Trick-or-treaters and visitors to the High Street neighborhood in Brookline this past Halloween might have been surprised to see a ten-foot lighthouse standing on the corner of Upland and Acron Road. The structure, which was conceived, designed, and built by 16-year-old Jamie Hintz, was created to serve as a symbol of our changing climate and threatened shorelines.
A curious, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic high school sophomore, Hintz is a young polymath. He is passionate about topics ranging from maritime history to architecture, and he is also an active performer in his schools’ theater productions.
In the fall of 2017, Jamie joined forces with a friend to construct a 12-foot biplane in his friend’s driveway on Cyprus Street. Inspired by the book Black Dove White Raven, in which the main characters’ lives are dependent on learning to fly, Hintz and his friend decided to build the biplane from the novel as a Halloween project. At the same time that they were working n the plane, Mexico was recovering from a terrible earthquake. This tragedy hit close to home for Hintz’s family, as one of the many sites where the quake struck was the orphanage where his parents first met. As construction on the biplane drew neighborhood attention, the two used it as a vessel for raising awareness and funds for Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, the international organization that oversees the orphanage.
This year, Hintz decided to embark on a similar project for a different cause. After noticing the erratic weather of this past summer, he set out to build a structure that could convey the urgency of the threat of climate change. “This past summer opened my eyes to how the planet is being affected by climate change and pollution,” Hintz recalled.
Lighthouses, as he astutely recognized, are barometers for the effects of climate change on our coastlines. He explained, “Lighthouses are old structures that were built to warn ships of rocky cliffs and reefs. They are excellent markers of where the shoreline used to be.”
“If you draw a line in the sand and watch the tide come in, that line gets erased,” he said. “Lighthouses are that line in the sand.”
Already, lighthouses across the country have been moved due to changing coastal landscapes, including the nearby Gay Head Lighthouse on Martha’s Vineyard.
Hintz says this project was about “promoting sustainability, being aware of lighthouses, informing people about climate change, and having fun on Halloween.” He sourced the lighthouse from 100 percent reclaimed materials they found around Brookline, even down to the paint.
Construction of the lighthouse began in August. Hintz and a friend whom he met while building the biplane spent their Sundays at work in Hintz’s yard to complete the structure by October 27th. The finished lighthouse included a dock, rotating lights, and a lid from an old composter. The marvel proved to be a winning attraction, as over 100 people visited the lighthouse on Halloween. Hintz will donate the funds raised from the project to the National Park Service to further their research and efforts in combating climate change.