Isle Royale and Eagle Harbor lighthouses receive state grants for building rehabilitation

Two U.P. Lighthouses received grants to rehabilitate.
Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 7:45 PM EDT
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EAGLE HARBOR, Mich. (WLUC) - The Rock of Ages Lighthouse off of Isle Royale is one of two U.P. lighthouses to benefit from grants from the Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program (MLAP).

The program stems from the Michigan Historic Preservation Office (MHPO).

Constructed in 1907 and first manned in 1908, the lighthouse became automated in 1977 and was left to the elements. Since 2015, the Rock of Ages Lighthouse Preservation Society (ROALPS) has worked to reopen it.

“We were founded to restore Rock of Ages Lighthouse and to eventually open its doors to the public for the first time,” said ROALPS Executive Director David Gerth. “That is our ultimate goal.”

The society received $46,000 in MLAP grant money, which they matched with a required 50% contribution of $23,000. ROALPS plans to hire a contractor to paint the exterior, which will allow interior work to continue by halting water infiltration.

“This is very specialized work,” continued Gerth. “There aren’t many people out there that paint lighthouses, especially remote ones like this on Lake Superior. It’s really hard to get out there. Just the sheer difficulty of getting out to the lighthouse is quite the task.”

ROALPS hopes to have the lighthouse open in two to three years.

Meanwhile, the Keweenaw County Historical Society (KCHS) is moving forward at the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse. Built in 1871, the bricks of the lighthouse are beginning to deteriorate, especially the painted bricks facing the lake.

“It’s been painted since 1913 because the sailors wanted to have a contrasting color to our red brick,” said KCHS Vice President Karen Hintz. “Because of brick and the way it is, and when the paint has adhered to it, it has a lot of moisture problems that cause deterioration.”

The KCHS received $60,000 dollars, with a match of $39,000, which will be partly used to replace the bricks. It will also be used for roof water diversion and interior renovation, among other improvements.

However, the work on the lighthouse will continue for much longer.

“It’s a continuing project,” added Hintz. “We’ll always have a plan for the next thing we’re going to do. Because when you have a 150-year-old building, there is always a need for upkeep.”

For more information on ROALPS and their work on the Rock of Ages Lighthouse, check out their website by clicking here.

For additional information on the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse and the KCHS, check out their website by clicking here.