Historic lighthouses come with high costs In this photo taken Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, Marian Gladieux, of Oregon, Ohio, looks out the tower of the North Point Lighthouse in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)
Historic lighthouses come with high costs
Lexile

Years ago, Lou Schillinger and his volunteer crew began restoring a 1890s lighthouse. It was more than 2 miles off the Michigan shore. The lighthouse was in Lake Huron's Saginaw Bay. But first, the restorers needed to remove 30 years' accumulation of gull and pigeon feces. The poop's depth measured in feet rather than inches.
 
That was in the mid-1980s. Then, he reached an agreement with the Coast Guard to prevent the Port Austin Reef Lighthouse - his "Castle in the Lake" - from being dismantled. It would have been lost forever.
 
"That first summer, my dad and I ran out there with a 14-foot rowboat and a 20-foot ladder because there was no access ladder. And we just began shoveling manure," said Schillinger, 66. He is president of the Port Austin Reef Light Association. It is a nonprofit group. In 2013, the group took title of the property from the federal government. No keeper had lived in the brick building with its five-floor tower since 1952. The roof was gone.
 
"We shoveled diligently," Schillinger said. "I'd get friends out there, they would come out and volunteer and they'd show up for one day and they would never come back again because it was such a miserable job."
 
About 120 lighthouses no longer critical to the Coast Guard in 22 states and Puerto Rico have been acquired at no cost by government entities and nonprofits. Some were sold to private individuals. Many are eager to preserve the landmarks and maybe tap into their tourism potential since they became available under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000. Upkeep was too expensive and their usefulness was in decline with the advent of GPS.
 
Winning bids have ranged from $10,000 for the Cleveland East Pierhead Light in Ohio to $934,000 for the Graves Light in Boston Harbor. More are auctioned every year. But buyers beware: Years of neglect, vandalism, limited access and hammering by the elements often make for labor-intensive money pits that are for neither the weak of heart nor stomach.
 
"People (need) a conviction that these buildings and the history they represent are worth saving," said Terry Pepper, 68. Pepper is executive director of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association.
 
Port Austin Light was built on a shallow reef. It's accessible only by boat when winds are light. Otherwise, waves are too choppy to dock and disembark. Pepper's association overcame similar access issues when it renovated a lighthouse on the 160-acre St. Helena Island. The island is seven miles west of the Mackinac Bridge. It took about 20 years and $1.5 million to finish the job. That was in 2005.
 
Nobody had lived in the 1870s lighthouse since 1922. It had become a destination for partiers, scrappers and vandals. Pepper's association acquired the lighthouse before the 2000 act. It also is restoring the Cheboygan River Front Range Light. It is in Michigan.
 
"The roof had huge holes in it," Pepper said. "Somebody had lit a fire on the floor in one of the bedrooms on the second floor. Every single window in the lighthouse was gone. All the doors on the inside of the brick lighthouse were gone. Railings on the stairs were gone. And the plaster inside the lighthouse had been kicked down."
 
Pepper estimates the group has spent $1.5 million and "untold thousands of hours of volunteer labor" restoring the St. Helena property. It must meet state and federal standards for historic preservation.
 
"We who are in this business, with this passion, have to be asking for money all the time," Pepper said. Where does the money come from?  It is obtained through grants, donations and selling memorabilia. Great Lakes lighthouse cruises also are offered.
 
Pepper is often contacted by prospective buyers because of his knowledge of lighthouses, particularly those in Michigan. The state has 129 lighthouses. That is the most in the U.S.
 
"I will tell people if you end up spending $100,000 to get that lighthouse, that's a lot of money," Pepper said. "But $100,000 is the tip of the iceberg."
 
Onshore lighthouses are no bargain, either.
 
A volunteer group spent about a decade and nearly $1.9 million to acquire and renovate North Point Lighthouse in Milwaukee. It opened to the public in 2007. Since then, it has attracted more than 80,000 tourists. It has cost more than $1.1 million to run it. The money comes from entrance fees and events, donations, fundraising and grants.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why does Michigan have so many lighthouses?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (15)
  • joshuag-pel
    10/25/2016 - 09:08 a.m.

    there are a lot of boats that come through and needs to see so they don't sink there ship

  • jazminew-orv
    10/25/2016 - 02:20 p.m.

    adadahwdgaugdagdGdjagdjgawjgdjadgwjadgjaggawgjwdaghjwgdjjawdhwjagdjawgjdgawhdbggwjagdhwadjgawggdgjh We will bre

  • chloeo-stu
    10/26/2016 - 01:05 p.m.

    i think lighthouses are beautiful in the night and i just think they are SOOOOOOOOOOOOO cool;)

  • abbyz1-har
    10/27/2016 - 02:26 p.m.

    They took lighthouses that were going to be torn down. The coast guard did not need the lighthouses anymore. They were able to get the lighthouses for cheap. All they had to do was make some repairs.

  • justins1-stu
    10/27/2016 - 06:45 p.m.

    i dont thin k the white holuse sholuld be sild.

  • samanthas-1-ste
    11/01/2016 - 01:27 p.m.

    Michigan has so many lighthouses because they make great tourist attractions and they have the lakes around them. I think it would be so cool to actually go up into one and see everything from a new level.

  • halliet-cel
    11/03/2016 - 11:59 a.m.

    Michigan has tons of lighthouses because 1. they are fantastic tourist attractions. 2. when you go to the very top, you are able to see lots of beautiful Michigan that will leave you speechless.

  • hrhett-dav
    11/03/2016 - 07:47 p.m.

    In response to"Historical they should try to protect these lighthouses. One reason I agree is that these lighthouses are very rare and historic to these coastline areas. Another reason is that many of these lighthouse are very run down and destroyed, but they should still be preserved due to the historical events there. It says in the article "nobody has lived in the 1880's lighthouse until 1922. A third reason that they need to preserve these is so that ships will not crash into the land. Most of these lighthouses may be very old and run down, but that doesn't mean they cannot be fixed. Even though many people say they have no reason to preserve them, I these are artifacts that we do not use today but still are cool and shoud be preserved.
    _______________________.

  • jennyc1-stu
    11/07/2016 - 03:03 p.m.

    I would like to be in a lighthouse, especially at night.

  • tiffanyh-ste
    11/11/2016 - 01:30 p.m.

    I've always thought lighthouses were cool. I wish I could visit one. But since this lighthouse is historic I wouldn't let very many people visit it so it doesn't get destroyed.

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