Split Rock Lighthouse Centennial


by Howard Lestrud, ECM Online Managing Editor


We native Minnesotans have many images of our North Star state and one that is right at the top of my list is the Split Rock Lighthouse on the North Shore of Lake Superior. To me, it is one of the most beautiful of Minnesota historical sites that we have.


From a photographer’s standpoint, Split Rock is an ideal photo opportunity. Wait until the fall colors and get this magnificent structure framed beautifully by the golden brown colors of the birch that stand nearby. The rushing water of Lake Superior also adds to the backdrop.


I am very thankful to working colleague Randy Peterson, also a well-known pointillism artist, for pointing out the real beauty of Split Rock. I have made several trips to Split Rock with my friend Randy. He also has drawn some awesome renditions of this beautiful structure. {instory snippet}


Today we are going to go back in history of Split Rock. The lighthouse will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2010.


Go to the Minnesota Historical Society page on the lighthouse preparing for its 100th birthday celebration. Go to http://www.mnhs.org/places/sites/srl/srl100.htm 


A mighty and fatal 1905 gale over western Lake Superior spurred the construction of Split Rock Lighthouse overlooking one of the world’s most dangerous stretches of water. On July 31, 1910, after five years of arduous labor constructing the edifice atop a 130-foot sheer rock cliff, the now world-famous North Shore landmark first sent its powerful beam out across the water.


The Minnesota Historical Society is getting ready to celebrate the centennial of Split Rock Lighthouse in 2010.


Restored to its early-20th century splendor, it is one of America’s best-preserved lighthouses. Special activities and events will be offered throughout the year, along with the popular destination’s regular programming.


More than 120,000 visitors a year tour the lighthouse and keeper’s home, climb the lighthouse tower to see the original, still operational French bivalve lens, and take their own shots of one of the most photographed sites in the country. “For many who visit Split Rock Lighthouse this is their first view of Lake Superior,” says Lee Radzak, the historic site’s manager and modern-day keeper. “Seeing the endless horizon from the top of the lighthouse and the great ships far out on the sparkling water, just as the early keepers saw them, is an experience many people never forget.”


Kick off Split Rock Lighthouse’s 100th birthday at a special event at the lighthouse on Friday, Jan. 8 to introduce art, collectibles, souvenirs and other items all designed to spotlight the centennial celebration and provide lasting mementos of the occasion. The event begins at 2 p.m. The event is free but state park admission is required.


An original commemorative watercolor painting by artist Jim Povich will be unveiled and first edition posters will be available. Split Rock Lighthouse, built to guide ships in some of the world’s most treacherous waters, opened in 1910. Special events and activities throughout 2010 will celebrate the lighthouse’s centennial.


See more on the lighthouse in historical photos at the Minnesota Historical Society site at http://www.mnhs.org/places/sites/srl/index.htm 


Take a look at a spectacular slideshow on Split Rock at the Department of Natural Resources state park Web page: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/split_rock_lighthouse/index.html 


Find maps and other information of Split Rock at the Web site of Minnesota North Shore State Park Guide: http://www.northshorestateparks.com/splitrock.htm 


Split Rock is located on Highway 61, 48 miles northeast of Duluth and 20 miles northeast of Two Harbors. Tours of the lighthouse are offered during the regular park season.


Split Rock Lighthouse operated from 1910 until 1969. The lighthouse commands a panoramic view of Lake Superior from the 130 foot cliff from which it stands on. Built after a 1905 fierce storm that sank one ship nearby and more than 30 others on Lake Superior. Superior is the most unpredictable, deepest, and coldest of the Great Lakes.


Visitors can view films and exhibits about the lighthouse and the big lakes storms and shipwrecks. The history center’s superb displays, exhibits, and video presentations showcase the evolution of the lighthouse. 


For a glimpse of this remote lifestyle, include a visit to the lighthouse keeper’s home and outbuildings. (Did they really sleep in those little beds?) The path leading southwest down to Lake Superior presents a distinctive view of the lighthouse and remnants of the lift that was used to haul supplies up from the lake. 


Climb the short, steep circular stairs to the top of the lighthouse. Spend some time at this historic treasure!

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, a separate entity from the Lighthouse, encompasses the land surrounding the historic site. The park offers wonderful trails, cart-in campsites, cobblestone beaches, fishing and cross-country skiing.


Each year Split Rock Lighthouse marks the anniversary of the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald with a public program that includes a reading of the names of the 29 men who lost their lives on the Fitzgerald on Nov. 10th, 1975. 


The lighthouse, an aid to Lake Superior navigation for 59 years (1910 - 1969 ), is normally closed during the winter, but is reopened for this one day event and the beacon is lighted at dusk. Hundreds of visitors have attended this event each year since the ceremony was started in 1985 on the 10th anniversary of the sinking of “the Big Fitz.” You may call the Minnesota Historical Society at 651-259-3000 or toll free; 800-657-3773.


Go to LighthouseFriends.com to see a map for lighthouses on Lake Superior. It is located at http://www.lighthousefriends.com/lake_su.html 


The earliest known lighthouse in the world was the Lighthouse of Alexandria, on the island of Pharos. It was built in the third century BCE to assist sailors. Visit Split Rock next year on its 100th birthday.




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