Restoration work continues at historic Rock of Ages Lighthouse
Photo by John Keefover at Keefography, courtesy of ROALPS
Community Voices

Restoration work continues at historic Rock of Ages Lighthouse

When the Rock of Ages Lighthouse Preservation Society was formed in 2008, the historic Rock of Ages Lighthouse at Isle Royale had fallen into disrepair. The society has made great strides in restoration since the work on the grounds began in 2016. With spring approaching, WTIP thought it would be a good time to learn how things are going at the historic site.

WTIP spoke with David Gerth, board chair of the Rock of Ages Lighthouse Preservation Society, to learn more about the restoration that has been done and what is planned for the upcoming season.

The lighthouse on Lake Superior, 14 miles from the Minnesota shoreline, was built in 1907-1908 and was last staffed by a light keeper in 1979.  So the lighthouse was in fairly rough shape when the preservation society was able to begin restoration work.

The next summer of work will include restoration of the second floor, which is one of the largest spaces in the lighthouse and houses a bathroom and kitchen. Plans for this summer also include the installation of a foghorn. The preservation society had a campaign over the winter to acquire a foghorn like the original Tyfon 425 foghorns installed at the light back in 1914.

WTIP asked if the foghorn would sound continuously on foggy days. Gerth said no, it would probably only be used on special occasions—perhaps to salute the Grand Portage-Isle Royale Transportation Line ferry when it passes by.

Many people who have been watching the restoration would love to visit the historic light. However, Gerth said that won’t happen anytime soon. The dock at the lighthouse needs major repair, so there are accessibility issues.

But there is a way to see the lighthouse. Restoration work at Rock of Ages Lighthouse is completed primarily by volunteers.  According to the Rock of Ages Lighthouse Preservation Society website, the work at the lighthouse includes carpentry, painting, cleaning, and more. Some volunteers have specialized restoration or boating skills, but that are not required to be a volunteer.  Volunteers must commit to at least one week of work and provide their own travel to Windigo Ranger Station on Isle Royale.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence learns more about all this in this conversation with Rock of Ages Lighthouse Preservation Society Board Chair David Gerth.