Four Light Stations At Apostle Islands National Lakeshore To Be Restored

The Michigan Island Light Station is one of four light stations at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore that are in line for some restoration work. NPS photo.

Fans of lighthouses can start counting down the days until four more light stations at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore have been restored to a certain degree.

Already the National Park Service has restored the Raspberry Island Light Station, although the work planned for the Michigan, Devils, Outer and Long Island light stations is not expected to be quite as extensive. Back in 2007 a $1.3 million restoration of Raspberry Island Light included a new roof and foundation repairs. Inside, half of the station appears much as it did in the early 1920s when Lee Benton was its keeper, while half provides housing for park personnel.

Landing the contract for the work on the other four light stations is C3, a general contractor based in Greenwood Village, Colorado. The principal sub-contractor will be KBK Services Inc. That company is owned by a third-generation family-owned business in Ashland, Wisconsin. "They have many employees who are direct descendants of early settlers and Native American tribal members and have a strong commitment to the preservation of our local cultural heritage and the history of the Apostle Islands," said lakeshore officials in a release. "They also were the prime contractor on the restoration of the Raspberry Island Light Station.

The restoration work will begin later this month, but be limited to Michigan Island and will include historic landscape restoration. This is being done both so visitors will see the station area as it was when in use and to improve the Aids to Navigation sightlines for boats and ships that the light and Tower are still used for.

The work is expected to start the week of September 17 and last through November. During this time, and again when construction begins next year, access to the dock and light station grounds on Michigan Island will be closed.

Next spring the work will resume and address the highest priority light station preservation needs in the park and will concentrate on four light stations. Much of the focus will be on Michigan Island, with work on the Old Tower to bring it to a standard that will allow the public to have access to it with interpretive exhibits. Work on the other buildings on Michigan will consist of reroofing, exterior painting, stabilizing brick exteriors and repairing windows and doors.

* On Devils Island, the concrete footing of the tower will be repaired, along with exterior repair work, similar to Michigan’s, on the Keeper’s Quarters, Assistant Keeper’s Quarters and the Fog Signal Building.

* On Outer Island, the Tower will have its masonry re-pointed and painted. The Keepers Quarters and Fog Signal will also be worked on.

* On Long Island, the footings on the La Pointe Tower will be repaired.

In all of the buildings an effort is being made to improve the ventilation to prevent further deterioration from the damp climate. While this work will not restore any of the light stations to fully original condition, it uses targeted rehabilitation and stabilization to improve the building and site conditions and the visitor experience. No work under this contract will be done at either Raspberry Island or Sand Island, although historic preservation at those sites remains a high park priority. The main building at the Raspberry Island Light Station was restored in 2005-6, and park staff have made significant improvements to most of the outbuildings there since that time.

A major project to restore the historic Raspberry Island Boathouse will begin in late 2013, with approximately a third of the funding having been raised by the Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Aside from Raspberry, the historic Sand Island Light Station is in the best condition of any of the park’s lights. While this contract doesn’t include any work at Sand Island, NPS historic preservation crews plan to do work on the light station next year, including reroofing.

As work over the next two years moves from island to island, the lakeshore will keep the public informed of necessary closures as far in advance as possible. While the NPS regrets the inconvenience to visitors, this work will significantly improve the condition of park light stations and ultimately enhance the visitor experience. All work is expected to be completed by the end of 2013, although considering the vagaries of Lake Superior and weather, this is subject to change.

Apostle Islands is sometimes described as the "Holy Grail" for lighthouse buffs. Nowhere else in the country can you find such a wide variety of lighthouses in such a compact area.