Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Wanna buy a lighthouse?

Lighthouses are a big draw on Lake Superior. In the Apostles, lighthouses (Devil's complex below)are one of the main attractions and the newly refurbished Raspberry Island light station is one of the loveliest I've seen. Previous keepers must have planted asparagus because early in the paddle season a person can usually sneak an asparagus spear or two to freshen up dinner. Often the remoteness and the effort it takes to visit a light is a draw in itself. Anyone that has paddled out to the Battle Island Light, off Rossport, ON, knows what I'm talking about. One of my more insane cronies has even paddled from the Keweenaw, to Stannard Rock Light, on to the Caribou Island Light, and then to the Canadian east shore of the lake. Masochism in its most severe form. Being windbound a couple years back at the tip of the Keweenaw, watching the waves batter the Gull Rock Light (above), had to be one of the finer non paddling days on the lake. Some lighthouse have been sold and converted to popular B&Bs' as well. We stayed at the Sand Hills Lighthouse in the Keweenaw and were unable to get reservations at the very popular B&B lighthouse in Two Harbors. While at the Sand Hills lighthouse I talked with the owner about how he actually acquired the property. I thought about that conversation when I read that the inner breakwater light in Duluth had been sold at auction by the Feds.

Two guys from Duluth, one of which grew up on Park Point, bought the light tower for $31,000. Not bad in my estimation. The light was put into service in 1901 and is a cast iron cylindrical tower, 67' high. The Feds decided they didn't need it anymore and tried to donate it to various orgainzations but the myriaid of restrictions associated a listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the work that needed to be completed, and the fact that a lease needed to be negotiated with the Corps of Engineers, tended to scare the faint hearted away. The two guys that got it, Steve Sola and Matt Kampf aren't really sure what they are going to do with it. “Something will evolve, we’re just not exactly sure what it is,” was the comment that was made.

Good luck to em'. Its a great piece of history, well worth the thirty one large that they paid for it in my opinion. Mr Sola's family owns the South Pier Inn, right on the ship canal, very close to the tower and it should dovetail nicely with that property. I hope they are able to come to some sort of rational, amenable, and equitable agreement with the pile of Federal agencies that have their fingers in the Lighthouse pie. Once again, good luck to em'.


Nan said...

I have no great desire to own a lighthouse, but do wish APIS could come up with some sort of historic leasing agreement with someone or some organization to rehab one of theirs for use as a B&B. If Antietam can manage one of their historic Civil War farms as a B&B, it doesn't seem like it should be such a stretch for someone to do the same for Michigan Island or Sand.

DaveO said...

Like the poor bastards on Isle Royale, Sand Island, and other folks 'touched' by eminent domain, I'm not certain anyone is overly anxious to get into any sort of leasing agreement with any Federal agency. The folks actually 'on the ground' at the parks are great but the cogs of bureaucracy are more than they can manage. Take $500 bear boxes (plus shipping) from California. A local tin bender could make one for about $175 with no shipping that would be identical but we can't do that. Government regulations. Both Michigan and Sand would be outstanding in the B&B mode and generate revenue. I just don't see it happening.

Ranger Bob said...

Funny that you pick those two as examples: both of them were privately maintained for a portion of their existence. The Coast Guard leased the Michigan light station to an ambitious lighthouse aficionado during the 1960s, while the Sand light had a succession of private occupants from the time it was automated in the 1920s through NPS takeover in the 70s. Without these individual efforts, neither of these historic treasures would be standing today.

Nan said...

The other one that would be a good candidate is Long -- that triplex may still be salvageable (it was 3 years ago), it's easily accessible from the mainland with small boats, and there's enough square footage to set it up to accommodate a fair number of guests.