The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society, Inc. has begun the first phase of restoring the historic 1861 Whitefish Point Light Tower. The Whitefish Point Light Tower was constructed during Abraham Lincoln’s administration. It has provided its life-saving beacon for Lake Superior mariners for 149 years, and is the oldest operating lighthouse on the big lake.
Mihm Enterprises of Hamilton, Michigan was awarded the contract for Phase I, restoration of the upper Tower, which had approval from the State Historic Preservation Office.
Phase I of this project included restoring the exterior and interior of the lantern room and watch-room at the top of the tower, including replacement of lexan glass windows with period glass. The watch-room is the large hexagonal room just below the lantern room, in which the light keeper kept supplies and equipment, and wound up the counterweights that turned the Fresnel lens in the early years.
A $40,000 award from the Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program provided about 2/3 of the funding for this project; private contributions and a donation of paint from the Sherwin-Williams Company provided the additional $24,000 required.
Those visiting Whitefish Point will now see clear, fully transparent glass in the lantern room, as originally specified in 1861, replacing the aged and weathered plastic lexan installed by the Coast Guard in recent years. The tower is still lit by the 1968 Crouse & Hinds Model DCB224 aero beacon that replaced Whitefish Point’s longest serving lens, a third and one half order bi-valve Fresnel lens that operated from 1895 to 1968.
Phase II of the restoration will not begin until the summer of 2011, which also happens to be the tower’s Sesquicentennial, is to include restoration of the remainder of the light tower, specifically its iron-pile skeletal structure below the watch room deck, cylindrical spiral staircase, and the foundation. This project is likely to cost more than $100,000; if the Society is fortunate enough to get another grant of $40,000, the organization will have to raise another $60,000 to complete this Phase.
The Great Lakes Shipwreck Society is now offering a unique opportunity to the public by selling sponsorships for this project, by allowing donors to sponsor one of the 88 cast-iron tower stairs located in the main vertical cylinder for $250 each.
This story appeared in the
April 2010 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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