GLLKA Preservation Initiatives

St. Helena Island Lighthouse
After obtaining a license to restore the light station from the Coast Guard in 1986, GLLKA immediately took the abandoned lighthouse under its wing. With the help of a stalwart group of dedicated volunteers, work began on clearing years of accumulated debris and brush and securing the station for eventual restoration. The lighthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988, and the following year the boys and parents of Boy Scout Troop 4 of Ann Arbor, Michigan began what would become an annual pilgrimage to St. Helena to assist with the restoration. After hearing of the groups' success, numerous other youth groups, Church groups and Girls Scouts began lining-up to assist with the restoration.

Over the ensuing years, the entire lighthouse complex has been lovingly restored, including the installation of a new wood shingle roof, rebuilding of the boat house and assistant keepers dwelling, installation of new lantern and chimney, and the replacement of thousands of bricks in the tower. Perhaps most amazingly, as a result of shallow waters which surround the island, all of the volunteers and materials have to be transferred to the island in small inflatable boat. Over the years, 21 Boy Scouts have successfully undertaken Eagle Scout Service Projects and Girl Scouts have earned 3 Gold and 5 Silver awards for their work on the island.

Lighthouse preservation is not a one-time affair, and it is anything but cheap! With work at St. Helena approximately 90% complete, we estimate that the work has already cost close to 1.5 million dollars. The new roof which was installed in the late 1980's is now 20 years old, and due to the lighthouse's exposed location, is showing significant signs of deterioration, and will will need to be replaced within the next couple of years. Bricks on the tower are again showing signs of spalling, and an engineering study needs to be undertaken to figure out how best to keep moisture from entering the bricks and masonry to minimize this spalling problem.

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Clickto view a gallery of St. Helena Island lighthouse images Click to view a brief history of the St. Helena Island lighthouse Click to view a complete chronological listing of all Eagle Scout projects undertaken at the St. Helena Island lighthouse Click to learn about volunteer keeper opportunities at the Click to visit the Ann Arbor Troop 4 website

Cheboygan River Front Range Light
With this success under our belt, we successfully applied for ownership of the 1880 Cheboygan River Front Range lighthouse under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act in 2003, obtaining the deed to the station from then Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton at a major lighthouse conference in Traverse City, Michigan in June 2004. The restoration plan for the lighthouse calls for returning it to its circa 1910 appearance, when Cheboygan was in its heyday, with huge numbers of vessels entering the river to carry lumber from area mills to harbors throughout the Great Lakes.

After upgrading the living quarters, GLLKA volunteer keepers have opened the lighthouse to the public every weekend during the summer seasons, while simultaneously performing restoration and maintenance tasks. In 2005 the group obtained a Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program grant to conduct an engineering study of the structure, and recently submitted an application for a grant to undertake the restoration of the tower and lantern, which have suffered a longstanding water infiltration problem. With a second M.L.A.P. grant awarded in 2008, the lantern and gallery will be rebuilt in 2009. We are now seeking funding to re-grade around the lighthouse to move water runoff away from the building, install perimeter drains and stabilize the rubble stone foundation, which according to the engineering study is showing significant signs of deterioration.

Once these major stabilization projects have been undertaken, restoration of the lighthouse interior and grounds can begin in earnest. It is estimated that completing the restoration and proper interpretation of the lighthouse and grounds will end up costing us close to $700,000.

Click to view a brief history of the Cheboygan River Front Range Light Click to learn about volunteer keeper opportunities at the Cheboygan River Front Range Light Clikc to view a collection of historic and recent images of the Cheboygan River Front Range Light Volunteer keepers open the lighthouse to the public from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day through Labor Day. We are also happy to open the lighthouse to tour groups at any other time. Please contact the GLLKA office for additional information.  


McGulpin Point Lighthouse
Considered obsolete in 1906, the McGulpin Point lighthouse was sold into private ownership in 1913, and remained in private ownership until 2008, when it was purchased by Emmet County. In 2008, GLLKA entered into collaboration with Emmet County to serve as a consultant in the restoration and interpretation of the lighthouse, which is located two miles west of Mackinaw City.

As soon as county purchase of the lighthouse was approved, a seven member "Emmet County Historical Commission" was created by the County to formulate long-term plans not only for the McGulpin Point lighthouse, but for all historic county interests. This commission is made up of a broad-based group of members to ensure that numerous view points are considered. We are proud to report that GLLKA’s Sandy Planisek is serving as chairperson of the Commission, and Dick Moehl is serving as one of the Commissioners. As such, GLLKA will continue to play a key role in the preservation and interpretation of this lighthouse.

Coast Guard approval to reactivate the light as a private aid to Navigation was obtained in late 2008, and a replica lantern and gallery railing are being constructed at Moran Iron Works in Onaway, Michigan. The lantern will be hoisted to the top of the tower by crane at some time in the spring of 2009, in time for a gala relighting ceremony planned for May 30, 2009, to which the public is cordially invited.


St. James - Beaver Island Harbor Lighthouse
GLLKA is also collaborating with St. James Township on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan in the restoration of the St. James lighthouse, which the township also obtained through the NHLPA in 2004. Current cooperative efforts include the administration of a grant through the MLAP to restore spalling brick on the exterior of the lighthouse tower, elimination of long-standing moisture problems and formulating plans for the complete restoration of the station.

The results of this engineering study will be known mid 2009, and then fundraising will begin in order to cover what is expected to be a costly series of masonry repairs. Once the tower has been stabilized and restored, it is the Township's plan to rebuild the lighthouse dwelling and barn, which were torn-down at some time in the 1940's to minimize ongoing maintenance costs for the Coast Guard. With the station buildings back in place, and a picket fence around the property, the station will be returned to its original turn of the twentieth century glory when the light served as a homecoming beacon to the large fleet of fishing vessels which called the island home.


Cheboygan Crib light
When the Army Corps of Engineers first dredged the Cheboygan River in the 1870's, they marked the outer end of the dredged channel with a timber crib. Local maritime interests quickly began calling for a light to be placed on the crib, with the Lighthouse Board built an octagonal cast iron structure thereon in 1884.

The light was manned by the Assistant Keeper at the Cheboygan River Range lights until it was finally automated in the 1920's. By the 1980's, the crib had taken on a distinct lean, and hearing of the Coast Guard's plans to demolish the lighthouse and replace it with a buoy, the citizens of Cheboygan managed to convince the Coast Guard that the light should be saved, and it was picked up by a barge crane and moved to its current location at the foot of the pier in Gordon Turner Park.

When GLLKA members Dick Moehl and Sandy Planisek visited Cheboygan early in 2001, they were dismayed to find that the tower to be in sorry condition, with the Lexan windows having crazed and turned dark brown, suffering from major water infiltration as a result of caulking having fallen out over the years. They approaching the City with the proposal that they would offer their labor to restore the structure if the City would cover the cost of materials. Receiving approval for the project from the city, Dick and Sandy set to work on August 2, 2001. After re-caulking all joints throughout the structure and replacing the Lexan windows, they painted the tower in its historically accurate white paint, gray gallery and red roof and ventilator. GLLKA has an ongoing understanding with the City of Cheboygan, now serving as keepers of both Cheboygan river lights.