Digest>Archives> Jan/Feb 2024

Preserving History: Restoring Michigan’s Point Iroquois Lighthouse


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Located along the serene shores of Lake Superior in Brimley, Michigan, the Point Iroquois Lighthouse stands as a testament to the region’s rich heritage. Recently, a collaborative effort between the Hiawatha National Forest and HistoriCorps culminated in the completion of a three-year restoration project, ensuring the preservation of this iconic landmark for generations to come.

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Supported by funding from the Great American Outdoors Act, the restoration initiative focused on repairing and stabilizing the lighthouse’s historic masonry structures. Years of wear and previous paint applications had taken their toll, necessitating extensive repairs to safeguard the integrity of the building against the harsh Michigan winters.

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Point Iroquois Lighthouse in December 2023.
Photo by: Terri Donaldson

Led by a dedicated team of Forest Service staff, HistoriCorps volunteers, and YouthWork crews, the restoration project addressed both the exterior and interior of the lighthouse. Layers of old paint were meticulously stripped away, allowing for the meticulous repair of brick-and-mortar joints. A breathable masonry coating was then applied, ensuring proper ventilation and preventing future deterioration caused by trapped moisture.

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Beyond its architectural significance, Point Iroquois holds a profound historical narrative, bearing witness to the clash between local Ojibwa tribes and invading Iroquois forces in 1662. Today, it serves as a focal point for visitors, drawing in upwards of 40,000 to 50,000 people annually.

The partnership between the Hiawatha National Forest and HistoriCorps underscores a shared commitment to historic preservation. HistoriCorps, a nonprofit organization dedicated to engaging volunteers in saving historic places, provided invaluable support throughout the project. This collaboration not only enhances the capacity for conservation efforts but also offers volunteers a unique opportunity to learn new skills while experiencing the rich tapestry of American history firsthand.

Eric Drake, Hiawatha’s Heritage program manager, emphasizes the broader significance of such initiatives, stating, “The goal of historic preservation on public lands is not only to preserve historic structures and landscapes for future generations to enjoy, but to build a sustainable community of individuals and organizations centered around these efforts.”

Throughout the project’s duration, volunteers from diverse backgrounds came together, driven by a myriad of motivations – from a passion for masonry craftsmanship to a love for lighthouses or simply a desire to contribute to their community’s heritage. Their collective efforts, alongside dedicated Forest Service personnel, resulted in the successful completion of the restoration endeavor.

As the final brushstrokes were applied and the last bricks set in place, the Point Iroquois Lighthouse stands as a testament to the power of collaborative conservation efforts. While this chapter may have drawn to a close, the journey continues, with plans for ongoing maintenance and future projects to preserve the historical treasures nestled within the Hiawatha National Forest.

In the spirit of shared stewardship, the legacy of the Point Iroquois Lighthouse endures, inspiring generations to come to cherish and safeguard the invaluable heritage of Michigan’s shores.

This story appeared in the Jan/Feb 2024 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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