Welcome to Thursday Doors, a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments below, anytime between 12:01 am Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time).
The photos below are from the National Registry of Historic Places and the Minnesota Historical Society, respectively.
When we decided to skip the historic train ride along the north shore of Lake Superior, my brother offered to drive us along the North Shore Highway. This turned out to be so much better than taking the tourist train. For one thing, I doubt the train would stop at the Split Rock Lighthouse Visitor Center.
It’s highly unlikely, perhaps impossible that I would pass up the chance to tour a lighthouse. So, what would be the chances that I’d pass up a lighthouse that was built in 1909, before there was a road to the location and where the construction crew had to build a derrick powered by a steam hoist to haul 310 tons of material up the cliff side from supply boats 130′ (40m) below. Unfortunately, they stopped using the hoist-derrick in 1916 when the steam engine was blown over during a storm.
The lighthouse was built in response to a storm in 1905 in which the temperature dropped to -13°f (-25°c) and winds measured at 60 mph (97 kph) drove waves on the lake to a height of 30′ (9.1m). Nine ships were destroyed on the rocky north shore and 11 men died. Construction began in June of 1909 and was finished in November. If you’re curious as to the time lag between the storm in 1905 and the operation in 1909 – the lighthouse was authorized by Congress.
The lighthouse was known as a bearing light station, designed to help ship crews determine their location. The original oil-vapor lamp itself, when first lit, was the brightest navigational signal on the Great Lakes. It was officially visible from 22 mi (35 km) away. The oil-vapor lamp was replaced with a 1,000-watt electric lamp in 1940. During the day, the lighthouse’s distinctive yellow brick and black roof were its “day-markers.”
The main reason the light was required on the west end of Lake Superior was that the cargoes of high-grade iron ore coupled with the iron ore deposits in the lake basin caused the compass needle to deflect greatly from true-north. This deviation from true north caused more than one ship, relying on the compass reading and not knowing where they were, to run aground in the shallows of the rocky coast.National Registry of Historic Places nomination form
A bit of interesting trivia, the oil lamp remained stationary. The signal was created by a rotating lens. The lens floated on a pool of 250 pounds of liquid mercury in a near frictionless operation. I doubt such a solution would be acceptable today.
After the steam engine was damaged, the derrick was replaced by a fixed tram. The tram carried goods from a dock at the lake to the top of the station. The tram remained in use until 1934, when the light station crew was issued a truck.
The lighthouse was originally under the administration of the U.S. Bureau of Lighthouses. The U.S. Coast Guard took over in 1939. As of 1969, the Coast Guard had determined that the lighthouse was surplus to their needs (ships on the lake all had radar and other unmanned navigational aids had been installed). The property was turned over to U.S. Government Services Administration (GSA) for disposal. Today, the lighthouse is maintained as a historic site by the Minnesota Historical Society. It is one of the most popular lighthouses in the United States.
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