Digest>Archives> January 1997

Crisp Point Lighthouse added to Doomsday List

Couple leads fight in last ditch effort to save lighthouse

By Bob Hendrickson


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This photograph was taken November 3rd, 1996 ...
Photo by: Bob Hendrickson

What a shame it would be to lose this beautiful old lighthouse.

You can help save the lighthouse by sending a donation to The Crisp Point Historical Society, P.O. Box 229, Paradise, MI 49768.

In an ironic twist of nature, Michigan's Crisp Point Lighthouse is on the verge of becoming a victim of the element which it has long stood watch over.

Located about 12 miles west of Whitefish Point on Lake Superior, the 93-year old abandoned lighthouse stands upon what little ground is left on the northeast point of Luce County located on the eastern end of the Upper Peninsula.

Some say to fight a lake such as Superior from taking what it wants is futile, but a couple from Paradise, Michigan are on the front lines of such a battle.

Nellie and Don Ross, who are retired and recently moved to Paradise from Ohio, came with the intent to take back the Crisp Point Light.

Living at the Old Mill Restaurant in Paradise, Nellie and Don have set up their base of command for the Crisp Point Light Historical Society.

"When we first started this project, we were expecting to put on a fresh coat of paint and a new roof. We were ready for that, but now it is more than we expected," Don explained.

What turned out to be "more than expected" was the rate of erosion that has been occurring at the point.

The Rosses came across the lighthouse by accident in 1988 while roaming the north woods of the Upper Peninsula. They first decided to undertake the restoration of Crisp Point in 1990. Since then the beach front has eroded rapidly and the waves of Lake Superior now break within a few feet of the buildings foundation.

Nellie, who is president of the Crisp Point Historical Society, said that they have obtained a permit from the Army Corp of Engineers to bring in a load of rubble by way of water, but have hit a stand still until someone gives the OK to the National Guard to do the project.

"We need people to write letters to the Governor and get things moving higher up. We've done all the paper work, now we're waiting for action," Nellie said.

"The erosion is not natural," Don explained. He said it is a result of man-made structures built into the lake. Inlet and pier-type structures have diverted near-shore currents which carry sand that naturally rebuilds beach shoreline.

Tom Gardiner, who owns a landscaping business in Sterling Heights, Michigan, came to the point this past summer to see what he could do about the erosion problem. Working and living on a plot of land the Rosses own near the point, Gardiner, along with two others spent time doing what they could, but the erosion continued.

Nellie then contacted Dick Holmberg of Erosion Control Systems, Inc. from Whitehall, MI, a firm specializing in shoreline restoration. The system that is being explored is a patented design called the Undercurrent Stabilizer System.

The system utilizes a series of underwater speed bumps to reduce the energy of the onshore waves. Instead of stopping and diverting the waves, the system allows the waves to come in and deposit the sand that is carried with them.

The other option the Rosses foresee, if the lighthouse is to remain standing, is to move the building to higher ground.

Nellie said she has been working on the project for the past six years with Anne Grassco who serves with the U.S. Coast Guard Civil Engineering. With her help, the society was able to obtain a lease on the lighthouse on August 24, 1994.

On top of the bureaucratic paper-chase, she said it has been hard to get actual work on the structure completed, citing the inaccessibility to the lighthouse due to the half-mile walk to get there. Crisp Point Light is located a quarter mile from the end of County Road 412, which is a seasonal road. For the past three years, the society has been trying to persuade the Luce County Road Commission to repair the last quarter mile, which has become covered with sand. Consequently, it's almost impossible to get any type of vehicle, other than an ORV, down to the lighthouse.

"After a quarter-mile, our property has a road to the government property and the lighthouse. We will gladly make use of our property to make a parking area so the long walk for some will no longer exist," Nellie said. She explained that with road improvement they would be able to bring in many of the supplies needed for restoration and erosion control.

Crisp Point was one of the four original Lake Superior Life Saving Stations. The station was built in 1875 and was put into operation in 1876. The lighthouse was first proposed in 1896 and every year thereafter until it was finally approved in 1902. The land was purchased, fifteen acres, at a price of $30,000 and the deed was dated May 21, 1903. On May 5, 1904 the light became operation.

To get involved in the project, or send a donation which is desperately needed or for more information on the Crisp Point Light Historical Society, write to them at P.O. Box 229, Paradise, MI 49768 or call them at 906-492-3206.

This story appeared in the January 1997 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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