What does it take to save a lighthouse?
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Coast Guard 44 foot Motor Life Boat restoration (44376)

ARTIFACTS WANTED: MLC is seeking them.


Determination and money are the two biggest factors in lighthouse preservation. The Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy will be applying for a lighthouse or lighthouses over the next several years as they are disposed of. We will also work with other individuals who want to form a group to help save a lighthouse although we encourage you to join our efforts and form as a sub group or chapter of the conservancy.

Getting incorporated and getting your non-profit status is a long process, sometimes as long as 9 months but more commonly 6 months just for the non-profit status. Getting to know the people involved is also important. You have to deal with many individuals and organizations to save a lighthouse. The process is long and takes a lot of dedication.

You have to follow the historic preservation guideline from the Secretary of the Interior in restoring a lighthouse. These are always more time consuming and costly than just walking up to something and slapping some paint on it. You can double your costs to play it safe by following these standards compared to just doing it the modern way.

Everything you do to the structure has to be approved through the State Historic Preservation Office in located in Lansing, Michigan. You will need a detailed plan and preferably a Historic Structures Report to get the job done right. Drawings and details are what is needed. If you do not have everything done right then they will let you know. Their job is to ensure what you do to preserve the building follows the Secretaries standards and their guidelines so it is done right for preservation.

So what does all this cost? A LOT! Here are a few examples of what is needed.

A boat to get you to offshore locations, preferably a work boat or landing craft type. At bare minimum $30,000 for something used in running condition that needs work. No trailer is included. A good one would cost $50,000 for a used boat.

The historic structures reports can cost between $15,000 to $50,000 depending on what is required. This is usually required to get grants and deals with an architectural firm. Some people have done work themselves but it is very time consuming which cost $5,000 to $15,000. You have to ask yourself if you have never done one how much time do you have to do it and can you do it right?

Time frame wise if the lighthouse is in a remote location and in bad shape, you can figure on at least $1 Million dollars in restoration costs. It was mentioned earlier that to follow the historic standards, the time frame required and transportation of materials will cost you this. The time frame required will be at least two years if not three, if you have the money to do it. More than likely you will need five to ten years to do a complete job while raising funds.

Worst case scenario for a small lighthouse $1.5 Million plus. A land based one $1 Million or less. Still want to do it? WE DO! Of course all this depends on the current condition of the lighthouse. If you take Gull Rock off the tip of the Keweenaw you can go to the max and say at least $1 Million dollars. Look at the logistics involved with boating all supplies and workers out to a small island not much bigger than the lighthouse itself. This would happen numerous times a day back and forth. Your nearest building supplies would come from Houghton and would have to be trucked to a dock location. The supplies would then be loaded onto a barge or boat and taken to the job site. Remember you do not have a crane available so all materials need to be hand carried.

We do not want to discourage anyone by this but we all need to think of better ways to do things and get people and companies to donate supplies, materials and labor for the work which all help lower costs.

Copyright 2001-2008 Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy. All rights reserved.
Revised: 01/31/08.