Duluth man leading effort to restore Lake Superior lighthouse - KBJR 6 Your Weather Authority: News, Weather & Sports

Duluth man leading effort to restore Lake Superior lighthouse

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Aging and worn, the Rock of Ages lighthouse sits five miles off the southwest shore of Isle Royale. 

For years, David Gerth has been on a mission to restore it to its former glory. 

"I came out to Isle Royale, like a lot of the people as a backpacker, tourist, and saw the lighthouse and saw no one was taking care of it and I really wanted to be a part of [the restoration]," Gerth said.

So in 2008 he created the Rock of Ages Lighthouse Preservation Society. The Society played a crucial role in transferring the ownership of the lighthouse from the U.S. Coast Guard to Isle Royale National Park in 2015, allowing restoration work to get underway with help from the National Park Service. 

"Well, mostly the plaster on the tower is falling off the walls, all the veneer plaster has failed and all the wood floors, the original wood floors, are all rotted away," said Gerth of the work to be done on the lighthouse. 

Full scale restoration work on the lighthouse began this summer, with a rotating team of volunteers helping Gerth and his wife, Heather, restore the lighthouse's keeper's quarters. The Society plans to finish one room every summer. 

The goal is that the lighthouse will eventually be open to the public, allowing visitors to see what life on the lighthouse was like during the 1930's. 

"[It's] a living history, you know, [a] site where people can walk in and just really feel what it's like to be back when
the keepers were actually here living in this tower," said Gerth, "To feel what they felt, and see what they saw."

Volunteers commit to a one week stay, working on the lighthouse. They stay in a Park Service cabin on an island not far from the lighthouse. When the weather permits, they take a Park Service boat to the lighthouse, and work as long as they can. 

"It's going to be a long time coming before [the lighthouse] is finished, but I think this area here, the keeper's quarters, is ... going to look pretty nice," said volunteer Randy Johnson, a retiree from St. Paul.

Johnson said he read about the volunteer opportunity in the Minneapolis newspaper, and wanted the chance to visit the lighthouse. 

"I think that people need to know their history," he said. 

Gerth agrees.

 "It's such a different world these days, and people need to be connected to their past," Gerth said, "This is a really unique place to be and experience that history."

The group's goal is to finish restoration work by 2022. The Preservation Society says they don't know yet how they'd get members of the public to the lighthouse, or how long they'd stay there once they arrive.

The Society funds the restoration with grants and donations. A flooring company in Mercer, Wisconsin, Action Floor Systems, donated new wood floors for the entire lighthouse. 

If you're interested in donating or volunteering, learn more here.

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