favorite places. Additional lighthouse replicas were soon "established" on our front lawn - the Stratford Point Lighthouse (the first tower we ever climbed) and the Drum Point Lighthouse with its spidery looking "screw pile legs".
Always having been something of a perfectionist, our lawn lights continued to be upgraded or replaced as I developed better construction methods and improved materials. I learned from experience that using steel for gallery supports added more authenticity than I wanted when they started to create rust stains. After years of exposure I found that cedar doesn't rot like pine does or warp the way pressure treated lumber does. I invested in a power planer, jointer and wood lathe so I could mill and shape rough sawn cedar lumber into highly detailed replica lighthouses. After another year of research and perfecting my construction methods, I established American Lawn Lights in June, 2004 and started plotting my retirement from civil service. I "pulled the pin" (cop talk for retiring) in August 2005 and became a full time crafter (although I'm still a volunteer firefighter as well as a fire investigator for the county arson task force).
In 2006 I took my show on the road and started exhibiting at various Arts & Crafts, Home & Garden, Boat and Large Scale Garden Rail Road Shows. Often hearing my customers say "That's too nice to go outside, I want it for indoors" I restructured my production to include Pine Wood Replicas. While not a suitable wood for outdoor use, pine is fine for indoors and is more cost effective as I don't have to weather seal indoor replicas. You will note that my replicas now have two prices listed with the Pine price being 25 to 40 percent less expensive than the Cedar version.
By now you've probably realized that I don't mass produce my replica lighthouses. Each replica is handcrafted and built to order. I strive to recreate the actual lighthouses as closely as I can and each replica is signed and numbered. Similar to wildlife decoy carvings, my replica lighthouses have the potential to become collectors pieces due to their extensive detail and limited production.
My wife and I are members of the American Lighthouse Foundation and support their efforts to preserve our lighthouses and their history. We have been pleased to support individual lighthouse preservation groups by providing American Lawn Lights lighthouse replicas for their fundraising events. These non-profit groups receive a 50% discount on replicas of their lighthouse used for lighthouse preservation fundraising.
I've often joked that as a kid I couldn't decide whether I wanted to be a cop or a fireman - so I did both. Now that I've completed one of those careers I have the time and opportunity to spend hours in the shop doing work that I love. Developing, constructing and finishing replica lighthouses always provides the satisfaction of seeing the results of my labor. That I can provide fellow lighthouse lovers with highly detailed replicas of the lighthouses that are close to their hearts just adds to that satisfaction.