Light Keeper’s House

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).

Last week, I featured the historic Split Rock Lighthouse on the north shore of Lake Superior. For those of you not familiar with US (or Canadian) geography, the Great Lakes are one of the world’s largest surface freshwater ecosystems (1). Lake Superior is the largest and westernmost of the five Great Lakes.

I mentioned in the post about the lighthouse that when it was built, there was no road servicing the area. The material for the lighthouse and other buildings was transported by ship and lifted ~130′ (40m) by a steam hoist and derrick system. One person asked how they got the hoist to the top. They put it on skids, and it pulled itself up the cliff. When the lighthouse became operational, it needed a keeper. Of course, there was still no road.

“It takes more than a big light bulb to operate a lighthouse. Comprised of 25 acres, the Split Rock Lighthouse historic site also includes the original fog signal building, oil house, and one of the original homes occupied by a lighthouse keeper and his family.”

Minnesota Historical Society

The buildings mentioned in the quote have all been restored, and some are open for viewing by tourists. The fog signal building was included in last week’s post. This week, I am featuring the home of the lighthouse keeper. Keep in mind that the average temperature in Two Harbors, Minnesota (the closest town) in January is comprised of highs of 23°f (-5°c) and lows of 6°f (-14°c). Imagine working in those conditions, with only a weekly visit from a supply ship (which you had to unload from the surface, 130 feet below).

The lighthouse keeper’s house is preserved much as it would have been in the early 1900s. It was fun to walk through. As I walked in, I noticed the distinct smell of bread baking in the cast iron stove in the kitchen. The self-guided tour was short, but it felt like I had stepped back in time.

I hope you enjoy the photos in the gallery. There are many doors, but other photos as well. Try to imagine the scene – it’s pitch black, except for the beam from the lamp rotating every 10 seconds well above your house. It’s eerily quiet, unless the fog signal is active (that can be heard for five miles). It’s well below freezing outside. It might be snowing; the area receives 58.3″(147cm) of snow in an average winter. Your job is to keep the lamp lit to prevent ships carrying iron ore from crashing into the rocks below.

I am using a Block Gallery (which seems to be improved) Captions are available by clicking on any photo and starting a slideshow (you might have to click the little ‘i’ in the circle to turn on full captions).

1) US Environmental Protection Agency website.

If you are in a hurry and don’t wish to scroll through the comments, click to Jump to the comment form.

119 comments

  1. Your comment about the lighthouse keepers commute made me smile, Dan. I actually always thought the lighthouse keeper lived in the lighthouse. I like that old stove. We had one like that in our house when we moved in. It had been electrified but it was awful to cook on. I now have a gas stove and oven. You have no idea how heavy that cast iron stove was.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think there were some lighthouses where the keeper’s living space was built in the base, Robbie, but most of the ones I’ve toured have had a separate house. I think as long as they had the land, they built separate buildings. When they built them on little islands, it was one building.

      I wouldn’t think those stoves would work well when electrified. We have a wood stove, for heat, it’s much smaller and very heavy. I can only imagine how heavy the cook stoves were.

      I hope you’re having a nice week.

      Like

  2. Another good one Dan. I like the low maintenance ‘washing machine’! A typewriter. I well remember them. They had no ‘delete’ button and I never did get the hang of using those things so used pen and paper instead! Lots of real wood in the house too; I like that. I hope the near 5 feet of snow didn’t all come at once!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Low maintenance, but a lot of effort. I’d have to wash my clothes after doing.a load of laundry. I used a typewriter throughout college. You’re right about the lack of a delete key – I could have used one. Records show that the snow fell throughout the winter, but I’m guessing they had one or two big snowfalls.

      Thanks for adding your great post.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Love the washing machine! It’s a beautiful home, and it has been maintained to every detail. But such an isolated existence had to be rough on the lighthouse keeper and his family. Good grief, just getting to the supply ship weekly, not to mention hauling those supplies 130’ up to the house. That took a special breed of people.
    Ginger

    Liked by 1 person

    • It had to be hard living there, Ginger. At one point, the lighthouse had a crew of three people – that must have felt like a neighborhood. It had to be hardest in the winter. I tried to find out if there was ever so much ice on the lake that they couldn’t get their provisions. I imagine they had to be prepared for that. In addition to everything else, they have to have oil for the lamp until 1940 when it was electrified.

      Like

    • I, too, have used a manual typewriter (not that old) and my wife enjoyed sewing on a treadle machine. These people were on their own, and had to be able to do for themselves for long periods of time.

      Thanks for your doors and message today.

      Like

  4. What a beautiful and desolate place! It’s almost like a little insular community. The wood is exquisite and the views divine. I wonder how long someone of our modern world would survive doing a job like that?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a different world — and thank you for taking us there! So much of this home takes me back to my grandma’s, though hers looked absolutely frail compared to this stalwart. I loved the tour you gave us, and I tried hard to imagine living there, but I couldn’t. I don’t know how they did it, so isolated and vulnerable. But maybe that was exactly what they loved.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wonder if they felt good about surviving and working in those conditions. They had an important job, a job that no doubt saved many lives. Maybe the sense of pride in their achievement carried the day. It certainly must have been a hard life. I think I could deal with the wood-fired stove, but that washing machine…laundry day must have required a hearty breakfast. In any case, I’m glad you enjoyed the tour.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful post, Dan! I love historic sites that memorialize the actual lives of those who once resided there. The phonograph and typewriter are my favorites. Most lighthouses I’ve visited have done well in honoring those who dedicated their lives to the purpose.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That house is beautiful–so very well kept, and I do love all the wood inside. It sounds idyllic until you factor in the weather and the thought of getting in your provisions from that distance. Somebody had to really love their job. Typewriters brings back the dreaded timed writing tests in high school. And that white tape to correct your errors and carbon paper…. Oh, thank heaven for computers!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • It sounds idyllic from about April to October, then it starts to sound a little dicey. I guess you weren’t ordering a pizza ;). I think those people had to love their jobs, Lois. They had to factor in the importance of what they were doing. Correcting carbon copies, or multi-part forms – ugh.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I love this, Dan. Makes me want to visit there even more although we’re quite a distance from there now. I can see why you enjoyed it so much. The Great Lakes are very special and so is much around them.

    Here’s my entry for this week. Just FYI for everyone: I’ll be involved with helping aging parents things for a good part of the day but I will get to you, I promise. :-)

    Thursday Doors…up the garden path

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Janet. I’m running late today as well. I’m not sure too many Americans understand how important the Great Lakes were during the growth of this country. I love the regions around the lakes.

      You brought us some very interesting doors today – thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I would imagine during a winter storm, that was a treacherous commute. Seeing the pantry made me think about how they would have ad to have been prepared to be alone for a long time.

      I enjoyed your post.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s a lovely lighthouse and Keepers house too. I love the red roof, and brick, the old wood stove, and sewing machine. Imagine having to fix your own shoes and boots!

    Did they have a pulley system for getting supplies up to the top of the cliff or did they have to carry it all up stairs cut into the cliff face? WoW, what a job!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Originally, they had a steam engine powered derrick to lift goods off the ships below. That’s actually how the built the lighthouse. Everything came up that way since there were no roads in that part of the state. Later they built a tram to replace the derrick. It wasn’t until the 20’s (mayb later, I forget) that a road came through and they were given a truck to use.

      I guess you’d figure out how to repair your shoes pretty fast when the temp dropped to 6 degrees. I loved seeing the artifacts from the era on display where they might have been used.

      Like

  10. I love that place. Any excuse to travel back in time is totally my jam. And I like that you’ve done a standalone – but follow up – post to your last one. I did the same this week. My post features the “most important” door in my province. Although I tend to disagree, as the door to my snack cupboard tops my list! 🤣

    Thursday Doors – Victoria

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s funny about the snack door, but I understand. I love history, so these posts are my favorites. Just the chance to see what it was like to live in that time.

      Your follow up post was very interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It must have been a lot of work, but they built it between June and November in 1909. Th stove and the other period pieces were fun to see.

      You have some great doors today.

      Like

    • It certainly must have been interesting living there, especially in the winter (which they have a lot of).

      Thanks for taking us back to the castle. I love that structure.

      Like

    • Thanks Brenda. I love that they kept this entire site much like it was in the era in which it was built. It gives you a feel for what it must have been like to live and work there.

      I enjoyed your doors very much

      Like

  11. I’ve always wanted to go up into a lighthouse and never have, and like a few others, I thought the keeper lived there. This is fascinating, Dan. Thank you for the tour and the explanations. Brilliant!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was my pleasure, Gwen. There are some lighthouses on the east coast where the living quarters are in the base of the lighthouse. I guess, when they had the room, they could spread it out. Still, in January, the keeper might have wished for a shorter walk to work.

      Like

    • At one point, John, there were three people assigned to the lighthouse. The other building were used for storage. One the lamp was electrified, they scaled back the staff (of course). I’m glad you like this visit.

      Like

  12. Last photo is postcard worthy! I am an owner of a Singer Redeye model 66 circa 1912. I could not let it go past me at auction when it was only going for $45. It is mint. I am with the editor but I sure do appreciate the electricity on my Bernina lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • She doesn’t do a lot of sewing, so there’s no need to go beyond the Singer. Mechanically, they are very interesting machines. The changes they ushered into households was significant.

      The lighthouse and keeper’s house was fun to visit. I loved that they had it preserved from that era.

      Thanks for sharing some interesting doors and other photos – I enjoyed that.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Looking out over the lake must have been wonderful. I would imagine it was even interesting (perhaps more so) during a storm. It had to be a challenging life, especially in the early years (before the road was built). I’m glad you enjoyed this post.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks – I think I liked seeing the artifacts more than the building. The typewriter and sewing machine made it easier to imagine what their life must have been like.

      Like

  13. Hi Dan – fascinating history … it always amazes me (horrifies me! -) as I couldn’t do it and am so pleased I live today. Loved this – and I’ll back to read again … thanks for the photos – so true to that era … and to see how far we’ve come … though I did notice the radiator – probably more, but I spotted one. Fun to read – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

    • You have a sharp eye, Hilary. I think the radiators were added later. The lighthouse was staffed well into the 50s, so the house would have been upgraded. They preserved it as it was in 1909, but they didn’t remove the heat. Same with the running water inland “modern” plumbing in the kitchen, I think the pump is true to the 1909 house, but the sink can stay. I’m glad you liked walking back in time with me.

      Like

  14. That’s a very different and interesting looking lighthouse, Dan. Great choice. I enjoyed seeing the vintage furnishings. The view out the window made me feel like I was there. It looks like the staff have nice accommodations. Lovely post. Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Great post Dan!! Love the pictures!! I’m happy to see the house and lighthouse maintained with it’s history!! The sewing machine caught my eye….we have my mother-in-laws machine just like that!! Wow!! Ours hasn’t been used in years, but m y wife can’t part with it….her mom was quite the seamstress! Great post and you have done this lighthouse proud!! Awesome!!

    Like

  16. Hi Dan! Nice doors and other extras – like the old sink – old sewing machine and typewriter – just cool to see
    And imagining getting all supplies by ship sounds like they were very skilled
    😊☀️

    Liked by 1 person

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