December 1, 2014

Gull Rock Lightkeepers celebrated our 10th anniversary this year. Back in 2004 we learned that the federal government was on the verge of auctioning off Gull Rock to the highest bidder-a last-ditch effort under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act-because no government agencies or nonprofits had stepped forward to restore the storied light. Auctioned lighthouses often end up as private vacation properties, sealed off from the public forever.

We didn't like the sound of that idea, so during the summer of 2004 we formed Gull Rock Lightkeepers, a nonprofit solely dedicated to restoring the light, and eventually opening it up to the public on a limited basis that is compatible with its remote location. During those early years, while we were still getting our feet on the ground, we teamed up with Jeff Shook and the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy, which was very helpful in getting us started. While MLC has moved on to saving other lights, we still have a strong working relationship with them. Currently they are helping us locate cheap recycled cream city brick to restore Gull Rock's badly spalling exterior.

Back in 2004, Gull Rock was a restoration basket case. For years in the 1970s and 80s there was a piano-sized hole in the roof, allowing moisture to rain in year-round, which is why much of the second floor had pancacked onto the first floor, which in turn had pancacked into the cellar. The Coast Guard had replaced the roof in the 1980s, but by 2004 that roof was leaking again. Things were so bad that we managed to get an emergency restoration grant right away from the prestigious National Trust for Historic Preservation, as well as a crucial grant from the Trust for Architectural Easements. We leveraged those funds for yet another grant from the Michigan Lighthouse Assistance Program, which gave us enough money to replace the roof on the lighthouse and privy-a crucial first step. Volunteers also helped us remove five dumpsters of debris from the cellar, all of which was sifted for historical relics before being shipped to a local landfill. Then we stabilized the privy foundation, installed temporary windows, and-most crucially from a safety standpoint-replaced and restored subfloors throughout the building.

It's been a great decade of renewal at Gull Rock. The building is now stabilized, and safe for volunteers and contractors. We have started a series of educational cruises with the Isle Royale Queen IV out of Copper Harbor, which have been so popular that the Queen is expanding tour offerings next year. We have hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of successful restoration under our belt, but we still have hundreds of thousands of dollars left to go. We have had great success in raising funds for restoration, but ALL of the funds have required matching dollars. Those matching dollars have come from generous donors like you. We hope that you will keep Gull Rock in mind as you draw up your year-end gift-giving plans. With your continued generous support, the next 10 years at Gull Rock can be even better than the last.

Happy Holidays,

Peter Annin
Executive Director

 



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