Apostle Island Lighthouses Getting Major Facelifts, Renovations

Devil's Island Light house, in the Apostle Islands
Devil's Island Light house, in the Apostle Islands. Photo: Larry Mhyre (CC-BY-NC-SA)

Historical and structural work on five of the Apostle Islands six light stations is getting underway. The challenge is to preserve 19th century structures with 21st century artisans.

This three-year, $4 million project on places like Devil’s Island, Outer Island and others will shore up lighthouse towers and outbuildings: everything from old barns and keeper’s houses to privies. Apostle Islands cultural resources Manager Dave Cooper says they’ll also be pouring concrete for mundane things.

“People aren’t really going to be able to see a difference,” Cooper said. “This is all subsurface concrete. But this is what’s holding the tower up and we’re hoping that the fixes that we’re making here are going to have the towers standing tall for a long time to come.”

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Cooper says they’re using several area contractors to do the work, but also some specialists from the East Coast. He says they’ve found local craftspeople for same tasks, too, “including matching the assorted paint colors and textures and then repairing and replacing the historic plaster, which is plaster applied on a lath.”

Cooper says the summer-long project will complete about half of the work needed to completely renovate all of the six light stations, so it won’t be up to the standards of the lighthouse keepers from a century ago.

“God help you if the station inspector came by, because that was a white glove inspection that they all dreaded,” Cooper said.

Some of the lighthouses will be closed to the public, while others will have limited access.