Digest>Archives> September 2000

Restoring a Lighthouse

By Chris V. Case


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Au Sable Point Lighthouse restored by Pictured ...
Photo by: Chris Case

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore recently completed a 20-year effort to restore the light-tower and attached double keepers dwelling at Michigan’s Au Sable Light Station. With the restoration complete, the lakeshore is now in its third year of regular guided tours through the structure.

In talking with lighthouse visitors, it is obvious that there are a growing number of individuals involved in light station restoration and preservation activities. In dealing with older buildings, it quickly becomes apparent that each has an individual character and personality. Even though each is unique, there are common characteristics prevalent among those old buildings that require specialized treatment and care. Because much of this care is not found in modern construction, it becomes difficult to find individuals who are familiar with or have access to the information necessary to understand the historic structure characteristics and perform appropriate care and treatment.

With a little guidance, most work can be achieved with basic skills. The following sources provide a wide variety of information through pamphlets, technical bulletins, books, videos, and case studies to successfully perform stabilization and restoration actions.

One of the first sources to investigate is the resources available through the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). The SHPO is the state’s clearinghouse for preservation activities and guidance.

The National Park Service Technical Preservation Services has a website at http://www.cr.nps.gov.

This website not only lists a wide variety of available publications, guidelines and manuals, it also contains a large amount of information that can be immediately accessed and printed. An example is the 15 page “Preservation Brief #39” guideline on Controlling Unwanted Moisture in Historic Buildings that can be printed from the website.

For those without access to the internet, the following catalog publications are available, listing a wide variety of guidelines and manuals for the preservationist.

“Caring for the Past” by the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, contains a resource list of publications including Preservation Briefs and other “How To” guidelines and technical information. This catalog is available from:

Historic Preservation Publications

U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service

National Center for Cultural Resources Stewardship and Partnerships

1849 C Street N.W. NC 330

Washington, DC 20240

The National Trust for Historic Preservation provides an Information Series with concise information on basic and frequently used preservation techniques. Topics cover a wide range of preservation and organizational development issues. Videos and books are also available through this source. The catalog for the Information Series is available by contacting:

Information Series

National Trust for Historic Preservation

1785 Massachusetts Ave. N.W.

Washington, DC 20036

(202) 588-6296

The National Archives also contains Government records from 1880 to 1980 including those for the Great Lakes and Inland Waterways. Write:

National Archives

7358 S. Pulaski Rd.

Chicago, IL 60628


An excellent reference manual for lighthouse managers is the Historic Preservation Handbook (ISBN 0-16-049104-5) for sale by the Government Printing Office. This six-part reference manual covers topics from Standards, Guidelines, and the Preservation Process, to actual hands-on preservation techniques for masonry, wood, iron, concrete, windows, doors and lanterns. It is available as item #91803 for $30.00 from Lighthouse Depot. P.O. Box 427, Wells, Maine 04090 or by phone at 1-800-758-1444. It is also available from the Superintendent of Documents, Mail Stop SSOP, Washington, DC 20402-9328.

By combining a little technical information with the experience and unselfish effort found among lighthouse preservation enthusiasts and organizations such as the Lighthouse Digest and the American Lighthouse Foundation, the preservation of lighthouses is assured.

Chris Case is the Facility Manager of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and as a private citizen he is actively involved in the fund raising and restoration of Michigan’s Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse.

This story appeared in the September 2000 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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